Die Bürgschaft

Opera in three acts.
Libretto by Caspar Neher and Weill,
after Johann Gottfried von Herder's "Der afrikanische Rechtspruch."

Performance Information
Principal Productions

From the original production, Berlin, 1932.


Die Bürgschaft centers on the farmer Mattes and the merchant Orth. At the beginning, Orth pledges to protect Mattes, who is in debt, from his creditors. Mattes pays off all his loans, and buys two sacks of grain from Orth. He discovers a large sum of money in the sacks, which he decides to keep. When Orth learns of this, he says the money is not his; the Judge is consulted,and he rules that the money be split between their children. Then their homeland, Urb, is invaded by an industrialized colonizing nation, which recognizes only the laws of money and power. Orth and Mattes are then found to be criminals and forced to serve the new government, which makes them rich. After six years elapse, War, Inflation, Famine, and Disease sweep through Urb, and the people revolt. At the final curtain, Orth offers Mattes to the mob to save his own life--the triumph of money and power.

Performance Information

English title: The Pledge
Cast: Johann Mattes (dramatic baritone), his wife Anne Mattes (mezzo), his daughter Luise (soprano), David Orth (high bass), his son Jakob Orth (tenor), Judge (tenor), Ellis, the Commissar (tenor), His Aide (tenor), three creditors (tenor, baritone, bass) in subsequent roles of highwaymen, blackmailers, bailiffs and agents, Scribe (tenor), Herald (tenor), two choruses - male voices, SATB.
Orchestra: 2 (2 picc). 2.2.2 (cbn); 0.3 (2 cornets).2.1; 2 pianos, timp, perc; strings.
Duration: full evening

Principal productions

EMI CD 7243 5 56976 2 2 Frederick Burchinal, Dale Travis, Margaret Thompson, 
Spoleto Festival USA,
Julius Rudel, cond.