The original version of this work was commissioned by English National Opera with funds provided by the Geoffrey C. Hughes Charitable Trust. It was first performed by English National Opera at the London Coliseum on 20 April 1994. The Pocket Version was commissioned by The Opera Group and Sequitur. It was first performed on 14 June 2006, at Linbury at the Royal Opera House, London, by The Opera Group (Owen Gilhooly, baritone; Heather Shipp, mezzo-soprano; Claire Wild, soprano; Mark Wilde, tenor; Patrick Bailey, conductor).
Available in German translation by Alexander Gruber and Frank Harders-Wuthenow.
Eckbert and his wife Berthe live in seclusion in the Harz Mountains. One stormy night, Eckbert’s friend Walther arrives and, to while away the time, Berthe tells him her life story. Walther mysteriously knows a great deal about Berthe' s early life and Eckbert’s suspicions grow, eventually leading him to murder Walther during a hunting expedition. Consumed by terror and suspicion, Eckbert retreats into seclusion and revisits the fairy-tale scenes of Berthe's childhood, accompanied by a magical singing bird. He encounters the old woman who raised Berthe, and at last learns the terrible truth about Walther, Berthe, and himself.
© Judith Weir