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Der Silbersee was the last work that Weill completed in Germany, and the last to have had its world premiere there. The success of the first three productions was considerable, despite political opposition; but it is clear from the press notices that the demands of a long and complex play were not easily reconciled with those of a score that is by no means simple even for professional singers.
A legendary country, resembling Northern Germany, at a time of acute social and economic distress. The wooded banks of the Silbersee provide shelter for a few of the many who have despaired of finding work in the nearby metropolis. Returning from a raid on a suburban grocery store, Severin and his comrades are fired upon by the country policeman Olim. The others escape, but the wounded Severin is arrested and taken to the prison hospital. While preparing the official report, Olim undergoes a crisis of conscience, changes the report so as to secure Severin's release, and resigns from the force. With the proceeds of a lottery win he purchases a castle, and there, in the guise of a mysterious benefactor, dedicates himself to Severin's wellbeing. But Severin is obsessed with thoughts of revenge.
Thanks to the innocent and other-worldly Fennimore, whom Olim’s chatelaine, Frau von Luber, has engaged with a view to discovering the secrets that unite and divide the two men, Severin learns of Olim’s real identity. So murderous is his rage that Olim flees to an attic room. While pretending to offer comfort and friendly advice Frau von Luber dupes him into assigning to her (and to her friend the Baron Laur) the castle deeds, and his entire fortune. The coup de grace, she hopes, will now be administered by Severin. However, her plan is foiled by Fennimore, who effects a reconciliation between the two men. Furious, von Luber drives her niece out into the wintry night, and then turns to Olim and Severin, teasing, goading, and finally humiliating them with the evidence that the tables have been turned at last. Dispossessed, they too are cast out. Together they set off towards the Silbersee, intending to drown themselves. But the voices of Fennimore and the chorus are heard, reminding them of their duties to each other and to their fellow men. When they reach the Silbersee, winter miraculously turns to spring; but the lake is still a solid sheet of ice. With new confidence, they start to walk across.
David Drew, Kurt Weill: A Handbook, 1987