The Bäbu

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Opera dates
Title: The Bäbu
Title page of the piano reduction

Title page of the piano reduction

Shape: Comic opera in three acts
Original language: German
Music: Heinrich Marschner
Libretto : Wilhelm August Wohlbrück
Premiere: February 19, 1838
Place of premiere: Royal Court Theater in the Leineschloss , Hanover
Place and time of the action: Calcutta, 1818

English people

  • Lady Wrougthon, wife of the Governor of Calcutta ( soprano )
  • Eva Eldridge, her niece (soprano)
  • Heinrich Forester, captain, in command of Fort Bhopawar, in the Sangur area ( tenor )
  • Friedrich Mosely (tenor)
  • Muton, judge ( bass )
  • Tynebutt, taker (bass)
  • Mary Wyndham, a young girl (soprano)


  • Nabob Jussuf Ali Khan, Shagidar from the noble tribe of Afghans (bass)
  • Dilafrose, his daughter (soprano)
  • Mubaruk, her and Forester's son, 5 years old
  • Malik, Ali's old servant
  • Gulru, girl of the Dilafrose


  • Bäbu Brischmohun Bonurschi, sirdar of the governor and head of the fakirs ( baritone )
  • Rhotun Ghoos, Alis Mukhtar (tenor)
  • Gosain, fakir (bass)
  • Shela, fakir
  • Srikischun, Sizoy
  • Lal Schrab, Rhansaman of the Bäbu
  • Ramanund, Hurkaru of the Baebu
  • Hoschi, Hurkaru of the Bäbu
  • Ramnarajun, Hurkaru of the Baebu
  • Budhun, Hurkaru of the Bäbu
  • Rajah , Hurkaru of the Babu
  • Rambuksch, Hurkaru des Bäbu


  • Guests and servants of the lady, servants and friends of Ali, witnesses and servants of the Bäbu, clerks at the court, bailiffs, soldiers, fakirs, bayaders, negroes, masked parades, a Chinese dwarf, dwarfs, sailors

The Bäbu is a comic opera (also play opera ) in three acts based on a libretto by Wilhelm August Wohlbrück with music by Heinrich Marschner (Op. 98). The first performance took place under the direction of the composer on February 19, 1838 in Hanover in the Royal Court Theater in the Leineschloss .


The title of the opera takes up an Indian honorific, which is written in English " Babu " or "Baboo". The following table of contents is one under the name “Dr. Mensching ”( Adolf Mensching ?) Taken from an essay on Marschner's opera published in 1842 in three episodes in the Prague magazine Ost und West: Blätter für Kunst, Literatur und Geselliges Leben . Mensching's text has only been adapted to the current spelling.

Prehistory and first act

The Bäbu is a Hindu who, through his devious, pliable and flexible, hypocritical nature, knows how to assert himself as the head of the fakirs as well as how to gain the trust of Europeans and who uses both to enrich himself and then in the lush tranquility of life to enjoy. Because the pious grandson of Braminen is not averse to sensual pleasures, especially a great friend of sweetened water. The connection and in part the development of the two stories is linked to this figure. The Bäbu, this is the basis of the one, is involved with an Afghan chief, called Ali, in a process which is being carried out before the English court and which he can win by bribing the witnesses and falsifying a document. At the same time he has an eye on Dilafrose, Ali's daughter, and asks the father for her, but is rejected with scorn and contempt by the proud Muselmann.

Dilafrose is linked to an Englishman, Forester, by the bonds of marriage and deepest love. In order to save the life of her lover, whose health has succumbed to the Indian climate, she once thought that she was holding him back from returning home. She threw herself into the river, but was saved by a happy accident. Forester then, believing Dilafrose dead, went to England, and there, out of consideration of gratitude, got engaged to Eva, a young English woman. Called back to India before his marriage, he finds his dilafrose there again. Tied twice, he now tries to get rid of one of his fetters, and in order to now belong entirely to Dilafrose, he also has his death reported to England; Eva, completely abandoned, now comes to Calcutta to see a friend, Lady Wrougthon, to comfort herself there in the diversion of social life for the loss of her bridegroom. She arouses considerable interest in a young officer, Mosely, so that he soon becomes friendly with her and woos her love.

Forester, however, informed of Eva's arrival, tries to remove her, secretly leaves his wife and comes to Calcutta in disguise. Love and jealousy go hand in hand; Dilafrose hardly suspects that her husband is deceiving her when she already thinks he has turned away and seeks consolation and help in her pain on her father's chest.

This the prerequisites of the action, as they are partly exposed in the dramatic of the first act, partly given in the narratives of the characters. The actual plot begins with the finale of the first act at a masked ball held in Lady Wrougthon's house. All persons whose lives are brought into conflict by fate, Forester, Eva, Dilafrose, Mosely and the Bäbu, come together here, partly masked and unrecognized; Forester masks with the intention of getting rid of Eva, Mosely in order to win her love, Dilafrose in order to convince herself of the infidelity of her husband, and the Bäbu with lustful looks and intentions on the beautiful Turkish child.

This situation gives the music a wonderful resting point from which it can move freely. The hustle and bustle of the servants arranging the feast, with the Bäbu as a conductor, how he smugly looks at his work and moves in a very funny way; afterwards the various masks with ballet; all of this is accompanied by beautiful and highly characteristic music.

Forester appears as a fortune teller, and after he has practiced his art with some and, among other things, prophesied death by the rope to the Bäbu, he turns to Eva in a lonely place, warns her about the longer stay in Calcutta and urges her to return quickly. He discovers that Mosely loves her, then reveals himself and disappears, pursued by the lady's servants.

Second act

In the beginning of the second act we find him in a lonely place in the lady's garden; exhausted and tired he sits down on a couch and falls asleep. Soft music accompanies his dreams, which are expressed in individual exclamations relating to his relationship with Eva. Dilafrose has always followed him and approaches him to explore his mood with the help of Persian magic. The pantomime is accompanied by truly magical music. It is as if a spirit floated down in the tones to free the captive soul so that it lay there as clear as a mirror before the gaze of love. It ends in a delicate song of magic, which Forester replies in a dream. His faithful, loving heart is revealed in it. Dilafrose, overwhelmed by the feeling of her happiness, wakes him up with a kiss; he rushes into their arms and their hearts pour out in a duet with the highest lyrical momentum.

The Bäbu, however, also pursues his plan and has Dilafrose forcibly kidnapped. We see him in his apartment in the Shiva Temple, surrounded by fakirs who, singing praises to him, are intoxicated with wine and fragrances. This is where the two fables come together, Forester appears at the Bäbu, who, while drunk, tells him that he has exchanged Ali’s certificate for a false one and that he is in possession of the real one. To investigate this matter further with the help of the courts, he goes away, and the Bäbu continues his feasting, and full of sensual lust and avenge he rejoices in his victim.

Third act

The third act begins with Forester's reconciliation with Eva, who is now Mosely's bride. The news of Dilafrose's kidnapping interrupts the reconciliation scene, and since the suspicion falls on the Bäbu, Forester and the Seine immediately penetrate the Schiva temple. Meanwhile the Bäbu has approached Dilafrose; but this stimulates him to dance with enchanting grace, so that he soon falls down, drunk and stunned. In the meantime Forester has reached the door of the chamber, and Dilafrose is only allowed to try in vain to open the locked door with horror when it is opened from the outside and the liberated falls into her father and lover's arms. The villainous Bäbu is now exposed and punished, and Forester is allowed to own the lover, who has been won for the third time, calmly and happily.


The Bäbu is an opera with numerous musical numbers (solo, ensemble numbers and choirs, ballets), spoken dialogues and various speaking and silent roles.

Theater ticket for the premiere
Benefit for Marschner


The orchestral line-up for the opera includes the following instruments:

Music numbers

The “Text der Gesänge” published in 1838 and the printed piano reduction contain the following musical numbers:

first act

  • No. 1. Introduction (Ali, Bäbu, Muton, Rhotun Ghoos, choir)
  • No. 2. Duet (Ali, Bäbu)
  • No. 3. Duet (Ali, Dilafrose)
  • No. 4. Romance (Dilafrose)
  • No. 5th scene. Arioso and Aria (Forester)
  • No. 6. Finale (Bäbu, Lady, Mosely, Eva, Mary, Tynebutt, Forester, choir)
    • a) aria
    • b) duet
    • c) Terzettino
    • d) Festival choir
    • e) March of the dwarves and other elevations
    • f) Fortune telling scene
    • g) Sailors' choir
    • h) Final sentence

Second act

  • No. 7th scene. Romance and Duet (Forester, Dilafrose)
  • No. 8. Recitative and Song (Dilafrose)
  • No. 9. Quintet (four masked ones, Dilafrose)
  • No. 10. Choir. Recitative. Song with choir (choir of the Hurkarus, Bäbu, Gosain)
  • No. 11. Lied (Bäbu)
  • No. 12. Scene and aria (Bäbu)

Third act

  • No. 13. Quintet with choir (Eva, Lady, Mosely, Forester, Ali)
  • No. 14. Choir of the fakirs
  • No. 15. Finale (Bäbu, Dilafrose, Forester, Ali, Gosain, Eva, Lady, Mosely, Rhotun Ghoos, choir)

Work history


Bäbu fantasies by Carl Czerny

The piece was composed around 1836/37. Wohlbrück and Marschner were inspired to plan the opera probably by reading the anonymously published book Der Bäbu - Lebensbilder aus Osten (Original: The Baboo and Other Tales Descriptive of Society in India. Smith, Elder, and Co., London 1834; by Augustus Prinsep , supplemented by his brother Henry Thoby Prinsep. Translation: Karl Andree ).

Marschner had requested an opera text from these “life images”, with the motivation that “Wah! Wah! ”The Hindu priest would have to make a great effect, but the composer hadn't suggested anything more for the scenario. Wohlbrück despaired of his work to the last. Among the people in Calcutta are seven English, five Muslims and twelve Hindus. Among the latter is the Bäbu Brischmohun Bonurschi as sirdar of the governor and head of the fakirs. The plot revolved around this gourmet, cheater, counterfeiter and drunkard. Despite the huge applause, the music was felt to be too artificial and overly stretched. The baritone Traugott Gey as Bäbu, the soprano Adele Jazedé as Dilafrose, for whose sake Marschner had the opera premiered in Hanover against his habit, and the tenor Eduard Holzmiller (1806 until after 1845) as Forester were awarded. He was guaranteed 150 thalers for his work, and the repetition of the performance was planned as a benefit, but the fund had to add 23 thalers to the actual profit. Marschner dedicated his piano reduction of the opera to the wife of the heir to the French throne , Helene Louise Elisabeth . It received positive reviews from GW Fink . Marschner sold performance materials to Dresden, Stuttgart, Copenhagen and Amsterdam.

Impact history

The Bäbu only saw five performances in Hanover, in Frankfurt it failed in 1838, but it was also given in Breslau and Copenhagen ( Det Kongelige Teater ombygges ). Georg Harrys , the editor of the Hanoverian feuilleton Die Posaune , who was critical of Marschner , considered “Marschner's latest opera in general less to be the outpouring of a full, poetic mind than the work of a thoughtful, deliberately creative mind. […] The 'Bäbu' itself lacks […] a natural and understandable connection of interest, there can be no question. A mean gourmet, a stupid cheat, a dumb forger, a drunkard forms the adverse main character. "Marschner himself described the response to the premiere to Carl Herloßsohn as follows:" 'The Bäbu' was finally launched on the 19th, with the happiest success. Everything was received with applause, which rose to the end, and I, Dem. Jazedé as Dilafrose and Gey as Bäbu, both of whom were excellent, were called out. I was afraid that the extreme cold (it was 15 degrees Celsius) would hold people back from sitting in the completely unheated, extremely draughty theater. But it was terribly crowded, and people applauded as much as they could, despite frozen hands and fur gloves. Today, on the 22nd, the opera is again, for my benefit. "

The composer considered the idea of ​​Marschner's publisher Friedrich Hofmeister to add a new text to the music as impossible. Marschner wrote humorously to the theater director Carl Christian Schmidt in Leipzig: “Enclosed the first feeding with manuscript by Bäbu, everything else is as soon as possible, but not really. You will be amazed at the elegance of my writing this time - - but it is for you !! Farewell u. love your friend Heinr. Marschner ".

The Bäbu in Neuburg ad D. 2018

In 1840 Carl Czerny published a potpourri for piano entitled Three brilliant fantasies on the selected motifs from the opera Bäbu by H. Marschner.

In 1890 Eduard Danzig already referred and in 1901 the Marschner biographer Georg Münzer recommended the Bäbu to be rehearsed again, saying that the music was witty, delightful and full of humor; The Bäbu seems to be viable in its original form, but Münzer notes that the Bäbu could be made even more effective through a revision, and in 1907 he himself submitted an arrangement for which there is no proof of performance. So far - apart from the overture - there is still no nearly complete recording of the music for the radio or on sound carriers. Around 1930 Leopold Hirschberg and Curt Neumann produced a short version (Stuttgart) and in 1933 there had already been an attempt at another radio adaptation by Erwin von Clarmann for the NDR , Ali Ben Bäbu .

In July 2018 the Neuburg Chamber Opera played the Bäbu in an adaptation by the director Horst Vladar . The set was designed by Michele Lorenzini. Alois Rottenaicher was the musical director .



  • Dr. Mensching: Der Bäbu, comic opera by Dr. H. Marschner. In: East and West: Leaves for Art, Literature and Social Life, Volume 6. 1842 ( Part 1 , Part 2 and Part 3. Digital copies on Google Books )
  • Georg Münzer: Heinrich Marschner. “Harmonie” publishing company for literature and art, Berlin 1901, pp. 58–60 ( online in the Internet Archive )
  • Karl Goedeke , Carl Diesch : Eighth book: From world peace to the French revolution 1830: Poetry of general education. Department IV, Part 1. Walter de Gruyter 2011, ISBN 3-05-005255-4 , p. 415.
  • Astrid Stork: “That the soul speaks for itself.” Heinrich Marschner's oriental opera Der Bäbu in a new light. In: Brigitta Weber (Ed.): Heinrich Marschner. Royal Hofkapellmeister in Hanover (Prinzenstrasse, volume 5) Hanover 1995, pp. 130–143.
  • Brigitta Weber, “You sometimes think of your devoted Dr. H. Marschner “1831 to 1859 Royal Court Music Director in Hanover , In: Brigitta Weber (Ed.): Heinrich Marschner. Royal Hofkapellmeister in Hanover (Prinzenstrasse, volume 5) Hanover 1995, pp. 8–83.

Web links

Commons : Der Bäbu  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. In the libretto ( Pictures of Life ) it is always written “Wroughton”.
  2. ^ Catalog entry of the score in the Répertoire International des Sources Musicales .
  3. Adele Autumn Jazedé * February 18, 1816 Jassy ( Romania ); † December 21, 1896 Hamburg .
  4. AMZ , No. 9, February 27, 1839, Col. 157-163.
  5. ^ [ East and West , 1838, p. 322]
  6. Cf. B. Weber, “In doing so you sometimes think of your devoted Dr. H. Marschner “1831 to 1859 Royal Court Kapellmeister in Hanover, In: Dies. (Ed.): Heinrich Marschner. Royal Hofkapellmeister in Hanover (Prinzenstrasse, volume 5) Hanover 1995, p. 28f.
  7. ↑ Based on the manuscript by Thomas Kotte .
  8. ^ Eduard Danzig, Heinrich Marschner in his less well-known operas and songs, Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik , August 6, 1890, pp. 369–71.
  9. ^ Radio Vienna , September 19, 1939, p. 65.
  10. Neue Zeitschrift für Musik , August 1933, p. 884.
  11. Der Bäbu ( Memento from August 8, 2018 in the Internet Archive ) in the program of the Neuburg Chamber Opera , accessed on August 8, 2018. Among others, the singers were: Alessia Schumacher, Laura Faig, Ulrike Johanna Jöris (soprano), Karsten Münster, Goran Cah, Elmar Göbel (tenor), Stephan Hönig, Joachim Hermann, Michael Hoffmann (baritone), Horst Vladar (bass).