Erlkönig, known as Erl-King or Elf-King in English, was written by Schubert in 1815 when he was just 18. It is considered by many to be one of his greatest songs from the 600 settings that he composed. It is based on a 1782 poem of the same name by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
The text is a supernatural tale that was common in the Romantic era, and has its roots in a Scandinavian folktale. Goethe’s poem tells the story of a boy riding home on horseback in his father’s arms. He is frightened when he is courted by the Erl-King, a powerful and creepy supernatural being. The boy’s father, however, cannot see or hear the creature and tells the boy that his imagination is playing tricks on him. The boy grows increasingly terrified by what he hears from the Erl-King, but his father tells him that the things he thinks he sees and hears are only the sights and sounds of nature on a dark and stormy night. When the Erl-King eventually seizes the boy, the father spurs on his horse, but when he arrives home his son is dead.
Mastroni will be appearing at the Metropolitan Opera as Sparafucile in Verdi's Rigoletto on January 20, 26, 30 and February 4. He'll be joined by Željko Lučić in the title role, Olga Peretyatko as Gilda, Stephen Costello as the Duke of Mantua and Oksana Volkova as Maddelena. Tickets are available online.