THE STANDARD OPERAS
Their Plots, Their Music, and Their Composers
GEORGE P. UPTON
Chicago: A. C. McClurg and Company
The object of the compiler of this Handbook is to present to the reader a brief but comprehensive sketch of each of the operas contained in the modern repertory which are likely to be given during regular seasons. To this end he has consulted the best authorities, adding to the material thus collected his own observations, and in each case presented a necessarily brief sketch of the composer, the story of each opera, the general character of the music, its prominent scenes and numbers,—the latter in the text most familiar to opera-goers,—the date of first performances, with a statement of the original cast wherever it has been possible to obtain it, and such historical information concerning the opera and its composition as will be of interest to the reader. The work has been prepared for the general public rather than for musicians; and with this purpose in view, technicalities have been avoided as far as possible, the aim being to give musically uneducated lovers of opera a clear understanding of the works they are likely to hear, and thus heighten their enjoyment. In a word, the operas are described rather than criticised, and the work is presented with as much thoroughness as seemed possible considering the necessarily brief space allotted to each. In the preparation of the Handbook, the compiler acknowledges his indebtedness to Grove's excellent "Dictionary of Music" for dates and other statistical information; and he has also made free use of standard musical works in his library for historical events connected with the performance and composition of the operas. It only remains to submit this work to opera-goers with the hope that it may add to their enjoyment and prove a valuable addition to their libraries.—G.P.U.
CHICAGO, August, 1885.
THE CROWN DIAMONDS
THE BOHEMIAN GIRL
THE ROSE OF CASTILE
LA DAME BLANCHE
THE DAUGHTER OF THE REGIMENT
LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR
THE TAMING OF THE SHREW
THE QUEEN OF SHEBA
ROMEO AND JULIET
HANSEL AND GRETEL
THE STAR OF THE NORTH
ROBERT THE DEVIL
THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO
THE MAGIC FLUTE
THE BARBER OF SEVILLE
THE MASKED BALL
THE FLYING DUTCHMAN
TRISTAN UND ISOLDE
THE RING OF THE NIBELUNG
Daniel Francois Esprit Auber, one of the most prominent representatives of the opera comique, was born at Caen, in Normandy, Jan. 29, 1784. He first attracted attention in the musical world by his songs and ballads, written when a mere boy. Young as he was, they were great favorites in French and English drawing-rooms, and their success diverted him from his commercial intentions to that profession in which he was destined to achieve such popularity. His debut was made as an instrumental composer in his twentieth year, but before he had reached his thirtieth he was engrossed with operatic composition. His first two works were unsuccessful; but the third, "La Bergere Chatelaine," proved the stepping-stone to a career of remarkable popularity, during which he produced a large number of dramatic works, which not only secured for him the enthusiastic admiration of the Parisians, with whom he was always a favorite, but also carried his name and fame throughout the world, and obtained for him marks of high distinction from royalty, such as the office of Director of the Conservatoire from Louis Philippe, and that of Imperial Maitre de Chapelle from Louis Napoleon. He died May 13, 1871, amid the fearful scenes of the Paris Commune. His best-known operas are: "Masaniello" (1828); "Fra Diavolo" (1830); "The Bronze Horse" (1835); "The Black Domino" (1837); "The Crown Diamonds" (1841); and "Zerline" (1851),—the last-named written for the great contralto, Mme. Alboni. Of these, "Fra Diavolo," "Masaniello," and "The Crown Diamonds" are as fresh as ever in their French and Italian settings, though their finest successes in this country have been made in their English dress.
"Fra Diavolo," opera comique, in three acts, words by Scribe, was first produced at the Opera Comique, Paris, Jan. 28, 1830; in English, at Drury Lane, London, Nov. 3, 1831; in Italian, at the Lyceum, London, July 9, 1857, for which occasion the spoken dialogue was converted into accompanied recitative. The composer himself also, in fitting it for the Italian stage, made some changes in the concerted music and added several morceaux. The original Italian cast was as follows:—
ZERLINA Mme. BOSIO. LADY ALLCASH Mlle. MARAI. FRA DIAVOLO Sig. GARDINI. LORD ALLCASH Sig. RONCONI. BEPPO Sig. TAGLIAFICO. GIACOMO Sig. ZELGER.
The original of the story of Fra Diavolo is to be found in Lesueur's opera, "La Caverne," afterwards arranged as a spectacular piece and produced in Paris in 1808 by Cuvellier and Franconi, and again in Vienna in 1822 as a spectacle-pantomime, under the title of "The Robber of the Abruzzi." In Scribe's adaptation the bandit, Fra Diavolo, encounters an English nobleman and his pretty and susceptible wife, Lord and Lady Allcash, at the inn of Terracina, kept by Matteo, whose daughter Zerlina is loved by Lorenzo, a young soldier, on the eve of starting to capture Fra Diavolo when the action of the opera begins. In the first scene the English couple enter in great alarm, having narrowly escaped the robbery of all their valuables by Fra Diavolo's band. The bandit himself, who has followed them on their journey in the disguise of a marquis, and has been particularly attentive to the lady, enters the inn just as Lord Allcash has been reproving his wife for her familiarity with a stranger. A quarrel ensues in a duet of a very humorous character ("I don't object"). Upon the entrance of Fra Diavolo, a quintet ("Oh, Rapture unbounded!") ensues, which is one of the most effective and admirably harmonized ensembles Auber has ever written. Fra Diavolo learns the trick by which they saved the most of their valuables, and, enraged at the failure of his band, lays his own plan to secure them. In an interview with Zerlina, she, mistaking him for the Marquis, tells him the story of Fra Diavolo in a romanza ("On Yonder Rock reclining"), which is so fresh, vigorous, and full of color, that it has become a favorite the world over. To further his schemes, Fra Diavolo makes love to Lady Allcash and sings an exquisitely graceful barcarole to her ("The Gondolier, fond Passion's Slave"), accompanying himself on the mandolin. Lord Allcash interrupts the song, and the trio, "Bravi, Bravi," occurs, which leads up to the finale of the act. Fra Diavolo eludes the carbineers, who have returned, and they resume their search for him, leaving him unmolested to perfect his plans for the robbery.
The second act introduces Zerlina in her chamber about to retire. She first lights Lord and Lady Allcash to their room, a running conversation occurring between them in a trio ("Let us, I pray, good Wife, to rest"), which by many good critics has been considered as the best number in the work. Before Zerlina returns to her chamber, Fra Diavolo and his companions, Beppo and Giacomo, conceal themselves in a closet, and, somewhat in violation of dramatic consistency, Fra Diavolo sings the beautiful serenade, "Young Agnes," which had been agreed upon as a signal to his comrades that the coast was clear. Zerlina enters, and after a pretty cavatina ("'Tis to-morrow") and a prayer, charming for its simplicity ("Oh, Holy Virgin"), retires to rest. The robbers in attempting to cross her room partially arouse her. One of them rushes to the bed to stab her, but falls back awe-stricken as she murmurs her prayer and sinks to rest again. The trio which marks this scene, sung pianissimo, is quaint and simple and yet very dramatic. The noise of the carbineers returning outside interrupts the plan of the robbers. They conceal themselves in the closet again. Zerlina rises and dresses herself. Lord and Lady Allcash rush in en deshabille to find out the cause of the uproar. Lorenzo enters to greet Zerlina, when a sudden noise in the closet disturbs the company. Fra Diavolo, knowing he will be detected, boldly steps out into the room and declares that he is there to keep an appointment with Zerlina. Lorenzo challenges him, and he promises to give him satisfaction in the morning, and coolly effects his escape. One of his comrades, however, is captured, and to secure his own liberty agrees to betray his chief.
The third act introduces Fra Diavolo once more among his native mountains, and there is the real breath and vigor of the mountain air in his opening song ("Proudly and wide my Standard flies"), and rollicking freedom in the rondeau which follows it ("Then since Life glides so fast away"). He exults in his liberty, and gleefully looks forward to a meeting with Lord and Lady Allcash, which he anticipates will redound to his personal profit. His exultation is interrupted by the entrance of the villagers arrayed in festival attire in honor of the approaching wedding ceremonies, singing a bright pastoral chorus ("Oh, Holy Virgin! bright and fair"). The finale of the act is occupied with the development of the scheme between Lorenzo, Beppo, and Giacomo, to ensnare Fra Diavolo and compass his death; and with the final tragedy, in which Fra Diavolo meets his doom at the hands of the carbineers, but not before he has declared Zerlina's innocence. This finale is strong and very dramatic, and yet at the same time simple, natural, and unstudied. The opera itself is a universal favorite, not alone for its naturalness and quiet grace, but for its bright and even boisterous humor, which is sustained by the typical English tourist, who was for the first time introduced in opera by Scribe. The text is full of spirit and gayety, and these qualities are admirably reflected in the sparkling music of Auber. Not one of the books which the versatile Scribe has supplied for the opera is more replete with incident or brighter in humor. How well it was adapted for musical treatment is shown by the fact that "Fra Diavolo" made Auber's reputation at the Opera Comique.
"Masaniello," or "La Muette de Portici," a lyric opera in five acts, words by Scribe and Delavigne, was first produced in Paris, Feb. 29, 1828; in English, at London, May 4, 1829; and in Italian, at London, March 15, 1849. The original cast included Mme. Damoreau-Cinti as Elvira, Mlle. Noblet as Fenella, and M. Massol as Pietro. In the Italian version, Sig. Mario, Mme. Dorus-Gras, and Mlle. Leroux, a famous mime and dancer, took the principal parts; while in its English dress, Braham created one of the greatest successes on record, and established it as the favorite opera of Auber among Englishmen.
The scene of the opera is laid near Naples. The first act opens upon the festivities attending the nuptials of Alphonso, son of the Duke of Arcos, and the Princess Elvira. After a chorus of rejoicing, the latter enters and sings a brilliant cavatina ("O, bel Momento") expressive of her happiness. In the fourth scene the festivities are interrupted by the appearance of Fenella, the dumb girl, who implores the princess to save her from Selva, one of the Duke's officers, who is seeking to return her to prison, from which she has escaped, and where she has been confined at the orders of some unknown cavalier who has been persecuting her. The part of Fenella is of course expressed by pantomime throughout. The remainder of the act is intensely dramatic. Elvira promises to protect Fenella, and then, after some spirited choruses by the soldiers, enters the chapel with Alphonso. During the ceremony Fenella discovers that he is her betrayer. She attempts to go in, but is prevented by the soldiers. On the return of the newly wedded pair Fenella meets Elvira and denounces her husband, and the scene ends with a genuine Italian finale of excitement.
The second act opens on the sea-shore, and shows the fishermen busy with their nets and boats. Masaniello, brother of Fenella, enters, brooding upon the wrongs of the people, and is implored by the fishermen to cheer them with a song. He replies with the barcarole, "Piu bello sorse il giorno,"—a lovely melody, which has been the delight of all tenors. His friend Pietro enters and they join in a duet ("Sara il morir") of a most vigorous and impassioned character, expressive of Masaniello's grief for his sister and their mutual resolution to strike a blow for freedom. At the conclusion of the duet he beholds Fenella about to throw herself into the sea. He calls to her and she rushes into his arms and describes to him the story of her wrongs. He vows revenge, and in a magnificent, martial finale, which must have been inspired by the revolutionary feeling with which the whole atmosphere was charged at the time Auber wrote (1828), incites the fishermen and people to rise in revolt against their tyrannical oppressors.
In the third act, after a passionate aria ("Il pianto rasciuga") by Elvira, we are introduced to the market-place, crowded with market-girls and fishermen disposing of their fruits and fish. After a lively chorus, a fascinating and genuine Neapolitan tarantelle is danced. The merry scene speedily changes to one of turmoil and distress. Selva attempts to arrest Fenella, but the fishermen rescue her and Masaniello gives the signal for the general uprising. Before the combat begins, all kneel and sing the celebrated prayer, "Nume del ciel," taken from one of Auber's early masses, and one of his most inspired efforts.
The fourth act opens in Masaniello's cottage. He deplores the coming horrors of the day in a grand aria ("Dio! di me disponesti") which is very dramatic in its quality. Fenella enters, and after describing the tumult in the city sinks exhausted with fatigue. As she falls asleep he sings a slumber song ("Scendi, o sonno dal ciel"), a most exquisite melody, universally known as "L'Air du Sommeil." It is sung by the best artists mezzo voce throughout, and when treated in this manner never fails to impress the hearer with its tenderness and beauty. At its close Pietro enters and once more rouses Masaniello to revenge by informing him that Alphonso has escaped. After they leave the cottage, the latter and Elvira enter and implore protection. Fenella is moved to mercy, and a concerted number follows in which Masaniello promises safety and is denounced by Pietro for his weakness. In the finale, the magistrates and citizens enter, bearing the keys of the town and the royal insignia, and declare Masaniello king in a chorus of a very inspiriting and brilliant character.
The last act is very powerful, both dramatically and musically. It opens in the grounds of the Viceroy's palace, and Vesuvius is seen in the distance, its smoke portending an eruption. Pietro and companions enter with wine-cups in their hands, as from a banquet, and the former sings a barcarole ("Ve' come il vento irato"). At its close other fishermen enter and excitedly announce that troops are moving against the people, that Vesuvius is about to burst into flame, and that Masaniello, their leader, has lost his reason. This is confirmed by the appearance of the hero in disordered attire, singing music through which are filtered fragments of the fishermen's songs as they rise in his disturbed brain. This scene, the third in the act, is one not only of great power but of exquisite grace and tenderness, and requires an artist of the highest rank for its proper presentation. Fenella rouses him from his dejection, and he once more turns and plunges into the fight, only to be killed by his own comrades. On learning of her brother's death she unites the hands of Alphonso and Elvira, and then in despair throws herself into the burning lava of Vesuvius.
"Masaniello" made Auber's fame at the Grand Opera, as "Fra Diavolo" made it at the Opera Comique. It has no points in common with that or any other of his works. It is serious throughout, and full of power, impetuosity, and broad dramatic treatment. Even Richard Wagner has conceded its vigor, bold effects, and original harmonies. Its melodies are spontaneous, its instrumentation full of color, and its stirring incidents are always vigorously handled. In comparison with his other works it seems like an inspiration. It is full of the revolutionary spirit, and its performance in Brussels in 1830 was the cause of the riots that drove the Dutch out of Belgium.
THE CROWN DIAMONDS.
"The Crown Diamonds" ("Les Diamans de la Couronne"), opera comique, in three acts, words by Scribe and St. George, one of the most charming of Auber's light operas, was first produced in Paris in 1841, but its reputation has been made on the English stage. It was first performed in London, at the Princess Theatre, May 2, 1844, with Mme. Anna Thillon, a charming singer and most fascinating woman, as Catarina; but its success was made at Drury Lane in 1854 by Louisa Pyne and Harrison, who took the parts of Catarina and Don Henrique. The other roles, Count de Campo Mayor, Don Sebastian, Rebolledo, and Diana, were filled by Mr. Horncastle, Mr. Reeves, Mr. Borrani, and Miss Pyne, sister of the preceding, and with this cast the opera ran a hundred nights.
The story of the opera is laid in Portugal, time, 1777. The opening scene discloses the ruins of a castle in the mountains, near the monastery of St. Huberto, where Don Henrique, nephew of the Count de Campo Mayor, Minister of Police at Coimbra, overtaken by a storm, seeks shelter. At the time of his misfortune he is on his way to take part in the approaching coronation, and also to sign a marriage contract with his cousin Diana, daughter of the Minister of Police. He solaces himself with a song ("Roll on, Roll on"), during which he hears the blows of hammers in a distant cavern, and on looking round discovers Rebolledo, the chief of the coiners, and two of his comrades, with his trunk in their possession, the contents of which they proceed to examine. Don Henrique conceals himself while Rebolledo is singing a rollicking muleteer's song ("O'er Mountain steep, through Valley roaming"). At its conclusion Rebolledo, about to summon the other coiners to their secret work, discovers Don Henrique, and thinking him a spy rushes upon him. He is saved by the sudden entrance of Catarina, the leader of the gang, who tells the story of her life in a concerted number that reminds one very strikingly of the bandit song in "Fra Diavolo." After examining Don Henrique, and, to his surprise, showing an intimate acquaintance with his projects, she returns him his property, and allows him to depart on condition that he shall not speak of what he has seen for a year. He consents; and then follows another of the concerted numbers in which this opera abounds, and in which occurs a charming rondo ("The Young Pedrillo"), accompanied by a weird, clanging chorus. Before he can effect his departure the gang find that they are surrounded by troops led by Don Sebastian, a friend of Don Henrique. The coiners, in company with the latter, however, make their escape in the disguise of monks on their way to the neighboring monastery, singing a lugubrious chorus ("Unto the Hermit of the Chapel"), while Catarina and Rebolledo elude the soldiers by taking a subterranean passage, carrying with them a casket containing some mysterious jewels.
The second act opens in the Chateau de Coimbra, and discovers the Count, Don Henrique, Don Sebastian, and Diana. The first scene reveals to us that Don Henrique is in love with the mysterious Catarina, and that Diana is in love with Don Sebastian. In a sportive mood Diana requests Don Henrique to sing with her, and chooses a nocturne called "The Brigand," which closes in gay bolero time ("In the Deep Ravine of the Forest"). As they are singing it, Don Sebastian announces that a carriage has been overturned and its occupants desire shelter. As the duet proceeds, Catarina and Rebolledo enter, and a very flurried quintet ("Oh, Surprise unexpected!") occurs, leading up to an ensemble full of humor, with a repetition of the brigand song, this time by Catarina and Diana, and closing with a bravura aria sung by Catarina ("Love! at once I break thy Fetters"). Catarina and Rebolledo accept the proffered hospitality, but the latter quietly makes his exit when Diana begins to read an account of a robbery which contains a description of himself and his companion. Catarina remains, however, in spite of Don Henrique's warning that she is in the house of the Minister of Police. In a moment of passion he declares his love for her and begs her to fly with him. She declines his proffer, but gives him a ring as a souvenir. A pretty little duet ("If I could but Courage feel") ensues between Diana and Don Henrique, in which she gently taunts him with his inattention to her and his sudden interest in the handsome stranger. At this juncture the Count enters in wild excitement over the announcement that the crown jewels have been stolen. Don Henrique's ring is recognized as one of them, and in the excitement which ensues, Catarina finds herself in danger of discovery, from which she is rescued by Diana, who promises Don Henrique she will send her away in the Count's carriage if he will agree to refuse to sign the marriage contract. He consents, and she departs upon her errand. At this point in the scene Don Henrique sings the beautiful ballad, "Oh, whisper what thou feelest!" originally written for Mr. Harrison. This song leads up to a stirring finale, in which Don Henrique refuses to sign the contract and Catarina makes her escape.
The last act opens in the anteroom of the royal palace at Lisbon, where Diana is waiting for an audience with the Queen. She sings another interpolated air, originally written for Louisa Pyne ("When Doubt the tortured Frame is rending"), and at its close the Count, Don Henrique, and Don Sebastian enter. While they are conversing, Rebolledo appears, announced as the Count Fuentes, and a quintet occurs, very slightly constructed, but full of humor. An usher interrupts it by announcing the Queen will have a private audience with the Count Fuentes. While awaiting her, the latter, in a monologue, lets us into the secret that the real crown jewels have been pledged for the national debt, and that he has been employed to make duplicates of them to be worn on state occasions until the real ones can be redeemed. The Queen enters, and expresses her satisfaction with the work, and promotes him to the position of Minister of Secret Police. On his departure she sings a charming cavatina ("Love, dwell with me"), and at its close Count de Campo Mayor enters with the decision of the Council that she shall wed the Prince of Spain. She returns answer that she shall make her own choice. The Count seeks to argue with her, when she threatens to confiscate his estate for allowing the crown jewels to be stolen, and commands him to arrest his daughter and nephew for harboring the thieves. Diana suddenly enters, and an amusing trio ensues, the Queen standing with her back to Diana lest she may be discovered. The latter fails to recognize her as Catarina, and implores pardon for assisting in her escape. The situation is still further complicated by the appearance of Don Henrique, who has no difficulty in recognizing Catarina. Bewildered at her presence in the Queen's apartments, he declares to Diana that he will seize her and fly to some distant land. His rash resolution, however, is thwarted by his arrest, on the authority of the Queen, for treason. A martial finale introduces us to the Queen in state. Don Henrique rushes forward to implore mercy for Catarina. The Queen reveals herself at last, and announces to her people that she has chosen Don Henrique, who has loved her for herself, for her husband and their king. And thus closes one of the most sparkling, melodious, and humorous of Auber's works. What the concerted numbers lack in solidity of construction is compensated for by their grace and sweetness.
Michael William Balfe was born at Dublin, Ireland, May 15, 1808. Of all the English opera-composers, his career was the most versatile, as his success, for a time at least, was the most remarkable. At seven years of age he scored a polacca of his own for a band. In his eighth year he appeared as a violinist, and in his tenth was composing ballads. At sixteen he was playing in the Drury Lane orchestra, and about this time began taking lessons in composition. In 1825, aided by the generosity of a patron, he went to Italy, where for three years he studied singing and counterpoint. In his twentieth year he met Rossini, who offered him an engagement as first barytone at the Italian Opera in Paris. He made his debut with success in 1828, and at the close of his engagement returned to Italy, where he appeared again on the stage. About this time (1829-1830) he began writing Italian operas, and before he left Italy had produced three which met with considerable success. In 1835 he returned to England; and it was in this year that his first English opera, the "Siege of Rochelle," was produced. It was played continuously at Drury Lane for over three months. In 1836 appeared his "Maid of Artois;" in 1837, "Catharine Grey" and "Joan of Arc;" and in 1838, "Falstaff." During these years he was still singing in concerts and opera, and in 1840 appeared as manager of the Lyceum. His finest works were produced after this date,—"The Bohemian Girl" in 1843; "The Enchantress" in 1844; "The Rose of Castile," "La Zingara," and "Satanella" in 1858, and "The Puritan's Daughter" in 1861. His last opera was "The Knight of the Leopard," known in Italian as "Il Talismano," which has also been produced in English as "The Talisman." He married Mlle. Rosen, a German singer, whom he met in Italy in 1835; and his daughter Victoire, who subsequently married Sir John Crampton, and afterwards the Duc de Frias, also appeared as a singer in 1856. Balfe died Oct. 20, 1870, upon his own estate in Hertfordshire. The analysis of his three operas which are best known—"The Bohemian Girl," "Rose of Castile," and "Puritan's Daughter"—will contain sufficient reference to his ability as a composer.
THE BOHEMIAN GIRL.
"The Bohemian Girl," grand opera in three acts, words by Bunn, adapted from St. George's ballet of "The Gypsy," which appeared at the Paris Grand Opera in 1839,—itself taken from a romance by Cervantes,—was first produced in London, Nov. 27, 1843, at Drury Lane, with the following cast:—
ARLINE Miss ROMER. THADDEUS Mr. HARRISON. GYPSY QUEEN Miss BETTS. DEVILSHOOF Mr. STRETTON. COUNT ARNHEIM Mr. BORRANI. FLORESTEIN Mr. DURNSET.
The fame of "The Bohemian Girl" was not confined to England. It was translated into various European languages, and was one of the few English operas which secured a favorable hearing even in critical Germany. In its Italian form it was produced at Drury Lane as "La Zingara," Feb. 6, 1858, with Mlle. Piccolomini as Arline; and also had the honor of being selected for the state performance connected with the marriage of the Princess Royal. The French version, under the name of "La Bohemienne," for which Balfe added several numbers, besides enlarging it to five acts, was produced at the Theatre Lyrique, Paris, in December, 1869, and gained for him the Cross of the Legion of Honor.
The scene of the opera is laid in Austria, and the first act introduces us to the chateau and grounds of Count Arnheim, Governor of Presburg, whose retainers are preparing for the chase. After a short chorus the Count enters with his little daughter Arline and his nephew Florestein. The Count sings a short solo ("A Soldier's Life"), and as the choral response by his retainers and hunters dies away and they leave the scene, Thaddeus, a Polish exile and fugitive, rushes in excitedly, seeking to escape the Austrian soldiers. His opening number is a very pathetic song ("'Tis sad to leave your Fatherland"). At the end of the song a troop of gypsies enter, headed by Devilshoof, singing a blithe chorus ("In the Gypsy's Life you may read"). He hears Thaddeus's story and induces him to join them. Before the animated strains fairly cease, Florestein and some of the hunters dash across the grounds in quest of Arline, who has been attacked by a stag. Thaddeus, seizing a rifle, joins them, and rescues the child by killing the animal. The Count overwhelms him with gratitude, and urges him to join in the coming festivities. He consents, and at the banquet produces a commotion by refusing to drink the health of the Emperor. The soldiers are about to rush upon him, when Devilshoof interferes. The gypsy is arrested for his temerity, and taken into the castle. Thaddeus departs and the festivities are resumed, but are speedily interrupted again by the escape of Devilshoof, who takes Arline with him. The finale of the act is very stirring, and contains one number, a prayer ("Thou who in Might supreme"), which is extremely effective.
Twelve years elapse between the first and second acts, and during this time Count Arnheim has received no tidings of Arline, and has given her up as lost forever. The act opens in the gypsy camp in the suburbs of Presburg. Arline is seen asleep in the tent of the Queen, with Thaddeus watching her. After a quaint little chorus ("Silence, silence, the Lady Moon") sung by the gypsies, they depart in quest of plunder, headed by Devilshoof, and soon find their victim in the person of the foppish and half-drunken Florestein, who is returning from a revel. He is speedily relieved of his jewelry, among which is a medallion, which is carried off by Devilshoof. As the gypsies disappear, Arline wakes and relates her dream to Thaddeus in a joyous song ("I dreamed I dwelt in Marble Halls"), which has become one of the world's favorites. At the close of the ballad Thaddeus tells her the meaning of the scar upon her arm, and reveals himself as her rescuer, but does not disclose to her the mystery of her birth. The musical dialogue, with its ensemble, "The Secret of her Birth," will never lose its charm. Thaddeus declares his love for her just as the Queen, who is also in love with Thaddeus, enters. Arline also confesses her love for Thaddeus, and, according to the customs of the tribe, the Queen unites them, at the same time vowing vengeance against the pair.
The scene now changes to a street in the city. A great fair is in progress, and the gypsies, as usual, resort to it. Arline enters at their head, joyously singing, to the accompaniment of the rattling castanets, "Come with the Gypsy Bride;" her companions, blithely tripping along, responding with the chorus, "In the Gypsy's Life you may read." They disappear down the street and reappear in the public plaza. Arline, the Queen, Devilshoof, and Thaddeus sing an unaccompanied quartet ("From the Valleys and Hills"), a number which for grace and flowing harmony deserves a place in any opera. As they mingle among the people an altercation occurs between Arline and Florestein, who has attempted to insult her. The Queen recognizes Florestein as the owner of the medallion, and for her courage in resenting the insult maliciously presents Arline with it. Shortly afterwards he observes the medallion on Arline's neck, and has her arrested for theft. The next scene opens in the hall of justice. Count Arnheim enters with a sad countenance, and as he observes Arline's portrait, gives vent to his sorrow in that well-known melancholy reverie, "The Heart bowed down," which has become famous the world over. Arline is brought before him for trial. As it progresses he observes the scar upon her arm and asks its cause. She tells the story which Thaddeus had told her, and this solves the mystery. The Count recognizes his daughter, and the act closes with a beautiful ensemble ("Praised be the Will of Heaven").
The last act opens in the salon of Count Arnheim. Arline is restored to her old position, but her love for Thaddeus remains. He finds an opportunity to have a meeting with her, through the cunning of Devilshoof, who accompanies him. He once more tells his love in that tender and impassioned song, "When other Lips and other Hearts," and she promises to be faithful to him. As the sound of approaching steps is heard, Thaddeus and his companion conceal themselves. A large company enter, and Arline is presented to them. During the ceremony a closely veiled woman appears, and when questioned discovers herself as the Gypsy Queen. She reveals the hiding-place of her companions, and Thaddeus is dragged forth and ordered to leave the house. Arline declares her love for him, and her intention to go with him. She implores her father to relent. Thaddeus avows his noble descent, and boasts his ancestry and deeds in battle in that stirring martial song, "When the Fair Land of Poland." The Count finally yields and gives his daughter to Thaddeus. The Queen, filled with rage and despair, induces one of the tribe to fire at him as he is embracing Arline; but by a timely movement of Devilshoof the bullet intended for Thaddeus pierces the breast of the Queen. As the curtain falls, the old song of the gypsies is heard again as they disappear in the distance with Devilshoof at their head.
Many of the operas of Balfe, like other ballad operas, have become unfashionable; but it is doubtful whether "The Bohemian Girl" will ever lose its attraction for those who delight in song-melody, charming orchestration, and sparkling, animated choruses. It leaped into popularity at a bound, and its pretty melodies are still as fresh as when they were first sung.
THE ROSE OF CASTILE.
"The Rose of Castile," comic opera in three acts, words by Harris and Falconer, adapted from Adolphe Adam's "Muletier de Tolede," was first produced at the Lyceum Theatre, London, Oct. 29, 1857, with the following cast:—
ELVIRA Miss LOUISA PYNE. MANUEL W.H. HARRISON. CARMEN Miss SUSAN PYNE. DON PEDRO Mr. WEISS. DON SALLUST Mr. ST. ALBYN. DON FLORIO Mr. HONEY.
The scene of the opera is laid in Spain. Elvira, the Rose of Castile, Queen of Leon, has just ascended the throne, and her hand has been demanded by the King of Castile for his brother, Don Sebastian the Infant. Having learned that the latter is about to enter her dominions disguised as a muleteer, the better to satisfy his curiosity about her, she adopts the same expedient, and sets out to intercept him, disguised as a peasant girl, taking with her one of her attendants.
The first act opens upon a rural scene in front of a posada, where the peasants are dancing and singing a lively chorus ("List to the gay Castanet"). Elvira and Carmen, her attendant, enter upon the scene, and are asked to join in the dance, but instead, Elvira delights them with a song, a vocal scherzo ("Yes, I'll obey you"). The innkeeper is rude to them, but they are protected from his coarseness by Manuel, the muleteer, who suddenly appears and sings a rollicking song ("I am a simple Muleteer") to the accompaniment of a tambourine and the snappings of his whip. A dialogue duet follows, in which she accepts his protection and escort. She has already recognized the Infant, and he has fulfilled the motive of the story by falling in love with her. At this point the three conspirators, Don Pedro, Don Sallust, and Don Florio, enter, the first of whom has designs on the throne. They indulge in a buffo trio, which develops into a spirited bacchanal ("Wine, Wine, the Magician thou art!"). Observing Elvira's likeness to the Queen, they persuade her to personate her Majesty. She consents with feigned reluctance, and after accepting their escort in place of Manuel's, being sure that he will follow, she sings a quaint rondo ("Oh, were I the Queen of Spain!"), and the act closes with a concerted number accompanying their departure.
The second act opens in the throne-room of the palace, and is introduced by a very expressive conspirators' chorus ("The Queen in the Palace"); after which Don Pedro enters and gives expression to the uncertainty of his schemes in a ballad ("Though Fortune darkly o'er me frowns") which reminds one very forcibly of "The Heart bowed down," in "The Bohemian Girl." The Queen, who has eluded the surveillance of the conspirators, makes her appearance, surrounded by her attendants, and sings that exquisite ballad, "The Convent Cell" ("Of Girlhood's happy Days I dream"), one of the most beautiful songs ever written by any composer, and certainly Balfe's most popular inspiration. At the close of the ballad Manuel appears, and is granted an audience, in which he informs her of the meeting with the peasant girl and boy, and declares his belief that they were the Queen and Carmen. She ridicules the statement, and a very funny trio buffo ensues ("I'm not the Queen, ha, ha!"). He then informs her of the conspirators' plot to imprison her, but she thwarts it by inducing a silly and pompous old Duchess to assume the role of Queen for the day, and ride to the palace closely veiled in the royal carriage. The plot succeeds, and the Duchess is seized and conveyed to a convent. In the next scene there is another spirited buffo number, in which Don Pedro and Don Florio are mourning over the loss of their peasant girl, when, greatly to their relief, she enters again, singing a very quaint and characteristic scena ("I'm but a simple Peasant Maid"), which rouses the suspicions of the conspirators. They are all the more perplexed when the Queen announces herself, and declares her intention of marrying the muleteer.
The last act opens with a song by Carmen ("Though Love's the greatest Plague in Life"), which falls far below the excellence of the other songs in the work. It is followed by a buffo duet between Carmen and Florio, who agree to marry. The Queen and ladies enter, and the former sings a bravura air ("Oh, joyous, happy Day!"), which was intended by the composer to show Miss Pyne's vocal ability. At this point a message is brought her from Don Sebastian, announcing his marriage. Enraged at the discovery that the muleteer is not Don Sebastian, she severely upbraids him, and he replies in another exquisite ballad ("'Twas Rank and Fame that tempted thee"). At its close she once more declares she will be true to the muleteer. Don Pedro is delighted at the apparent success of his scheme, as he believes he can force her to abdicate if she marries a muleteer, and gives vent to his joy in a martial song ("Hark! hark! methinks I hear"). The last scene is in the throne-room, where Manuel announces he is king of Castile, and mounts the throne singing a stirring song closely resembling, in its style, the "Fair Land of Poland," in "The Bohemian Girl." Elvira expresses her delight in a bravura air ("Oh, no! by Fortune blessed"), and the curtain falls. The story of the opera is very complicated, and sometimes tiresome; but the music is well sustained throughout, especially the buffo numbers, while some of the ballads are among the best ever written by an English composer.
Ludwig Von Beethoven, the greatest of composers, was born Dec. 17, 1770, at Bonn, Germany, his father being a court singer in the chapel of the Elector of Cologne. He studied in Vienna with Haydn, with whom he did not always agree, however, and afterwards with Albrechtsberger. His first symphony appeared in 1801, his earlier symphonies, in what is called his first period, being written in the Mozart style. His only opera, "Fidelio," for which he wrote four overtures, was first brought out in Vienna in 1805; his oratorio, "Christ on the Mount of Olives," in 1812; and his colossal Ninth Symphony, with its choral setting of Schiller's "Ode to Joy," in 1824. In addition to his symphonies, his opera, oratorios, and masses, and the immortal group of sonatas for the piano, which were almost revelations in music, he developed chamber music to an extent far beyond that reached by his predecessors, Haydn and Mozart. His symphonies exhibit surprising power, and a marvellous comprehension of the deeper feelings in life and the influences of nature, both human and physical. He wrote with the deepest earnestness, alike in the passion and the calm of his music, and he invested it also with a genial humor as well as with the highest expression of pathos. His works are epic in character. He was the great tone-poet of music. His subjects were always lofty and dignified, and to their treatment he brought not only a profound knowledge of musical technicality, but intense sympathy with the innermost feelings of human nature, for he was a humanitarian in the broadest sense. By the common consent of the musical world he stands at the head of all composers, and has always been their guide and inspiration. He died March 26, 1827, in the midst of a raging thunder storm, one of his latest utterances being a recognition of the "divine spark" in Schubert's music.
"Fidelio, oder die eheliche Liebe" ("Fidelio, or Conjugal Love"), grand opera in two acts, words by Sonnleithner, translated freely from Bouilly's "Leonore, ou l'Amour Conjugal," was first produced at the Theatre An der Wien, Vienna, Nov. 20, 1805, the work at that time being in three acts. A translation of the original programme of that performance, with the exception of the usual price of admissions, is appended:—
Imperial and Royal Theatre An der Wien. New Opera. To-day, Wednesday, 20 November, 1805, at the Imperial and Royal Theatre An der Wien, will be given for the first time. FIDELIO; Or, Conjugal Love. Opera in three acts, translated freely from the French text by JOSEPH SONNLEITHNER. The music is by LUDWIG VON BEETHOVEN.
Don Fernando, Minister Herr Weinkoff. Don Pizarro, Governor of a State Prison Herr Meier. Florestan, prisoner Herr Demmer. Leonora, his wife, under the name of Fidelio Fraeulein Milder. Rocco, chief jailer Herr Rothe. Marcellina, his daughter Fraeulein Mueller. Jaquino, turnkey Herr Cache. Captain of the Guard Herr Meister. Prisoners, Guards, People.
The action passes in a State prison in Spain, a few leagues from Seville. The piece can be procured at the box-office for fifteen kreutzers.
During this first season the opera was performed three times and then withdrawn. Breuning reduced it to two acts, and two or three of the musical numbers were sacrificed, and in this form it was played twice at the Imperial Private Theatre and again withdrawn. On these occasions it had been given under Beethoven's favorite title, "Leonore." In 1814 Treitschke revised it, and it was produced at the Kaernthnerthor Theatre, Vienna, May 23, of that year, as "Fidelio," which title it has ever since retained. Its first performance in Paris was at the Theatre Lyrique, May 5, 1860; in London, at the King's Theatre, May 18, 1832; and in English at Covent Garden, June 12, 1835, with Malibran in the title-role. Beethoven wrote four overtures for this great work. The first was composed in 1805, the second in 1806, the third in 1807, and the fourth in 1814. It is curious that there has always been a confusion in their numbering, and the error remains to this day. What is called No. 1 is in reality No. 3, and was composed for a performance of the opera at Prague, the previous overture having been too difficult for the strings. The splendid "Leonora," No. 3, is in reality No. 2, and the No. 2 is No. 1. The fourth, or the "Fidelio" overture, contains a new set of themes, but the "Leonora" is the grandest of them all.
The entire action of the opera transpires in a Spanish prison, of which Don Pizarro is governor and Rocco the jailer. The porter of the prison is Jacquino, who is in love with Marcellina, daughter of Rocco, and she in turn is in love with Fidelio, Rocco's assistant, who has assumed male disguise the better to assist her in her plans for the rescue of her husband, Florestan, a Spanish nobleman. The latter, who is the victim of Don Pizarro's hatred because he had thwarted some of his evil designs, has been imprisoned by him unknown to the world, and is slowly starving to death. Leonora, his wife, who in some way has discovered that her husband is in the prison, has obtained employment of Rocco, disguised as the young man Fidelio.
The opera opens with a charming, playful love-scene between Jacquino and Marcellina, whom the former is teasing to marry him. She puts him off, and as he sorrowfully departs, sings the Hope aria, "Die Hoffnung," a fresh, smoothly flowing melody, in which she pictures the delight of a life with Fidelio. At its close Rocco enters with the despondent Jacquino, shortly followed by Fidelio, who is very much fatigued. The love-episode is brought out in the famous canon quartet, "Mir ist so wunderbar," one of the most beautiful and restful numbers in the opera. Rocco promises Marcellina's hand to Fidelio as the reward of her fidelity, but in the characteristic and sonorous Gold song, "Hat man nicht auch Geld daneben," reminds them that money as well as love is necessary to housekeeping. In the next scene, while Don Pizarro is giving instructions to Rocco, a packet of letters is delivered to him, one of which informs him that Don Fernando is coming the next day to inspect the prison, as he has been informed that it contains several victims of arbitrary power. He at once determines that Florestan shall die, and gives vent to his wrath in a furious dramatic aria ("Ha! welch ein Augenblick!"). He attempts to bribe Rocco to aid him. The jailer at first refuses, but subsequently, after a stormy duet, consents to dig the grave. Fidelio has overheard the scheme, and, as they disappear, rushes forward and sings the great aria, "Abscheulicher!" one of the grandest and most impassioned illustrations of dramatic intensity in the whole realm of music. The recitative expresses intense horror at the intended murder, then subsides into piteous sorrow, and at last breaks out into the glorious adagio, "Komm Hoffnung," in which she sings of the immortal power of love. The last scene of the act introduces the strong chorus of the prisoners as they come out in the yard for air and sunlight, after which Rocco relates to Fidelio his interview with Don Pizarro. The latter orders the jailer to return the prisoners to their dungeons and go on with the digging of the grave, and the act closes.
The second act opens in Florestan's dungeon. The prisoner sings an intensely mournful aria ("In des Lebens Fruehlingstagen"), which has a rapturous finale ("Und spuer' Ich nicht linde"), as he sees his wife in a vision. Rocco and Fidelio enter and begin digging the grave, to the accompaniment of sepulchral music. She discovers that Florestan has sunk back exhausted, and as she restores him recognizes her husband. Don Pizarro enters, and after ordering Fidelio away, who meanwhile conceals herself, attempts to stab Florestan. Fidelio, who has been closely watching him, springs forward with a shriek, and interposes herself between him and her husband. He once more advances to carry out his purpose, when Fidelio draws a pistol and defies him. As she does so, the sound of a trumpet is heard outside announcing the arrival of Don Fernando. Don Pizarro rushes out in despair, and Florestan and Leonora, no longer Fidelio, join in a duet ("O Namenlose Freude") which is the very ecstasy of happiness. In the last scene Don Fernando sets the prisoners free in the name of the king, and among them Florestan. Pizarro is revealed in his true character, and is led away to punishment. The happy pair are reunited, and Marcellina, to Jacquino's delight, consents to marry him. The act closes with a general song of jubilee. As a drama and as an opera "Fidelio" stands almost alone in its perfect purity, in the moral grandeur of its subject, and in the resplendent ideality of its music.
Vincenzo Bellini was born Nov. 3, 1802, at Catania, Sicily, and came of musical parentage. By the generosity of a patron he was sent to Naples, and studied at the Conservatory under Zingarelli. His first opera was "Adelson e Salvino," and its remarkable merit secured him a commission from the manager, Barbaja, for an opera for San Carlo. The result was his first important work, "Bianca e Fernando," written in 1826. Its success was moderate; but he was so encouraged that he at once went to Milan and wrote "Il Pirata," the tenor part for Rubini. Its success was extraordinary, and the managers of La Scala commissioned him for another work. In 1828 "La Straniera" appeared, quickly followed by "Zaira" (1829), which failed at Parma, and "I Capuletti ed i Montecchi," a version of "Romeo and Juliet," which made a great success at Venice in 1830. A year later he composed "La Sonnambula," unquestionably his best work, for La Scala, and it speedily made the tour of Europe, and gained for him an extended reputation. A year after its appearance he astonished the musical world with "Norma," written, like "Sonnambula," for Mme. Pasta. These are his greatest works. "Norma" was followed by "Beatrice di Tenda," and this by "I Puritani," his last opera, written in Paris for the four great artists, Grisi, Rubini, Tamburini, and Lablache. Bellini died Sept. 23, 1835, in the twenty-ninth year of his age, preserving his musical enthusiasm to the very last. He was a close follower of Rossini, and studied his music diligently, and though without a very profound knowledge of harmony or orchestration, succeeded in producing at least three works, "Norma," "Sonnambula," and "I Puritani," which were the delight of the opera-goers of his day, and still freshly hold the stage.
"Norma," a serious opera in two acts, words by Romani, was first produced during the season of Lent, 1832, at Milan, with the principal parts cast as follows:—
NORMA Mme. PASTA. ADALGISA Mme. GRISI. POLLIONE Sig. DONZELLI.
It was first heard in London in 1833, and in Paris in 1855, and Planche's English version of it was produced at Drury Lane in 1837. The scene of the opera is laid among the Druids, in Gaul, after its occupation by the Roman legions. In the first scene the Druids enter with Oroveso, their priest, to the impressive strains of a religious march which is almost as familiar as a household word. The priest announces that Norma, the high priestess, will come and cut the sacred branch and give the signal for the expulsion of the Romans. The next scene introduces Pollione, the Roman proconsul, to whom Norma, in defiance of her faith and traditions, has bound herself in secret marriage, and by whom she has had two children. In a charmingly melodious scena ("Meco all' altar di Venere") he reveals his faithlessness and guilty love for Adalgisa, a young virgin of the temple, who has consented to abandon her religion and fly with him to Rome. In the fourth scene Norma enters attended by her priestesses, and denounces the Druids for their warlike disposition, declaring that the time has not yet come for shaking off the yoke of Rome, and that when it does she will give the signal from the altar of the Druids. After cutting the sacred mistletoe, she comes forward and invokes peace from the moon in that exquisite prayer, "Casta Diva," which electrified the world with its beauty and tenderness, and still holds its place in popular favor, not alone by the grace of its embellishments, but by the pathos of its melody. It is followed by another cavatina of almost equal beauty and tenderness ("Ah! bello a me ritorna"). In the next scene Adalgisa, retiring from the sacred rites, sings of her love for Pollione, and as she closes is met by the proconsul, who once more urges her to fly to Rome with him. The duet between them is one of great power and beauty, and contains a strikingly passionate number for the tenor ("Va, crudele"). Oppressed by her conscience, she reveals her fatal promise to Norma, and implores absolution from her vows. Norma yields to her entreaties, but when she inquires the name and country of her lover, and Adalgisa points to Pollione as he enters Norma's sanctuary, all the priestess's love turns to wrath. In this scene the duet, "Perdoni e ti compiango," is one of exceeding loveliness and peculiarly melodious tenderness. The act closes with a terzetto of great power ("O! di qual sei tu"), in which both the priestess and Adalgisa furiously denounce the faithless Pollione. In the midst of their imprecations the sound of the sacred shield is heard calling Norma to the rites.
The second act opens in Norma's dwelling, and discovers her children asleep on a couch. Norma enters with the purpose of killing them, but the maternal instinct overcomes her vengeful thought that they are Pollione's children. Adalgisa appears, and Norma announces her intention to place her children in the Virgin's hands, and send her and them to Pollione while she expiates her offence on the funeral pyre. Adalgisa pleads with her not to abandon Pollione, who will return to her repentant; and the most effective number in the opera ensues,—the grand duet containing two of Bellini's most beautiful inspirations, the "Deh! con te li prendi," and the familiar "Mira, O Norma," whose strains have gone round the world and awakened universal delight. Pollione, maddened by his passion for Adalgisa, impiously attempts to tear her from the altar in the temple of Irminsul, whereupon Norma enters the temple and strikes the sacred shield, summoning the Druids. They meet, and she declares the meaning of the signal is war, slaughter, and destruction. She chants a magnificent hymn ("Guerra, guerra"), which is full of the very fury of battle. Pollione, who has been intercepted in the temple, is brought before her. Love is still stronger than resentment with her. In a very dramatic scena ("In mia mano alfin tu sei") she informs him he is in her power, but she will let him escape if he will renounce Adalgisa and leave the country. He declares death would be preferable; whereupon she threatens to denounce Adalgisa. Pity overcomes anger, however. She snatches the sacred wreath from her brow and declares herself the guilty one. Too late Pollione discovers the worth of the woman he has abandoned, and a beautiful duet ("Qual cor tradisti") forms the closing number. She ascends the funeral pyre with Pollione, and in its flames they are purged of earthly crime. It is a memorable fact in the history of this opera, that on its first performance it was coldly received, and the Italian critics declared it had no vitality; though no opera was ever written in which such intense dramatic effect has been produced with simple melodic force, and no Italian opera score to-day is more living or more likely to last than that of Norma.
"La Sonnambula," an opera in two acts, words by Romani, was first produced in Milan, March 6, 1831, with the following cast:—
AMINA Mme. PASTA. ELVINO Sig. RUBINI. RODOLFO Sig. MARIANO. LISA Mme. TOCCANI.
It was brought out in the same year in Paris and London, and two years after in English, with Malibran as Amina. The subject of the story was taken from a vaudeville and ballet by Scribe. The scene is laid in Switzerland. Amina, an orphan, the ward of Teresa, the miller's wife, is about to marry Elvino, a well-to-do landholder of the village. Lisa, mistress of the inn, is also in love with Elvino, and jealous of her rival. Alessio, a peasant lad, is also in love with the landlady. Such is the state of affairs on the day before the wedding. Rodolfo, the young lord of the village, next appears upon the scene. He has arrived incognito for the purpose of looking up his estates, and stops at Lisa's inn, where he meets Amina. He gives her many pretty compliments, much to the dissatisfaction of the half-jealous Elvino, who is inclined to quarrel with the disturber of his peace of mind. Amina, who is subject to fits of somnambulism, has been mistaken for a ghost by the peasants, and they warn Rodolfo that the village is haunted. The information, however, does not disturb him, and he quietly retires to his chamber. The officious Lisa also enters, and a playful scene of flirtation ensues, during which Amina enters the room, walking in her sleep. Lisa seeks shelter in a closet. Rodolfo, to escape from the embarrassment of the situation, leaves the apartment, and Amina reclines upon the bed as if it were her own. The malicious Lisa hurries from the room to inform Elvino of what she has seen, and thoughtlessly leaves her handkerchief. Elvino rushes to the spot with other villagers, and finding Amina, as Lisa had described, declares that she is guilty, and leaves her. Awakened by the noise, the unfortunate girl, realizing the situation, sorrowfully throws herself into Teresa's arms. The villagers implore Rodolfo to acquit Amina of any blame, and he stoutly protests her innocence; but it is of no avail in satisfying Elvino, who straightway offers his hand to Lisa. In the last act Amina is seen stepping from the window of the mill in her sleep. She crosses a frail bridge which yields beneath her weight and threatens to precipitate her upon the wheel below; but she passes it in safety, descends to the ground, and walks into her lover's arms amid the jubilant songs of the villagers. Elvino is convinced of her innocence, and they are wedded at once, while the discovery of Lisa's handkerchief in Rodolfo's room pronounces her the faithless one.
Such is the simple little pastoral story to which Bellini has set some of his most beautiful melodies, the most striking of which are the aria, "Sovra il sen," in the third scene of the first act, where Amina declares her happiness to Teresa; the beautiful aria for barytone in the sixth scene, "Vi ravviso," descriptive of Rodolfo's delight in revisiting the scenes of his youth; the playful duet between Amina and Elvino, "Mai piu dubbi!" in which she rebukes him for his jealousy; the humorous and very characteristic chorus of the villagers in the tenth scene, "Osservate, l'uscio e aperto," as they tiptoe into Rodolfo's apartment; the duet, "O mio dolor," in the next scene, in which Amina asserts her innocence; the aria for tenor in the third scene of the second act, "Tutto e sciolto," in which Elvino bemoans his sad lot; and that joyous ecstatic outburst of birdlike melody, "Ah! non giunge," which closes the opera. In fact, "Sonnambula" is so replete with melodies of the purest and tenderest kind, that it is difficult to specify particular ones. It is exquisitely idyllic throughout, and the music is as quiet, peaceful, simple, and tender as the charming pastoral scenes it illustrates.
"I Puritani di Scozia," an opera in two acts, words by Count Pepoli, was first produced at the Theatre Italien, Paris, Jan. 25, 1835, and in London in the following May, under the title of "I Puritani ed i Cavalieri." The original cast was as follows:—
ELVIRA Mme. GRISI. ARTURO Sig. RUBINI. RICARDO Sig. TAMBURINI. GIORGIO Sig. LABLACHE.
This cast was one of unexampled strength, and was long known in Europe as the Puritani quartet. The story of the opera is laid in England, during the war between Charles II. and his Parliament, and the first scene opens in Plymouth, then held by the parliamentary forces. The fortress is commanded by Lord Walton, whose daughter, Elvira, is in love with Lord Arthur Talbot, a young cavalier in the King's service. Her hand had previously been promised to Sir Richard Forth, of the parliamentary army; but to the great delight of the maiden, Sir George Walton, brother of the commander, brings her the news that her father has relented, and that Arthur will be admitted into the fortress that the nuptials may be celebrated. Henrietta, widow of Charles I., is at this time a prisoner in the fortress, under sentence of death passed by Parliament. Arthur discovers her situation, and by concealing her in Elvira's bridal veil seeks to effect her escape. On their way out he encounters his rival; but the latter, discovering that the veiled lady is not Elvira, allows them to pass. The escape is soon discovered, and Elvira, thinking her lover has abandoned her, loses her reason. Arthur is proscribed by the Parliament and sentenced to death; but Sir Richard, moved by the appeals of Sir George Walton, who hopes to restore his niece to reason, promises to use his influence with Parliament to save Arthur's life should he be captured unarmed. Arthur meanwhile manages to have an interview with Elvira; and the latter, though still suffering from her mental malady, listens joyfully to his explanation of his sudden flight. Their interview is disturbed by a party of Puritans who enter and arrest him. He is condemned to die on the spot; but before the sentence can be carried out, a messenger appears with news of the king's defeat and the pardon of Arthur. The joyful tidings restore Elvira to reason, and the lovers are united.
The libretto of "I Puritani" is one of the poorest ever furnished to Bellini, but the music is some of his best. It is replete with melodies, which are not only fascinating in their original setting, but have long been favorites on the concert-stage. The opera is usually performed in three acts, but was written in two. The prominent numbers of the first act are the pathetic cavatina for Ricardo, "Ah! per sempre io ti perdei," in which he mourns the loss of Elvira; a lovely romanza for tenor ("A te o cara"); a brilliant polacca ("Son vergin vezzosa") for Elvira, which is one of the delights of all artists; and a concerted finale, brimming over with melody and closing with the stirring anathema chorus, "Non casa, non spiaggia." The first grand number in the second act is Elvira's mad song, "Qui la voce," in which are brought out not only that rare gift for expressing pathos in melody for which Bellini is so famous, but the sweetest of themes and most graceful of embellishments. The remaining numbers are Elvira's appeal to her lover ("Vien, diletto"), the magnificent duet for basses ("Suoni la tromba"), known as the "Liberty Duet," which in sonorousness, majesty, and dramatic intensity hardly has an equal in the whole range of Italian opera; a tender and plaintive romanza for tenor ("A una fonte aflitto e solo"); a passionate duet for Arthur and Elvira ("Star teco ognor"); and an adagio, sung by Arthur in the finale ("Ella e tremante").
Georges Bizet was born at Paris, Oct. 25, 1838, and in an artistic atmosphere, as his father, an excellent teacher, was married to a sister of Mme. Delsarte, a talented pianist, and his uncle, a musician, was the founder of the famous Delsarte system. He studied successively with Marmontel and Benoist, and subsequently took lessons in composition from Halevy, whose daughter he afterwards married. His first work was an operetta of not much consequence, "Docteur Miracle," written in 1857, and in the same year he took the Grand Prix de Rome. On his return from Italy he composed "Vasco de Gama" and "Les Pecheurs de Perles," neither of which met with much success. In 1867 "La Jolie Fille de Perth" appeared, and in 1872, "Djamileh." During the intervals of these larger works he wrote the Patrie overture and the interludes to "L'Arlesienne," a very poetical score which Theodore Thomas introduced to this country, and both works were received with enthusiasm. At last he was to appreciate and enjoy a real dramatic success, though it was his last work. "Carmen" appeared in 1875, and achieved a magnificent success at the Opera Comique. It was brought out in March, and in the following June he died of acute heart-disease. He was a very promising composer, and specially excelled in orchestration. During his last few years he was a close student of Wagner, whose influence is apparent in this last work of his life.
"Carmen," an opera in four acts, words by Meilhac and Halevy, adapted from Prosper Merimee's romance of "Carmen," was first produced at the Opera Comique, Paris, March 3, 1875, with Mme. Galli-Marie in the title-role and Mlle. Chapuy as Michaela. The scene is laid in Seville, time 1820. The first act opens in the public square, filled with a troop of soldiers under command of Don Jose, and loungers who are waiting the approach of the pretty girls who work in the cigar-factory near by, and prettiest and most heartless of them all, Carmen. Before they appear, Michaela, a village girl, enters the square, bearing a message to Don Jose from his mother, but not finding him departs. The cigar-girls at last pass by on their way to work, and with them Carmen, who observes Don Jose sitting in an indifferent manner and throws him the rose she wears in her bosom. As they disappear, Michaela returns and delivers her message. The sight of the gentle girl and the thought of home dispel Don Jose's sudden passion for Carmen. He is about to throw away her rose, when a sudden disturbance is heard in the factory. It is found that Carmen has quarrelled with one of the girls and wounded her. She is arrested, and to prevent further mischief her arms are pinioned. She so bewitches the lieutenant, however, that he connives at her escape and succeeds in effecting it, while she is led away to prison by the soldiers. In the second act Carmen has returned to her wandering gypsy life, and we find her with her companions in the cabaret of Lillas-Pastia, singing and dancing. Among the new arrivals is Escamillo, the victorious bull-fighter of Grenada, with whom Carmen is at once fascinated. When the inn is closed, Escamillo and the soldiers depart, but Carmen waits with two of the gypsies, who are smugglers, for the arrival of Don Jose. They persuade her to induce him to join their band, and when the lieutenant, wild with passion for her, enters the apartment, she prevails upon him to remain in spite of the trumpet-call which summons him to duty. An officer appears and orders him out. He refuses to go, and when the officer attempts to use force Carmen summons the gypsies. He is soon overpowered, and Don Jose escapes to the mountains. The third act opens in the haunt of the smugglers, a wild, rocky, cavernous place. Don Jose and Carmen, who is growing very indifferent to him, are there. As the contrabandists finish their work and gradually leave the scene, Escamillo, who has been following Carmen, appears. His presence and his declarations as well arouse the jealousy of Don Jose. They rush at each other for mortal combat, but the smugglers separate them. Escamillo bides his time, invites them to the approaching bullfight at Seville, and departs. While Don Jose is upbraiding Carmen, the faithful Michaela, who has been guided to the spot, begs him to accompany her, as his mother is dying. Duty prevails, and he follows her as Escamillo's taunting song is heard dying away in the distance. In the last act the drama hurries on to the tragic denouement. It is a gala-day in Seville, for Escamillo is to fight. Carmen is there in his company, though her gypsy friends have warned her Don Jose is searching for her. Amid great pomp Escamillo enters the arena, and Carmen is about to follow, when Don Jose appears and stops her. He appeals to her and tries to awaken the old love. She will not listen, and at last in a fit of wild rage hurls the ring he had given her at his feet. The shouts of the people in the arena announce another victory for Escamillo. She cries out with joy. Don Jose springs at her like a tiger, and stabs her just as Escamillo emerges from the contest.
Carmen is the largest and best-considered of all Bizet's works, and one of the best in the modern French repertory. The overture is short but very brilliant. After some characteristic choruses by the street lads, soldiers, and cigar-girls, Carmen sings the Havanaise ("Amor, misterioso angelo"), a quaint song in waltz time, the melody being that of an old Spanish song by Tradier, called "El Aveglito." A serious duet between Michaela and Don Jose ("Mia madre io la rivedo") follows, which is very tender in its character. The next striking number is the dance tempo, "Presso il bastion de Seviglia," a seguidilla sung by Carmen while bewitching Don Jose. In the finale, as she escapes, the Havanaise, which is the Carmen motive, is heard again.
The second-act music is peculiarly Spanish in color, particularly that for the ballet. The opening song of the gypsies in the cabaret, to the accompaniment of the castanets ("Vezzi e anella scintillar"), is bewitching in its rhythm, and is followed in the next scene by a stirring and very picturesque aria ("Toreador attento"), in which Escamillo describes the bull-fight. A beautifully written quintet ("Abbiamo in vista"), and a strongly dramatic duet, beginning with another fascinating dance tempo ("Voglio danzar pel tuo piacer"), and including a beautiful pathetic melody for Don Jose ("Il fior che avevi"), closes the music of the act.
The third act contains two very striking numbers, the terzetto of the card-players in the smugglers' haunt ("Mischiam! alziam!"), and Michaela's aria ("Io dico no, non son paurosa"), the most effective and beautiful number in the whole work, and the one which shows most clearly the effect of Wagner's influence upon the composer. In the finale of the act the Toreador's song is again heard as he disappears in the distance after the quarrel with Don Jose.
The last act is a hurly-burly of the bull-fight, the Toreador's taking march, the stormy duet between Don Jose and Carmen, and the tragic denouement in which the Carmen motive is repeated. The color of the whole work is Spanish, and the dance tempo is freely used and beautifully worked up with Bizet's ingenious and scholarly instrumentation. Except in the third act, however, the vocal parts are inferior to the orchestral treatment.
Francois Adrien Boieldieu was born Dec. 16, 1775, at Rouen, France. Little is known of his earlier life, except that he studied for a time with Broche, the cathedral organist. His first opera, "La Fille Coupable," appeared in 1793, and was performed at Rouen with some success. In 1795 a second opera, "Rosalie et Myrza," was performed in the same city; after which he went to Paris, where he became acquainted with many prominent musicians, among them Cherubini. His first Paris opera was the "Famille Suisse" (1797), which had a successful run. Several other operas followed, besides some excellent pieces of chamber music which secured him the professorship of the piano in the Conservatory. He also took lessons at this time of Cherubini in counterpoint, and in 1803 brought out a very successful work, "Ma Tante Aurore." We next hear of him in St. Petersburg, as conductor of the Imperial Opera, where he composed many operas and vaudevilles. He spent eight years in Russia, returning to Paris in 1811. The next year one of his best operas, "Jean de Paris," was produced with extraordinary success. Though he subsequently wrote many operas, fourteen years elapsed before his next great work, "La Dame Blanche," appeared. Its success was unprecedented. All Europe was delighted with it, and it is as fresh to-day as when it was first produced. The remainder of Boieldieu's life was sad, owing to operatic failures, pecuniary troubles, and declining health. He died at Jarcy, near Paris, Oct. 8, 1834.
LA DAME BLANCE.
"La Dame Blanche," opera comique in three acts, words by Scribe, adapted from Walter Scott's novels, "The Monastery" and "Guy Mannering," was first produced at the Opera Comique, Dec. 10, 1825, and was first performed in English under the title of "The White Maid," at Covent Garden, London, Jan. 2, 1827. The scene of the opera is laid in Scotland. The Laird of Avenel, a zealous partisan of the Stuarts, was proscribed after the battle of Culloden, and upon the eve of going into exile intrusts Gaveston, his steward, with the care of the castle, and of a considerable treasure which is concealed in a statue called the White Lady. The traditions affirmed that this lady was the protectress of the Avenels. All the clan were believers in the story, and the villagers declared they had often seen her in the neighborhood. Gaveston, however, does not share their superstition nor believe in the legend, and some time after the departure of the Laird he announces the sale of the castle, hoping to obtain it at a low rate because the villagers will not dare to bid for it through fear of the White Lady. The steward is led to do this because he has heard the Laird is dead, and knows there is no heir to the property. Anna, an orphan girl, who had been befriended by the Laird, determines to frustrate Gaveston's designs, and appears in the village disguised as the White Lady. She also writes to Dickson, a farmer, who is indebted to her, to meet her at midnight in the castle of Avenel. He is too superstitious to go, and George Brown, a young lieutenant who is sharing his hospitality, volunteers in his stead. He encounters the White Lady, and learns from her he will shortly meet a young lady who has saved his life by her careful nursing after a battle,—Anna meanwhile recognizing George as the person she had saved. When the day of sale comes, Dickson is empowered by the farmers to purchase the castle, so that it may not fall into Gaveston's hands. George and Anna are there; and the former, though he has not a shilling, buys it under instructions from Anna. When the time comes for payment, Anna produces the treasure which had been concealed in the statue, and, still in the disguise of the White Lady, discovers to him the secret of his birth during the exile of his parents. Gaveston approaches the spectre and tears off her veil, revealing Anna, his ward. Moved by the zeal and fidelity of his father's protegee, George offers her his hand, which, after some maidenly scruples, she accepts.
The opera is full of beautiful songs, many of them Scotch in character. In the first act the opening song of George ("Ah, what Pleasure a Soldier to be!") is very poetical in its sentiment. It also contains the characteristic ballad of the White Lady, with choral responses ("Where yon Trees your Eye discovers"), and an exquisitely graceful trio in the finale ("Heavens! what do I hear?"). The second act opens with a very plaintive romanza ("Poor Margaret, spin away!"), sung by Margaret, Anna's old nurse, at her spinning-wheel, as she thinks of the absent Laird, followed in the fifth scene by a beautiful cavatina for tenor ("Come, O Gentle Lady"). In the seventh scene is a charming duet ("From these Halls"), and the act closes with an ensemble for seven voices and chorus, which has hardly been excelled in ingenuity of treatment. The third act opens with a charmingly sentimental aria for Anna ("With what delight I behold"), followed in the third scene by a stirring chorus of mountaineers, leading up to "the lay ever sung by the Clan of Avenel,"—the familiar old ballad, "Robin Adair," which loses a little of its local color under French treatment, but gains an added grace. It is stated on good authority that two of Boieldieu's pupils, Adolph Adam and Labarre, assisted him in the work, and that the lovely overture was written in one evening,—Boieldieu taking the andante and the two others the remaining movements. Though a little old-fashioned in some of its phrasing, the opera still retains its freshness and beautiful sentiment. Its popularity is best evinced by the fact that up to June, 1875, it had been given 1340 times at the theatre where it was first produced.
Arrigo Boito was born in 1840, and received his musical education in the Conservatory at Milan, where he studied for nine years. In 1866 he became a musical critic for several Italian papers, and about the same time wrote several poems of more than ordinary merit. Both in literature and music his taste was diversified; and he combined the two talents in a remarkable degree in his opera of "Mephistopheles," the only work by which he is known to the musical world at large. He studied Goethe profoundly; and the notes which he has appended to the score show a most intimate knowledge of the Faust legend. His text is in one sense polyglot, as he has made use of portions of Marlowe's "Doctor Faustus," as well as excerpts from Blaze de Bury, Lenau, Widmann, and others who have treated the legend. He studied Wagner's music also very closely, and to such purpose that after the first performance of this opera at La Scala, in 1868, the critics called him the Italian Wagner, and, in common with the public, condemned both him and his work. After Wagner's "Lohengrin" had been produced in Italy and met with success, Boito saw his opportunity to once more bring out his work. It was performed at Bologna in 1875, and met with an enthusiastic success. Its introduction to this country is largely due to Mme. Christine Nilsson, though Mme. Marie Roze was the first artist to appear in it here.
"Mephistopheles," grand opera in a prologue, four acts, and epilogue, words by the composer, was first performed at La Scala, Milan, in 1868. The "Prologue in the Heavens" contains five numbers, a prelude, and chorus of the mystic choir; instrumental scherzo, preluding the appearance of Mephistopheles; dramatic interlude, in which he engages to entrap Faust; a vocal scherzo by the chorus of cherubim; and the Final Psalmody by the penitents on earth and chorus of spirits. The prologue corresponds to Goethe's prologue in the heavens, the heavenly choirs being heard in the background of clouds, accompanied by weird trumpet-peals and flourishes in the orchestra, and closes with a finale of magnificent power.
The first act opens in the city of Frankfort, amid the noise of the crowd and the clanging of holiday bells. Groups of students, burghers, huntsmen, and peasants sing snatches of chorus. A cavalcade escorting the Elector passes. Faust and Wagner enter, and retire as the peasants begin to sing and dance a merry waltz rhythm ("Juhe! Juhe!"). As it dies away they reappear, Faust being continually followed by a gray friar,—Mephistopheles in disguise,—whose identity is disclosed by a motive from the prologue. Faust shudders at his presence, but Wagner laughs away his fears, and the scene then suddenly changes to Faust's laboratory, whither he has been followed by the gray friar, who conceals himself in an alcove. Faust sings a beautiful aria ("Dai campi, dai prati"), and then, placing the Bible on a lectern, begins to read. The sight of the book brings Mephistopheles out with a shriek; and, questioned by Faust, he reveals his true self in a massive and sonorous aria ("Son lo spirito"). He throws off his disguise, and appears in the garb of a knight, offering to serve Faust on earth if he will serve the powers of darkness in hell. The compact is made, as in the first act of Gounod's "Faust;" and the curtain falls as Faust is about to be whisked away in Mephistopheles's cloak.
The second act opens in the garden, with Faust (under the name of Henry), Marguerite, Mephistopheles, and Martha, Marguerite's mother, strolling in couples. The music, which is of a very sensuous character, is descriptive of the love-making between Faust and Marguerite, and the sarcastic passion of Mephistopheles for Martha. It is mostly in duet form, and closes with a quartet allegretto ("Addio, fuggo"), which is very characteristic. The scene then suddenly changes to the celebration of the Witches' Sabbath on the summits of the Brocken, where, amid wild witch choruses, mighty dissonances, and weird incantation music, Faust is shown a vision of the sorrow of Marguerite. It would be impossible to select special numbers from this closely interwoven music, excepting perhaps the song ("Ecco il mondo") which Mephistopheles sings when the witches, after their incantation, present him with a globe of glass which he likens to the earth.
The third act opens in a prison, where Marguerite is awaiting the penalty for murdering her babe. The action is very similar to that of the last act of Gounod's "Faust." Her opening aria ("L' altra notte a fondo al maro") is full of sad longings for the child and insane moanings for mercy. Faust appeals to her to fly with him, and they join in a duet of extraordinary sensuous beauty blended with pathos ("lontano, lontano"). Mephistopheles urges Faust away as the day dawns, and pronounces her doom as she falls and dies, while the angelic chorus resounding in the orchestra announces her salvation.
In the fourth act a most abrupt change is made, both in a dramatic and musical sense. The scene changes to the "Night of the Classical Sabbath" on the banks of the Peneus, amid temples, statues, flowers, and all the loveliness of nature in Greece. The music also changes into the pure, sensuous Italian style. Faust, still with Mephistopheles, pays court to Helen of Troy, who is accompanied by Pantalis. The opening duet for the latter ("La luna immobile") is one of exceeding grace and loveliness, and will always be the most popular number in the work. With the exception of a powerfully dramatic scena, in which Helen describes the horrors of the destruction of Troy, the music is devoted to the love-making between Helen and Faust, and bears no relation in form to the rest of the music of the work, being essentially Italian in its smooth, flowing, melodious character. At the close of the classical Sabbath another abrupt change is made, to the death-scene of Faust, contained in an epilogue. It opens in his laboratory, where he is reflecting upon the events of his unsatisfactory life, and contemplating a happier existence in heaven. Mephistopheles is still by his side as the tempter, offers him his cloak, and urges him to fly again. The heavenly trumpets which rang through the prologue are again heard, and the celestial choirs are singing. Enraged, Mephistopheles summons the sirens, who lure Faust with all their charms. Faust seizes the Sacred Volume, and declares that he relies upon its word for salvation. He prays for help against the demon. His prayer is answered; and as he dies a shower of roses falls upon his body. The tempter disappears, and the finale of the prologue, repeated, announces Faust has died in salvation. The opera as a whole is episodical in its dramatic construction, and the music is a mixture of two styles,—the Wagnerian and the conventional Italian; but its orchestration is very bold and independent in character, and the voice-parts are very striking in their adaptation to the dramatic requirements.
Leo Delibes, the French composer, was born at St. Germain du Val in 1836, and was graduated at the Paris Conservatory, where he reached high distinction. His first work, written in 1855, was an operetta entitled "Deux Sous de Carbon;" but he did not make his mark until his "Maitre Griffard" was produced at the Theatre Lyrique in 1857. In 1865 he was appointed Chorus-master at the Opera, and there his real career began. His first great triumph was in ballet-music, which has ever since been his specialty. His first ballet, "La Source," was produced at the Opera, Nov. 12, 1865, and delighted all Paris. It was followed by a divertisement for the revival of Adam's "Corsaire" (1867), the ballet "Coppelia" (1870), a three-act opera "Le Roi l'a dit" (1873), and the exquisite ballet in three acts and five tableaux, "Sylvia" (1876), with which Theodore Thomas has made American audiences familiar. His opera "Lakme" was written in 1879.
The romantic opera, "Lakme," written in 1879, was first performed in this country by the American Opera Company in 1886, Mme. L'Allemand taking the title-role. The principal characters are Lakme, daughter of Nilakantha, an Indian priest, Gerald and Frederick, officers of the British Army, Ellen and Rose, daughters of the Viceroy, and Mrs. Benson, governess. The scene is laid in India. Nilakantha cherishes a fond hatred of all foreigners. The two English officers, Gerald and Frederick, accompanied by a bevy of ladies, intrude upon his sacred grounds. They stroll about and gradually retire, but Gerald remains to sketch some jewels, which Lakme has left upon a shrine while she goes flower-gathering with her slave Mallika, evidently also to await developments when she returns. Lakme soon comes sailing in on her boat, and there is a desperate case of love at first sight. Their demonstrations of affection are soon interrupted by the appearance of the priest, whose anger Gerald escapes by fleeing, under cover of a convenient thunder-storm. In the next act Lakme and her father appear in the public market-place, disguised as penitents. He compels his daughter to sing, hoping that her face and voice will induce her lover to disclose himself. The ruse proves successful. Nilakantha waits his opportunity, and stealing upon his enemy stabs him in the back and makes good his escape. In the third act we find Gerald in a delightful jungle, where Lakme has in some manner managed to conceal him, and where she is carefully nursing him with the hope of permanently retaining his love. She saves his life; but just at this juncture, and while she is absent to obtain a draught of the water which, according to the Indian legend, will make earthly love eternal, Gerald hears the music of his regiment, and Frederick appears and urges him back to duty. His allegiance to his queen, and possibly the remembrance of his engagement to a young English girl, prove stronger than his love for Lakme. The latter returns, discovers his faithlessness, gathers some poisonous flowers, whose juices she drinks, and dies in Gerald's arms just as the furious father appears. As one victim is sufficient to appease the anger of Nilakantha's gods, Gerald is allowed to go unharmed.
The first act opens with a chorus of Hindoos, oriental in its character, followed by a duet between Lakme and her father; the scene closing with a sacred chant. The Hindoos gone, there is a charming oriental duet ("'Neath yon Dome where Jasmines with the Roses are blooming") between Lakme and her slave, which is one of the gems of the opera. The English then appear and have a long, talky scene, relieved by a pretty song for Frederick ("I would not give a Judgment so absurd"), and another for Gerald ("Cheating Fancy coming to mislead me"). As Lakme enters, Gerald conceals himself. She lays her flowers at the base of the shrine and sings a restless love-song ("Why love I thus to stray?"). Gerald discovers himself, and after a colloquy sings his ardent love-song ("The God of Truth so glowing"), and the act closes with Nilakantha's threats.
The second act opens in the market square, lively with the choruses of Hindoos, Chinamen, fruit-venders, and sailors, and later on with the adventures of the English party in the crowd. Nilakantha appears and addresses his daughter in a very pathetic aria ("Lakme, thy soft Looks are over-clouded"). Soon follows Lakme's bell-song ("Where strays the Hindoo Maiden?"), a brilliant and highly embellished aria with tinkling accompaniment, which will always be a favorite. The recognition follows; and the remaining numbers of importance are an impassioned song by Gerald ("Ah! then 't is slumbering Love"), with a mysterious response by Lakme ("In the Forest near at Hand"). A ballet, followed by the stabbing of Gerald, closes the act.
In the third act the action hastens to the tragic denouement. It opens with a beautiful crooning song by Lakme ("'Neath the Dome of Moon and Star") as she watches her sleeping lover. The remaining numbers of interest are Gerald's song ("Tho' speechless I, my Heart remembers"), followed by a pretty three-part chorus in the distance and Lakme's dying measures, "To me the fairest Dream thou 'st given," and "Farewell, the Dream is over." Though the opera is monotonous from sameness of color and lack of dramatic interest, there are many numbers which leave a charming impression by their grace, refinement, and genuine poetical effect.
Gaetano Donizetti was born at Bergamo, Italy, Sept. 25, 1798. He studied music both at Bologna and Naples, and then entered the army rather than subject himself to the caprice of his father, who was determined that he should devote himself to church music. While his regiment was at Naples he wrote his first opera, "Enrico di Borgogna" (1818), which was soon followed by a second, "Il Falegname de Livonia." The success of the latter was so great that it not only freed him from military service but gained him the honor of being crowned. The first opera which spread his reputation through Europe was "Anna Bolena," produced at Milan in 1830, and written for Pasta and Rubini. Two years afterwards, "L' Elisir d' Amore" appeared, which he is said to have written in fifteen days. He wrote with great facility. "Il Furioso," "Parisina," "Torquato Tasso," "Lucrezia Borgia," and "Gemma di Vergi" rapidly followed one another. In 1835 he brought out "Marino Faliero," but its success was small. Ample compensation was made, however, when in the same year "Lucia" appeared and was received with acclamations of delight. He was invited to Paris as the successor of Rossini, and wrote his "Marino Faliero" for the Theatre des Italiens. In 1840 he revisited Paris and produced "Il Poliuto," "La Fille du Regiment," and "La Favorita." Leaving Paris he visited Rome, Milan, and Vienna, bringing out "Linda di Chamouni" in the latter city. Returning to Paris again, he produced "Don Pasquale" at the Theatre des Italiens and "Don Sebastien" at the Academie, the latter proving a failure. His last opera, "Catarina Comaro," was brought out at Naples in 1844. This work also was a failure. It was evident that his capacity for work was over. He grew sad and melancholy, and during the last three years of his life was attacked by fits of abstraction which gradually intensified and ended in insanity and physical paralysis. He died at Bergamo, April 8, 1848.
THE DAUGHTER OF THE REGIMENT.
"The Daughter of the Regiment" ("La Fille du Regiment") opera comique in two acts, words by Bayard and St. Georges, was first produced at the Opera Comique, Paris, Feb. 11, 1840, with Mme. Anna Thillon in the role of Marie. Its first performance in English was at the Surrey Theatre, London, Dec. 21, 1847, under the title of "The Daughter of the Regiment," in which form it is best known in this country. In 1847 it was performed as an Italian opera in London, with added recitatives, and with Jenny Lind in the leading part.
The music of the opera is light and sparkling, the principal interest centring in the charming nature of the story and its humorous situations, which afford capital opportunities for comedy acting. The scene is laid in the Tyrol during its occupation by the French. Marie, the heroine, and the vivandiere of the Twenty-first regiment of Napoleon's army, was adopted as the Daughter of the Regiment, because she was found on the field, after a battle, by Sergeant Sulpice. On her person was affixed a letter written by her father to the Marchioness of Berkenfeld, which has been carefully preserved by the Sergeant. At the beginning of the opera the little waif has grown into a sprightly young woman, full of mischief and spirit, as is shown by her opening song ("The Camp was my Birthplace"), in which she tells the story of her life, and by the duet with Sulpice, known the world over as "The Rataplan," which is of a very animated, stirring, and martial character, to the accompaniment of rattling drums and sonorous brasses. She is the special admiration of Tony, a Tyrolean peasant, who has saved her from falling over a precipice. The soldiers of the regiment are profuse in their gratitude to her deliverer, and celebrate her rescue with ample potations, during which Marie sings the Song of the Regiment ("All Men confess it"). Poor Tony, however, who was found strolling in the camp, is placed under arrest as a spy, though he succeeds in obtaining an interview with Marie and declares his love for her. The declaration is followed by a charming duet ("No longer can I doubt it"). Tony manages to clear up his record, and the soldiers decide that he may have Marie's hand if he will consent to join them. He blithely accepts the condition and dons the French cockade. Everything seems auspicious, when suddenly the Marchioness of Berkenfeld appears and dashes Tony's hopes to the ground. The Sergeant, as in honor bound, delivers the letter he has been preserving. After reading it she claims Marie as her niece, and demands that the regiment shall give up its daughter, while Tony is incontinently dismissed as an unsuitable person to be connected in any capacity with her noble family. Marie sings a touching adieu to her comrades ("Farewell, a long Farewell"), and the act closes with smothered imprecations on the Marchioness by the soldiers, and protestations of undying love by Tony.
The second act opens in the castle of Berkenfeld, where Marie is duly installed, though she does not take very kindly to her change of surroundings. The old Sergeant is with her. Grand company is expected, and the Marchioness desires Marie to rehearse a romance ("The Light of Early Days was breaking"), which she is to sing to them.