“The Snowman “
Ballet/pantomime in two acts
Story E.W. Korngold
World Premiere 14 Apr 1910, Vienna (two piano version)
4 Oct 1910, Vienna Hofoper (orchestral version)
Publisher Universal Edition
Instrumentation link to Universal Edition
Source: Mason, Henry Lowell. Opera Stories. Boston, MA: published by the author, 1910|
In April and May 1910, the world was alerted to the existence of the Austrian youth Erich Wolfgang Korngold, proclaimed as the century’s new Mozart. In the rush to print seemingly anything and everything about the young composing prodigy, one enterprising American author published the storyline of Korngold’s pantomime Der Schneemann, before that same year was over. The text that follows is that originally published in 1910, and which we believe is a rough translation of the text published in German by Universal Edition in 1910.
A poor fiddler, Pierrot, loves the beautiful Columbine, whose guardian uncle, Pantalon, does all he can to upset the match, as he himself wishes to win the heart of his niece. Columbine is kept a prisoner in her chamber, her one joy being to look down from her window to the Nicolo Market, longing for a sight of Pierrot. As Pierrot chances by her window Pantalon arrives with two servants and drives Pierrot away. Pantalon searches the stalls of the market-place for something which will appeal to the fancy of his niece. His rude taste leads him to a life-size figure of Krampus (the devil) which the servants carry her, despite the teasing of a number of street [urchins]. As Pantalon goes on another errand, the [urchins] begin a snowball battle, while some of them make a great snowman with arms outstretched toward Columbine.
It waxes late, and Pierrot, with his violin, serenades Columbine who now is too fearful to appear at the window. As the awkward Pantalon reappears, Pierrot hides behind the snowman. Pantalon, seeing the latter, is amused almost to death ; he bows and scrapes and assumes, in frolic, a similar position. The love-sick Pierrot gets and idea from this, and after Pantalon has left he takes the snowman away, arrays himself in white and takes the place of the snowman, with arms outstretched and eyes looking longingly to the window of his beloved.
Scene changes ; Columbine’s chamber. Pantalon is angry that his niece looks so continually at the snowman, and he commands the figure to enter the house. The figure does not need a second bidding and is straightway heard stamping up the stairs. Pantalon, overcome with fright, calls his servants ; but they, too, are motionless with fear. He rushes out ; but shortly returns dressed as the devil, thinking this to command the situation. To gain courage he takes several long sips of wine, and now, wonderful to relate, sees not only one snowman but two, three, four, and a whole battalion who dance wildly about him. Dazed and overcome he falls in heavy sleep ; the snowmen leave, while Pierrot and Columbine rush out of the house. Pantalon, recovering his senses, runs to the market-place but is greeted by the distant horn of the coach which bears the happy pair away. He tears his hair in despair and throws himself in anger upon the real snowman which the thoughtful Pierrot had put back in its place.
The year 2010 marked the centenary of the world premiere of Korngold’s ballet/pantomime, Der Schneemann. Its premiere was in a four-hand piano version on April 14 1910 at the Ministerial Palace in Vienna, and its orchestral premiere took place in October at the Hofoperntheater on the Emperor’s Name Day. The Museum of Music History in London created a special tribute page as part of their “Image of the Month” series, with archival images. Link