Major Operas | Hans Heiling by Heinrich Marschner | Early Romantic

Composed: 1832
Premiered: 1833, Berlin
Libretto by Eduard Devrient, after a Bohemian legend


Hans Heiling, the King of the Gnomes, announces that he wishes to marry Anna, a mortal. His mother tries to dissuade him, since he would lose his powers.

Act I

Anna and her mother Gertrude come to Heiling’s house above ground. While Anna still dreams of her lover Conrad, Gertrude insists on the match with Heiling. Anna makes Heiling burn the magic book that gives him his powers. He declares his love for Anna and agrees to go to the village festival with her, but forbids her to dance.

At the festival Conrad tells his friends that anyone who marries an earth spirit will meet with disaster. Heiling is jealous of the attention Anna pays to Conrad. She still wants to dance, saying that she will do as she pleases until she is married. Heiling storms out, realizing that she never loved him.

Act II

Anna is alone in the forest. The Queen of the Gnomes appears and tells her of Heiling’s true identity. Before sinking into the ground she urges Anna to send him back to his home. Conrad is surprised to find Anna here. On hearing that she will never marry Heiling, Conrad offers his protection.

As a storm rages, Conrad brings Anna to Gertrude’s hut. Heiling appears and offers her a casket of jewels. Anna still refuses him and in a fight Conrad is wounded.


Heiling resolves to return to his underground kingdom. The villagers process to the church for the wedding of Anna and Conrad. Heiling enters during the ceremony. Conrad challenges him, but his sword is shattered. As gnomes burst in and threaten the villagers, the queen appears to recall Heiling to his kingdom, never to be seen again.

Personalities | Heinrich Marschner | Early Romantic | Opera


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