Composers and their stage works 

An Enemy of the People

(En folkefiende)

Henrik Ibsen (1883)

Caustic and high-spirited comedy in five acts in which Ibsen pays tribute to the courage of the individual conscience in opposition to the conformity of mass opinion.

In a small Norwegian resort that prospers by virtue of its mineral baths, the public health officer, Dr. Stockmann, discovers that the waters are polluted and have already caused several illnesses. He determines to have the situation remedied. At first he is aided enthusiastically by the local newspaper's crusading editors, but the tide of reform gradually turns when the doctor's brother, the mayor, points out the financial hardships that would result from such a program.

Dr. Stockmann is then branded an enemy of the people's prosperity. Majority opinion soon turns violent; Stockmann's house is stoned, his daughter dismissed from her teaching position, and his friends persecuted. Alone in his stand for truth and justice, Dr. Stockmann first considers emigration, then resolves to found a school where he can teach his sense of values to young people. Seeing the social hypocrisy into which the people have been led by the so-called respectable elements in town, he concludes that "the strongest man in the world is the one who stands most alone."