Abu Hassan
  • Carl Maria von Weber. Singspiel in one act. 1811.
  • Libretto by Franz Carl Hiemer, after Antoine Galland’s Le Dormeur éveillé (The Sleeper Woken), itself based on an episode in The Arabian Nights.
  • First performance at the Residenztheater, Munich, on 4th June 1811.
Abu Hassan, cup-bearer to the Caliph tenor
Fatime, his wife soprano
Omar, a money-lender bass
Caliph speaking part
Zobeide, the Caliph’s wife speaking part

Abu Hassan is cup-bearer to the Caliph. He and his wife Fatime are being pressed for debt by Omar, a money-lender, who has designs also on Fatime. The couple plan to extract money from the Caliph. Abu Hassan seeks money for the funeral expenses of Fatime, whom he declares to be dead, while Fatime seeks funeral money from the Caliph’s wife, Zobeide, for her husband. They succeed in their plan, but then both have to pretend to be dead. The Caliph promises a reward for an answer to the mystery, and Abu Hassan, hearing this, awakes from the dead. Omar, who has been shut in a cupboard by Fatime, is punished by the Caliph for his activities, and the cupboard, with Omar inside, is taken off to prison.

After the first performance of Abu Hassan in Munich in 1811 there were revivals in Gotha in 1813 and in Dresden in 1823, for both of which Weber added further songs. The work owes something to the Turkish opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio) by Mozart, who was married to Weber’s cousin, and there is a place in the score for what was then known as ‘Turkish music’, chiefly percussion. The overture is sometimes heard in concert performance and it forms a lively introduction to a good piece of theatre.