Musical re-workings of Lalla Rookh staged in Berlin: Spontini’s Lalla Rookh & Nurmahal

Lalla Rookh

Similar to other libraries visited during the course of project ERIN the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (SBB) does not curate a dedicated Moore collection. However, the library is in possession of a unique selection of sources for musical re-workings of Lalla Rookh; these include nineteenth-century libretti and printed music. These sources, together with an account, costume designs and illustrations pertaining to the 1821 Berlin premiere of Spontini’s Lalla Rookh (1821), housed at the Lipperheidesche Kostümbibliothek, are valuable, offering much to Moore scholarship, and to the wider contextualisation of musical re-workings of Lalla Rookh. An overview of these sources, with a specific focus on Spontini’s Lalla Rookh (1821) and Nurmahal (1822) will be the subject of a conference paper that I will jointly present with Dr Sarah McCleave at the upcoming Lalla Rookh Bicentenary Symposium at Marsh’s Library, Dublin on 27 May 2017 (the full symposium announcement and programme is included at the end of this blog).


Gaspare [Luigi Pacifico] Spontini (1774-1852) was appointed to the position of Kapellmeister and Musical Director at Berlin State Opera in 1820 by the Prussian Monarch Karl Wilhelm III. Spontini’s two-act opera with ballet called Nurmahal is based on The Light of the Haram; the fourth and final tale from Moore’s Lalla Rookh. Nurmahal was first performed in Berlin on 27 May 1822; exactly five years after the first publication of Lalla Rookh was issued. A selection of extant concert programmes, housed at the SBB’s Manuscripts Reading Room (Handschriften-Lesessal, Potsdamer Straβe), documents 18 Berlin performances of the opera with ballet, which took place between the years 1822 and 1824. An excerpt from the concert programme for the first Berlin performance of
Nurmahal is transcribed below.

“Montag, den 27. May 1822. / Im Opernhause. / zum Erstenmale: / Nurmahal, / oder: /
Das Rosenfest von Caschmir. / Lyrisches Drama in 2 Abtheilungen, nach dem englischen
Gedicht Lalla Rukh, des Th. Moore, / mit Ballets. Musik von Spontini.”

This research trip was kindly and generously funded by the Keats-Shelly Association of America, Carl H. Pforzheimer, Jr., Research Grant 2017.

Image courtesy of Special Collections, McClay Library, QUB

Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin

Lipperheidesche Kostümbibliothek

Lalla Rookh Bicentenary Symposium –
Marsh’s Library, Dublin | 27 May 2017
27 May 2017 marks the two-hundredth anniversary of the publication of Thomas Moore’s epic oriental poem, Lalla Rookh. Dubbed “the cream of the copyrights” by its publisher, Thomas Longman, the work was an immediate commercial success, selling out six editions within six months of its initial publication. Longmans would eventually publish almost 100,000 copies of the work, including editions illustrated by prominent artists such as John Tenniel and Daniel Maclise. Lalla Rookh has enjoyed a rich cultural afterlife, with parts of the work set to music by Robert Schumann, Charles Villiers Stanford, and Anton Rubenstein, and numerous theatrical adaptations taking inspiration from Moore’s writing. A major reference point in the genre of Romantic Orientalism, the work has maintained a prominent position in scholarly accounts of the poetry of the Regency period, and its depictions of the dangers of political demagoguery and appeals for religious tolerance have a powerful and durable resonance. Lalla Rookh Bicentenary Symposium commemorates this anniversary by bringing together a range of national and international scholars to present current research on Moore and Lalla Rookh at Marsh’s Library, Dublin, where Moore completed research for his debut poetic collection, Odes of Anacreon.

Register for the symposium (general: €20 | student/unwaged: €10): https:// symposium-tickets-33390338401

0930-1000 Registration
1000-1100 Panel 1: Lalla Rookh & Music
Sarah McCleave & Tríona O’Hanlon (Queen’s University Belfast):
“Spontini’s Lalla Rûkh and the Subsequent Response of European Composers to Thomas Moore’s Lalla Rookh”

Anja Bunzel (Maynooth University): “The Sublime Genius: Nineteenth-Century Nationalism in the Peri by Robert Schumann and Thomas Moore”

1100-1130 Tea & Coffee

1130-1230 Panel 2: Lalla Rookh & Literature
Justin Tonra (National University of Ireland Galway): “The Bibliographic Problem of Lalla Rookh”

Daniel S. Roberts (Queen’s University Belfast): “Oriental Artifice in Lalla Rookh”

1230-1345 Lunch

1345-1445 Panel 3
Jane Moore (Cardiff University): “Thomas Moore’s Songs”

Brian Caraher (Belfast): “From Lalla Rookh to ‘Larry O’Rourke’: Thomas Moore and James Joyce”

1445-1515 Tea & Coffee

1515-1615 Panel 4
Una Hunt (Dublin Institute of Technology): “Thomas Moore, Drawing Room Entertainer or Rebel Songster?”

Matthew Campbell (University of York): “Poetry and the ‘Cause of Tolerance’: Moore, Ferguson, Mangan”

1615-1630 Closing Remarks

This event is organised by Justin Tonra, with the assistance of Matthew Campbell, Brian Caraher, Sarah McCleave, and Sean Ryder (NUI Galway). The symposium is generously supported by the School of Humanities, National University of Ireland Galway, and by Marsh’s Library.

For further enquiries, please contact the organiser.

Dr Justing Tonra, Lecturer in English, School of Humanities, National University of Ireland Galway.

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