The Three Pintos

Moscow Chamber Opera Theatre “Boris Pokrovski”

Carl Maria von Weber — Gustav Mahler

The Three Pintos

In 1821, Theodor Hell developed a drama called "The Battle for the Bride", with a story taken from Der Brautkampf (1819) by Carl Seidel. Hell gave his friend Weber the text, but Weber disliked the title and changed it to "The Three Pintos" ("Die Drei Pintos"). The title comes from the protagonist, Don Pinto, who is impersonated by two other characters in the course of the opera.

Weber began composing the score and worked at it off and on from then until 1824, but other work including Euryanthe intervened and it remained incomplete at his death (in 1826). All that existed, so far, were a number of coded fragments of music: 7 sketches for 17 numbers, and a total of bars scored out of an eventual total of 1700 bars.

Weber's bereaved family made a number of unsuccessful attempts to have "The Three Pintos" completed, but eventually his widow Caroline took the draft to Giacomo Meyerbeer, a composer, and friend of Theodor Hell. For some reason, Meyerbeer did nothing and — 26 years later, just before Caroline died — the fragments were returned to her untouched. Her son Max then approached various composers seeking one who would finish the opera, but he was advised to "give up".

After Max's death in 1881, his son Carl (Carl senior's grandson) inherited the composer's musical estate, and vigorously continued the task of trying to find someone to complete the opera. He eventually encountered the 26-year-old Gustav Mahler, who was working as second conductor at the Leipzig Stadttheater for the 1886-87 season. Mahler was keen to help, and became a regular visitor at the Webers' residence (ostensibly to deal with operatic matters though he was also enamoured of Carl's wife Marion; Carl tried to ignore that situation as best he could).

In the spring of 1887, Mahler cracked C. M. von Weber's code, unscrambled the drafts and instrumentalized the existing fragments in accordance with Weber's wishes. A further 13 musical numbers were needed in addition to the existing 7, and Mahler went ahead and composed this music himself, based on Weber's themes. It was decided that the original shape of the opera should be kept: a dialogue with musical numbers. However, the interlude music between Acts I and II (Pinto's dream) and the two-part finale of Act III were written by Mahler, although still based on Weber's leitmotifs and themes.

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