The historical background of ›Die Bernauerin‹ is the love story surrounding Albrecht III, the heir to the throne, who secretly takes the daughter of the barber as his wife. Although his father, Ernst, Duke of Bavaria, is furious and demands that the marriage should be declared null and void, Albrecht refuses to obey. Following the death of his co-regent Wilhelm, Ernst is concerned about the legitimacy of the heir and has Agnes captured and drowned.
Orff’s work is based on the folk ballad ›Of the fair Bernauerin‹ dating from the 18th century in which the old duke dies prematurely, quasi as atonement for the murder, in deviation from actual historical events.
 Werner Thomas in: Pipers Enzyklopädie des Musiktheaters, Vol. 4, Munich 1991,p. 581 ff.