Composers and their stage works 



Henrik Ibsen (1881).

Three-act drama dealing with the tragic effects of suppressing disturbing truths.

Mrs. Alving, widow of the admired and respected Captain Alving, has been living alone on her husband's estate with her maid Regina, carrying on her husband's good works in charitable projects, such as a recently completed orphanage. She is aided in this by the primly proper and naïve Pastor Manders, whom she once loved and who disapproves of her "freethinking" ideas. Her son Oswald, who has been living as an artist in Paris, returns home for the dedication of the orphanage, which is, however, burned to the ground before the ceremonies.

Returning exhausted from the fire, Oswald reveals to his mother that he is suffering from a venereal disease, the origin of which he does not understand. When he declares his intention to marry Regina, Mrs. Alving is forced to reveal what she has previously confessed to Pastor Manders: Captain Alving was in reality a dissipated sensualist masquerading under the guise of gentility, all his reputation and philanthropy were the result of her own industry, and Regina is actually his illegitimate daughter. Oswald now realises that his disease is hereditary in origin. He obtains from his mother her promise to administer a deadly drug to him should he become insane. When, as the play ends, Oswald's mind disintegrates completely after a seizure, Mrs. Alving must decide whether to commit euthanasia as she has promised or to let her son go on living in his helpless, demented condition.