Martha is an opera in four acts by Friedrich von Flotow to a German libretto by Friedrich Wilhelm Riese, based on the ballet Lady Henriette by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges. First performance: Kärntnertortheater, Vienna, 1847.
There are several recordings of the opera, and it is occasionally performed.
Lady Harriet is bored with the life of high society, and especially bored with her suitor Sir Tristan. She and her maid disguise themselves as the country girls 'Martha' and 'Julia' and follow a group of girls to the fair. They convince Sir Tristan to come also, as Farmer Bob....
Traditionally, there is an auction of country girls at the fair. Farmers bid for the fairest girls. The winners take the girls back to their farms, where the girls are hired as workers for the following year. Plumkett and Lyonel have come to looking for a girl. Their mother has recently died, and they need someone to help with the farm work. The sheriff oversees the auction. The brothers win 'Martha' and 'Julia', while Farmer Bob ineptly tries to win them back.
'Martha' and 'Julia' know nothing of farm work. They refuse to hang up clothes and cannot use a spinningwheel. 'Martha' rejects Lyonel's marriage proposal. After night falls, Tristan arrives to rescue the women.
A group of hunters, including Plumkett, accompany the queen. Lady Harriet misses Lyonel, but when he arrives, she ignores him. When Lyonel demands that his contract be honored, Tristan has him arrested. Lyonel tries to explain what has happened to the courtiers. He gives the ring he inherited from his father to the queen as she is leaving.
Lady Harriet's behavior has enfuriated Lyonel, but she seeks forgiveness. The queen orders that Lyonel be installed as the Earl of Derby, his father's former title. Nancy accepts Plumkett's marriage proposal. The courtiers re-create the country fair, and when Lyonel sees his Martha again, he forgives her.