Martha
  • Friedrich Flotow. Romantic comic opera in four acts. 1847.
  • Libretto by W. Friedrich, after the ballet-pantomime Lady Henriette, ou La Servante de Greenwich (Lady Harriet, or The Servant of Greenwich) by Jules Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges.
  • First performance at the Kärntnertortheater, Vienna, on 25th November 1847.
CHARACTERS
Lady Harriet Durham, maid of honour to Queen Anne soprano
Sir Tristan Mickleford, her cousin bass
Plumkett, a young farmer bass
Lyonel, his foster-brother, later Earl of Derby tenor
Nancy, waiting-maid to Lady Harriet mezzo-soprano
Sheriff bass
Three Manservants tenor & basses
Three Maidservants soprano & mezzo-sopranos

Lady Harriet is bored with life, particularly with the attentions of her elderly cousin, Sir Tristan Mickleford. With her maid Nancy, she decides to go to Richmond Fair, where girls hire themselves out each year as servants. In spite of Sir Tristan’s efforts, the two are hired, Lady Harriet, now disguised as Martha, by Lyonel and Nancy by Plumkett. They had hoped at this point to end the prank, but Sir Tristan had been driven away by the hostile crowd. As servants the girls are useless, as Nancy is careful to demonstrate, while Lyonel falls in love with the disguised Lady Harriet. In the night the two escape and return to their old life. Lyonel, entrusted as a baby to the care of Plumkett’s mother, is revealed in the fourth act as the rightful Earl of Derby, while Nancy is in love with Plumkett. Both couples are finally united.

In the second act Lady Harriet sings to her new master the Irish folksong The Last Rose of Summer, a song that is recalled in the final scene. There is a tuneful duet for Lyonel and Plumkett in Ja, seit früher Kindheit Tagen (Yes, since the days of early childhood). The third act brings the tenor Lyonel’s Ach so fromm (Ah so good) in a score that has a wealth of melody to commend it. Martha, oder Der Markt zu Richmond (Martha, or Richmond Market) remains the best-known opera by Flotow.