Rimrock Opera

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The Story of Nosferatu
 Brief  Synopsis  | 
Expanded Synopsis

The Setting – the action of the opera takes place in the Baltic seaport of Wisborg, Germany

Act One
Scene One : The Counting House
Heinrich Skuller, an elderly, peculiar businessman and moneylender, has just read an interesting letter. He summons a young, married man, Eric, who is desperate for a job. Skuller explains that a wealthy nobleman, Count Orlock of Hungary, needs a home in Wisborg that he can renovate. Skuller has purchased an old estate for the Count and offers Eric a job completing the sale. Eric can keep half the proceeds which could lead to a business partnership with Skuller. Eric is reluctant to leave his wife, Ellen, who is not well. Skuller persuades Eric to make the journey to Hungary in order to provide for Ellen and to secure his dreams of financial security.

Scene Two: The Dream
Dr. Harding and Ellen’s sister, Marthe, are in Eric and Ellen’s apartment speaking softly about Ellen’s health while she recovers from another bout of nightmares and sleepwalking. Eric enters and exclaims the news of his employment, but as the job is described, Marthe pleads for Eric not to leave his wife. Ellen awakens and tells Eric about her dream of his death. Eric dismisses her dream and insists he must take the job for their benefit; Dr. Harding adds that Ellen can be cared for in Eric’s absence. Eric and Ellen pledge their undying love and unity. Before he departs, Ellen gives him a locket with her portrait inside.

Scene Three: The Castle
While waiting in the Count’s dining hall, Eric looks longingly at Ellen’s portrait. At sunset, Orlock finally appears. Eric begins his sales pitch, but the Count just wants to sign the purchase contract and leave immediately for Wisborg. Eric shows his locket to the Count, who soon becomes obsessed with the portrait of Ellen. Count Orlock begins to cast a spell over Eric, but as Eric is about to succumb, he calls out for Ellen, who then becomes psychically connected to Eric and to the Count. Eric can only hear the Count, and surrenders to the Count’s bite. Ellen realizes Eric is lost, but the Count allows Eric to live as his gift to Ellen, whom he now plans to claim as his bride.


Act Two
Scene One: The Arrival

Ellen is at the harbor of Wisborg hoping for Eric’s safe return. Skuller arrives but he has no news for Ellen. She leaves and Skuller is nervously excited, for “tonight at last the master comes.” A ghost ship comes into view, with Orlock (Nosferatu) standing at the prow, looking youthful and strong. He tells Skuller that he has not come to rest at his new home, but to establish a new domain worthy of his ancestors. Rats have scurried off the ship, and servants appear to remove coffins filled with dirt. As he will do every midnight until she invites him into her arms, Nosferatu sings to Ellen that he, the undead, is her destiny.
Scene Two: The Asylum

Ellen and Marthe are on their way to Dr. Harding’s asylum to visit Eric. Marthe comments that the plague arrived in Wisborg on the death ship that drifted into the harbor with its dead crew. At the asylum, Dr. Harding greets the sisters and brings out Eric, accompanied by Skuller, who is now also an inmate. Eric believes the asylum is his mansion and that the inmates are his servants. Eric is taken away, and Skuller returns, now alone with Ellen. He asks when she will respond to her nightly calls from Nosferatu. “Never,” she replies, and vows to defeat Nosferatu. Skuller whispers how that could be done.

Scene Three: Midnight, Ellen’s Apartment
Nosferatu calls to Ellen who finally consents to his visit. Fearfully awaiting his arrival, she is full of terror. Dressed in her wedding nightgown, Ellen kneels to pray to the Virgin. After her "Salve, Regina," she reveals her plan to keep Nosferatu in her embrace until dawn. Suddenly she feels him approach as he expresses his desire to share eternity with her. Prolonging his overtures, she responds that they will always be together. Finally, she willing bares her neck as first light shows through the window. Nosferatu now realizes he has been manipulated and has only a moment to escape but chooses instead to embrace her. "Now you are mine, forever” he whispers as he turns to face the dawn entering the window.

Expanded Synopsis and study guide