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Theatre / Der Vampyr

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Der Vampyr (The Vampire) is an 1828 German opera composed by Heinrich Marschner to a libretto by his brother-in-law, Wilhelm August Wohlbrück. The story is based on "The Vampyre" by John Polidori, the first prose vampire story written in English, by way of French, English, and German theatrical plays adapted from it. While it was incredibly popular and successful in its day, it is only rarely revived.


The story follows a vampire, Lord Ruthven, who must kill three women over the course of the next day in order to remain a vampire for another year. His friend, Aubry, discovers that he is a vampire and is sworn to secrecy. When Ruthven is about to marry — and kill — Aubry's lover Malwina, Aubry struggles between breaking his oath and dooming himself or keeping silent and dooming Malwina.

In 1992, it was adapted into a British TV miniseries, The Vampyr: A Soap Opera.

An English translation of the libretto is available here.


Provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: From both Polidori's "The Vampyre" and the plays Der Vampyr was more directly based on. The opera adds several new characters and expands Ruthven's role and character.
  • Arranged Marriage: Ruthven and Malwina.
  • Follow the Leader: Not only was Marschner following the new trend of popular vampire stage plays, but another composer, Peter Josef von Lindpaintner, wrote an opera based on the same sources that was also entitled Der Vampyr and premiered in 1828. While popular at the time, Lindpaintner's opera is basically unknown today.
  • Hemo Erotic: Vampire bites are described in sexual terms; for example, Ruthven describes killing a woman as "suck[ing] new life with a kiss."
  • Ode to Intoxication: The drinking song quartet "Im Herbst da muss man trinken! (In the fall one should drink!)" provides an excuse to drink in all seasons:
    In winter one should drink!
    In winter it is cold;
    The blood of the grape warms us then
    In summer one should drink!
    In summer it is hot,
    The blood of the grape cools us
    In spring one should drink!
    Then it's not hot nor cold!
  • Our Vampires Are Different:
    • Ordinary weapons will injure a vampire, but he will heal completely if he lays in the moonlight (this comes directly from Polidori's "Vampyre", and appears again in the later work Varney the Vampire).
    • Vampires don't seem to need blood on a regular basis, but must kill three women once a year in order to remain a vampire. If you prevent a vampire from killing his victims, he will die.
    • People killed by vampires become vampires themselves, but you can also become a vampire by being an immoral person: for example, by breaking your oaths.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Aubrey's unnamed sister dies in "The Vampyre", but in Der Vampyr, where she has become his lover Malwina, she lives.
  • Villain Song: Ruthven's "Ha! welche Lust! (Ha! What Pleasure!)", describes his pleasure at being a vampire and sucking blood.
    Ha! What pleasure,
    With loving caress,
    With lascivious courage
    The sweetest blood
    Like sap of the roses,
    From red-purple lips
    Adulatingly to sip! -
    And when the burning thirst is quenched,
    And when the blood oozes from the heart,
    And when they groan full of terror,
    Haha! What delight!


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