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Mort d'Abel, La (François-Benoît Hoffman)




English translation: Mary Pardoe


Act I

The stage represents a pleasant, picturesque site, with a river cascading down between two hills in the distance; a very simple bridge is seen crossing the river above the waterfall. On the right, the dwellings of Adam and Eve and their offspring. Front of stage, charming scenery; two altars made of turf in the centre.

 Adam, alone at daybreak, despairs of seeing his sons, Abel and Cain, reconciled. Whatever his parents say or do, Cain is jealous of their love for his brother. Abel joins his father and they pray to God for Cain to show more positive feelings. The whole family gathers to pray. Only Cain is absent. He arrives, looking grim. The entreaties of his wife, Mahala, and his mother, Eve, finally overcome his reluctance to be reconciled with Abel. They all rejoice at his decision. In order to set minds at rest, Adam asks his sons to swear that from now on they will always be at peace. They do so. But suddenly a terrifying voice is heard, coming from beneath the ground: ‘Peace? Never! No, never!’ In reaction to this curse, uttered by the fiend Anamalech, Abel and Cain make offerings to God. Abel prays and receives a good omen: the fire on his altar kindles into a column of flame, rising to Heaven. Cain prays, but then a terrible noise is heard and his altar is overthrown by the power of Anamalech. Cain’s gifts have been rejected and his brother’s accepted. Cursing Heaven and earth, Cain leaves amidst general consternation. ‘This place where Abel dwells shall see me no more!’

 Acte II 

A wild and arid spot. A mountain in the background. Two caves at the foot of the mountain. Woodland in the foreground.

Alone and in distress, Cain begs for sleep to bring some respite from his suffering. The demon Anamalech appears. He makes Cain dream of the future of his descendants and those of Abel: ‘Tremble, Cain, tremble, as you see, each in turn, / The ills that will rain down upon your guilty race / And the unfailing happiness / That Abel’s children shall one day enjoy.’ Before he withdraws, Anamalech tells Cain to awaken: Abel is coming and he must take up the iron club, forged in Hell, which is the fiend’s parting gift. Cain awakes and Abel arrives. Torn between satanic commands and brotherly love, Cain begs his brother to leave, but Abel insists on staying, which arouses Cain’s anger. There is suddenly a violent storm, with thunder and lightning, and Cain, in a fury, strikes Abel with the iron club and flees. The others arrive on the scene and find the lifeless body of Abel. Not knowing death, they think at first that he is asleep. But then Adam announces: ‘God’s decree has been accomplished: / This is death, as the Angel predicted.’ Cain reappears, full of remorse, and confesses to the crime. Seized by madness, he flees into the mountains, followed by his wife Mahala and their children. An Angel descends in a halo of light and announces the transfiguration of Abel, whose body is borne to Paradise by a heavenly choir.

    Person - 1
  • HOFFMAN, François-Benoît (1760-1828)
  • Work - 1
  • Mort d'Abel, La (Hoffman / Kreutzer)