The Maiden in the Tower

The Maiden in the Tower (in Swedish: Jungfrun i tornet; in Finnish: Neito tornissa; occasionally translated to English as The Maid in the Tower),[1] JS 101, is an opera ("dramatized Finnish ballad")[lower-alpha 1] in one act—comprising an overture and eight scenes—written in 1896 by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. The piece was a collaboration with the Finnish author Rafael Hertzberg, the Swedish-language libretto of whom tells a "simple tale of chivalry" that may nonetheless have had allegorical ambitions: the Bailiff (Imperial Russia) abducts and imprisons the Maiden (the Grand Duchy of Finland); although she endures hardship, she remains true to herself and is freed subsequently (Finland's independence) by her Lover (Finnish nationalists) and the Chatelaine of the castle (social reformers).

The Maiden in the Tower
Opera by Jean Sibelius
The young composer (c.1895)
Native nameJungfrun i tornet
CatalogueJS 101
TextLibretto by Rafael Hertzberg
LanguageSwedish
Composed1896 (1896)
PublisherEdition Wilhelm Hansen (1983)
DurationApprox. 36 minutes
Premiere
Date7 November 1896 (1896-11-07)
LocationHelsinki, Finland
ConductorJean Sibelius
PerformersHelsinki Philharmonic Society

The opera premiered on 7 November 1896 at a lottery soirée to benefit the Helsinki Philharmonic Society, which Sibelius conducted, and its music school; the Finnish baritone Abraham Ojanperä and the Finnish soprano Ida Flodin [fi] sang the roles of the Bailiff and the Maiden, respectively. Although the critics praised Sibelius's music, they thought it was wasted on Hertzberg's lifeless libretto. After three performances, Sibelius withdrew the opera, saying he wanted to revise it. He never did, and with one exception (in 1900, he conducted a 12-minute concert overture that incorporated material from five of the opera's numbers),[lower-alpha 2] he suppressed the work. The Maiden in the Tower would not receive its next complete performance until 28 January 1981, when Sibelius's son-in-law Jussi Jalas and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra resurrected it for a radio concert.

In the intervening decades, The Maiden in the Tower has entered neither the Finnish nor the international repertories, and its significance is therefore primarily as a historical curiosity: Sibelius's lone opera.[2] Accordingly, it has been recorded only a few times, with Neeme Järvi and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra having made the world premiere studio recording in 1983. A typical performance lasts about 36 minutes.


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