Composers and their stage works 

The Wild Duck


Henrik Ibsen (1884)

Drama in five acts.

The Ekdal household, impoverished but reasonably content, consists of the ineffectual dreamer Hjalmar, a photographer by trade; his practical wife Gina; their adolescent daughter Hedvig; and Old Ekdal, Hjalmar's father, a childlike, bemused ex-convict who keeps in the attic a menagerie including poultry, rabbits, and a wild duck, the adored pet of Hedvig. Into this ménage comes a boyhood friend of Hjalmar, Gregers, the idealistic son of a wealthy businessman named Werle. Gregers is determined to atone for his father's corruption.

Moving in with the family, he relentlessly exposes to Hjalmar the deceptions and illusions responsible for the Ekdals' low estate: Old Ekdal was made a scapegoat by Werle and unjustly sentenced to prison; Gina, once a maid in the Werle household, had in reality been Werle's mistress; the little family has not been living on Hjalmar's income as a photographer but on a stipend from Werle; and finally, Hedvig, whom Hjalmar loves dearly, could very possibly be Werle's illegitimate daughter. In the name of "truth," the once peaceful household is now fragmented and destroyed.

Hjalmar rejects his daughter, who is then counselled by Gregers to make some sacrificial gesture capable of rewinning her father's love. He assumes that she will kill the wild duck, but instead Hedvig kills her-self. Gregers is left amid the ruins he has caused by his idealistic meddling.