”We should judge a woman without taking into account her shoes and head-dress, and, almost as we measure a fish, from head to tail.” (Jean de La Bruyère, French philosopher).
The amours and the comic in the opera often go hand-in-hand. A remarkable case in point is the fascinating romantic comedy Martha, oder Der Markt zu Richmond (1847) by German composer Friedrich von Flotow (1812–1883). The delicate, dynamic and colourful Martha with its unpretentious plot and haunting melodies quickly became very popular in Europe.
The plot (the libretto is by Friedrich Wilhelm Riese, who wrote under the pen-name Wilhelm Friedrich) is based on the ballet-pantomime Harriette, ou la servante de Greenwiche (1844). The opera is set in England in the early 18th century. Bored with the monotonous life in her posh suites, Lady Harriet (a maid of honour to Queen Anne) and her servant Nancy decide to have fun at the fair in Richmond. Disguised as maid servants in country clothes, the fictitious peasant women get carried away by their masquerading and forget about their noble position. Thinking it was a good joke, they let two young farmers, Lyonel and Plumkett, to hire them to do housework.When they recollect themselves, the young ladies try to evade their inoffensive joke but find themselves trapped. There is a new law at the fair, and now they have to work under the contract they signed during a year.
The opera was premiered in 1847 at the Kärntnertortheater in Vienna, and in the following year the composition was Franz Liszt’s conducting debut in Weimar. The first Russian production was staged at the Bolshoi Theatre in 1856.
The concert version of the opera Martha, oder Der Markt zu Richmond will be conducted by Honoured Artist of Russia and of the Republic of Abkhazia Felix Korobov, winner of the Golden Mask National Theatre Award and of the Moscow City Literature and Arts Prize.