The romantic comic opera Das Stumme Waldmädchen, written by Carl Maria von Weber at the age of thirteen, was the wunderkind composer's second work for theatre. Von Weber had written his first opera, Die Macht der Liebe und des Weins, two years prior to that. This nothing very strange in that, as his mother was a singer and his father a musician and impresario, the head of the family troupe, while Constanze von Weber – who became Mozart's wife, was his cousin. It should come as no surprise that Carl Maria's father firmly resolved to make his younger son a wunderkind.
The premiere of Das Stumme Waldmädchen took place in the Saxon town of Freiberg on 24 November 1800. The opera was a success and it was subsequently staged in Chemnitz, Prague and Vienna.
In St Petersburg the opera was first performed in 1804 at the German (Kushelev) Theatre, where the city's residents from the large and wealthy German Diaspora relaxed. This was probably the first performance of the opera by the young composer outside Germany and Austria, a performance that was to be a unique prelude to the delighted welcome given by Russian audiences to Weber's opera in 1824 – the timeless Der Freischütz.
In the Russian capital Das Stumme Waldmädchen was performed thanks to its librettist and the first performer of the role of Prince Siegmund – Ritter Karl von Steinsberg, known at the time as an actor, singer and stage director who had come to St Petersburg to work in a German theatre company. Later, archives of the German Theatre joined the archives of the Mariinsky Theatre Library, which also housed the only copy of this early opera by the composer.
Of course, Das Stumme Waldmädchen, written in 1800 (the same year as Beethoven's First Symphony), is not a "romantic" opera in the modern sense of the word. It is "romantic" in that its plot is drawn from novels about knights and it immerses us in the fantastical world of the Middle Ages where there was room for valour, love and magic. Consequently, this theme can be heard at full power in von Weber's Euryanthe. As far as Das Stumme Waldmädchen is concerned, in terms of style the music is somewhat closer to Mozart's Die Zauberflöte.
Later – in 1810 – von Weber returned to the libretto of his childhood work once again when writing the more developed romantic comic opera Silvana for Frankfurt am Main, while Das Stumme Waldmädchen would lie "silent" for almost two hundred years. In staging arias, duets and overtures from this opera at the XVIII Stars of the White Nights Music Festival the Mariinsky Theatre will be making its voice heard once more.