The comic opera Maskerade by Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) is based on a 1724 comedy by the "Danish Molière" Ludvig Holberg. The work is considered a Danish national opera, but is a rarity outside Denmark. The score combines folk-song-like elements with Mozartian lightness, sultry romantic cantilenas, and energetic dances. The orchestral writing is highly virtuosic and full of harmonic and contrapuntal surprises. For the new production, Oper Frankfurt commissioned a new German verse version from translator and director Martin G. Berger, based on a linear translation by Hans-Erich Heller. It transfers the exuberant flood of rhymes of the Danish libretto of 1906 into a language of today that is not, however, platitudinously updated, and brings the wordplay and situational comedy to bloom.
The rich bourgeois Jeronimus is suspicious of the new fashion for masquerade balls: identities begin to flounder and the old order threatens to fall into disrepair. His son Leander, however, has fallen in love with an unknown beauty at one such masquerade, and she with him. Now he refuses to comply with his father's plans and marry Leonora, the daughter of Jeronimus' business friend Leonard. Secretly, Leonard succumbs to the seductive power of the masquerade, as does Jeronimus' wife Magdelone, whom he approaches incognito at the ball. At Leander's side is his servant, the shrewd Henrik. He knows how to deal with every situation in life and intrigues skillfully for his master. In the end, after turbulent entanglements, it turns out that Leonora, the bride chosen by Leander's father, is the unknown beauty from the masked ball, to whom he has sworn eternal love.