Fennimore and Gerda

Fennimore und Gerda (subtitled Two Episodes from the Life of Niels Lyhne in Eleven Pictures, RT I/8) is a German-language opera with four interludes, by the English composer Frederick Delius. It is usually performed and recorded in English, as Fennimore and Gerda in a translation by Philip Heseltine. The German libretto, by the composer himself, is based on the novel Niels Lyhne by the Danish writer Jens Peter Jacobsen. In neither German nor English is the libretto highly regarded; rather, the work is considered an "orchestral opera," limited in its dramatic appeal but voluptuous and engaging in its instrumental texture.[1]

Delius began writing Fennimore und Gerda in 1908; he finished in 1910, but the premiere, intended for the Cologne Opera, was delayed by the First World War and did not take place until 21 October 1919, and then at the Opernhaus in Frankfurt. It was the composer's last opera. The United States premiere of the work was staged by the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in June 1981 with Kathryn Bouleyn as Fennimore and Kathryn Gamberoni as Gerda.[2]


Role Voice type Premiere cast, 21 October 1919
(Conductor: Gustav Brecher)[3][4]
Consul Claudi bass Walter Schneider
The Consul's wife mezzo-soprano
Fennimore, their daughter mezzo-soprano Emma Holt
Niels Lyhne, Claudi's nephew baritone Robert von Scheidt
Erik Refstrup, Niels's cousin tenor Erik Wirl
A Squire baritone
A Tax Collector baritone
A Tutor tenor
A Brandy Distiller baritone
A Doctor tenor
Councillor Skinnerup bass
Gerda, his daughter soprano Elisabeth Kandt
Ingrid, his daughter soprano
Lila, his daughter soprano
Marit, his daughter soprano
Maidservants, girls and farmhands


Place: Denmark
Time: Around 1860

Two cousins, the writer Niels Lyhne and the painter Erik Refstrup, are in love with the consul's daughter, Fennimore. She chooses Erik but the marriage begins to break down as a result of the artist's drinking and Fennimore embarks on an affair with Niels. Erik is killed in an accident and, overwhelmed with guilt, Fennimore breaks off the affair. The rejected Niels spends years travelling before he settles down and marries his neighbour's daughter, Gerda.



  1. ^ Boyd, p. 406, 408
  2. ^ Margaret Ross Griffel (2012). Operas in English: A Dictionary. Scarecrow Press. p. 170.
  3. ^ Amadeus Online
  4. ^ Details at Boosey & Hawkes
Cited sources

External linksEdit