Major Operas | Die Soldaten by Bernd Alois Zimmermann | Modern Era

Composed: 1958–64
Premiered: 1965, Cologne
Libretto by the composer after Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz’s play

Act I

Marie Wesener, the daughter of a Lille merchant, and Stolzius, a draper in Armentières, are in love, but his mother disapproves. Marie rejects the advances of Desportes, a nobleman. The officers at Armentières discuss seduction. Desportes sends Marie a love poem. Her father asks her to wait for a proposal. Meanwhile she should not forget Stolzius, whom she still loves.

Act II

Officers tease Stolzius about Marie and Desportes. He writes a letter to Marie; she shows it to Desportes. He dictates a reply and seduces her. Stolzius vows revenge. Marie’s grandmother foresees her downfall.


Stolzius applies to become Major Mary’s batman. Charlotte, Marie’s sister, disapproves of Marie’s interest in Mary. They notice the man’s resemblance to Stolzius. The Countess does not consider Marie a suitable match for her son. Although she denies it, Mary has abandoned Marie. The Countess offers her a position and tells her to ignore gossip.

Act IV

Mary confronts Marie, who flees. Desportes orders his huntsman to find her. Raped by the huntsman, she turns to prostitution. Stolzius buys poison. He overhears Desportes saying that Marie deserved her fate. He poisons Desportes’ soup and swallows some himself. Wesener gives money to a beggar, remembering Marie. He does not recognize her. Marie’s sobs are drowned by sounds of marching.

Personalities | Bernd Alois Zimmermann | Modern Era | Opera


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