Karl Goldmark

Die Königin von Saba

contemporary opera 14

Opera in four acts, two parts, in German with Hungarian and English surtitles

According to the ancient legend, the Queen of Sheba sought Truth and Wisdom, and when she heard of Solomon’s insight, she journeyed to Jerusalem to put the king’s knowledge to the test. Karl Goldmark was born into a devout Jewish family and although he lived in Vienna, he kept his Hungarian identity until death. The composer had a voice student whose exotic beauty someone once compared to that of the Queen of Sheba. This gave Goldmark the inspiration to write an opera about the Oriental queen. The libretto tells the tale of a love triangle. The Queen of Sheba unleashes her charms on one of Solomon’s diplomats, a young man engaged to the daughter of the High Priest of Jerusalem. The Opera’s production directed by Csaba Kéel premiered on the 100th anniversary of the composer’s death.

While most everything about the Hungarian State Opera’s Die Königin von Saba Friday was old-fashioned it was the most sheerly enjoyable night at the opera I’ve spent this whole year!
Christopher Corwin, Parterre


Premiere: July 3, 2015

Erkel Theatre
Erkel Theatre


Act I
A hall in Solomon's palace 
Sulamith, the daughter of the High Priest, is anxiously awaiting the return of her fiancé, Assad, whom King Solomon has ordered to prepare the way for the Queen of Sheba's visit to King Solomon's palace. The young couple is scheduled to be married the next day. Assad returns to the palace and informs King Solomon that under the shade of the cedars of Lebanon, he fell in love with a mysterious woman and now no longer loves Sulamith. Solomon advises Assad not to pursue this infatuation, but instead to stick with his previous decision and marry Sulamith.
The Queen of Sheba arrives at the palace at the head of her retinue. As she lifts her veil to greet the king, Assad sees that she was the mysterious lady whom he met on his journey. But the queen acts as though they had never met, to the young man's distress. The king arranges for a reception to be held in the queen's honour.
Act II
The garden of the palace, night 
The Queen of Sheba slips away from the festivites and comes out into the garden. She is thinking about Assad's impending marriage when her servant, Astaroth, tells her that Assad is nearby and then goes on, with the "magic sounds" of seductive Oriental melodies, to lure the young man to her mistress. A heated discussion begins between Assad and the queen, culminating in a passionate embrace. Their assignation is interrupted by the Guardian of the Temple when he calls the children of Israel to their dawn prayer.
The wedding party assembles. Assad and Sulamith's ceremony is almost finished when the Queen of Sheba appears to present her wedding gift. The queen continues to treat the young man as a stranger, which makes him lose his head entirely. He commits blasphemy by calling the queen his god. The ensuing commotion brings the wedding vows to an end, and Assad is led off to receive a suitable punishment, which in all likelihood will be death.
The court of King Solomon 

The festivities organised in honour of the Queen of Sheba's visit continue with a ballet. The queen is worried about Assad's fate and asks Solomon to pardon him. The king refuses, and the queen departs planning revenge. Sulamith and her companions enter the court singing a sorrowful song. She has now dedicated her life to God alone, but before departing on her way, begs for Assad's life. Solomon responds with a mysterious prophecy in which he foretells Sulamith's future. The upset girl leaves the palace and heads for the desert to lament her fate.

Act IV
In the desert 

Solomon has shown clemency: Assad's death sentence has been commuted to banishment. The Queen of Sheba finds the youth in the vicinity of Sulamith's desert dwelling and attempts to convince him to go with her. But Assad resists the temptation and repents of his deed, hoping him that death will bring him redemption for his sin against God. As he prays for Sulamith, he is caught in a savage sandstorm. When the girl and her companions happen to find him, he is barely alive. The man asks for his love's forgiveness, which he receives before dying in the arms of his beloved.


While most everything about the Hungarian State Opera’s Die Königin von Saba Friday was old-fashioned it was the most sheerly enjoyable night at the opera I’ve spent this whole year!
Christopher Corwin, Parterre