Opera Scotland

Florentine Tragedy Eine Florentinische Tragödie

Tours by decade

1980s - 1 tour

1983 - Hamburg State Opera
Fully Staged with Orchestra

Tours by location


Alexander von Zemlinsky (born Vienna, 14 October 1871; died Larchmont NY, 15 March 1942)


Wilde's play in German translation by Max Meyerfeld.


Play A Florentine Tragedy (1894) by Oscar Wilde (1854-1900).



First Performance: Stuttgart (Württembergisches Staatstheater), 30 January 1917.

First Performance in UK: Edinburgh (King's Theatre), 22 August 1983.

First Performance in Scotland: As above.

Scottish Opera première: N/A.



Zemlinsky was both a teacher and friend of Schoenberg, as well as his brother-in-law, and provides a link between the late romantic world of Brahms and the modern era. Even in his own time his abilities as a teacher were thought to be more important than any of his compositions. It was only in the seventies that his own work began to be re-assessed. As with many notable musicians from central Europe, he fled to the USA during the Nazi period.



Guido Bardi, a Florentine prince (tenor)

Simone, a wealthy Florentine merchant (baritone)

Bianca, Simone's wife (soprano)


Plot Summary

Bianca is the young and beautiful wife of a wealthy, but elderly, merchant in 16th century Florence. She is bored with her husband, and takes as a lover a handsome young Florentine aristocrat. The orchestral prelude, rather like that of Der Rosenkavalier, gives an indication of the activity before the rise of the curtain. The action takes place in a loft of Simone's home, full of bolts of luxurious materials. Simone arrives home early from a business trip, having cut it short with the deliberate intention of catching his wife with a lover. When he finds Bianca and Guido together, he pretends to believe that Guido has come to buy cloth. Guido pretends to fall in with this idea, and is happy to be shown various samples. He agrees to buy first a damask cloth and then a velvet robe - payment will be sent the following day. The exchanges become on the surface light-hearted, but it is clear that there is serious animosity developing, as the men goad one another. Bianca's hatred of her husband also becomes clear, as she begins to support Guido's side. When Simone spills some wine and comments on its resemblance to blood, Guido decides it is time to leave. As Simone hands him his sword and cloak he makes a few playful passes with his own weapon, and this develops into a serious struggle. Bianca initially supports Guido against the loathesome husband, and the younger man succeeds in wounding the merchant. However in the hand-to-hand struggle that follows the older man's physical strength tells, and Guido is throttled to death. Bianca has seen, in his raw physical strength, an attractive side to her husband she had not been aware of before, and it seems their relationship is restored.

The Cast

 Simone's wife
Guido Bardi
 a Florentine prince
 a wealthy merchant

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