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George P. (George Putnam) Upton.

The standard operas: their plots, their music, and their composers online

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ambassador, who, supposing him to be the Czar, seeks to
arrange a treaty with him, and finally gives him a passport
so that he may visit England. Meanwhile the people of
Saardam, being informed that the Czar is with them, pre-
pare a reception for him.

The French ambassador, who has also been searching
for the Czar, finds the real one by telling him the story of
a Russian defeat which causes him to betray himself. The
Czar, who is now anxious to go home and crush out the
rebellion, seeks for some means to get away without the
knowledge of the Dutch and the English. Finding out by
chance that IvanorT has an English passport, he secures it,
and gives IvanorT another paper which he is not to open
until an hour has passed. During this time IvanorT is
enjoying the public reception, which suddenly is inter-
rupted by the firing of cannon. The gateway of the port
is opened, showing the Czar with the Russian and French
ambassadors sailing away. IvanorT opens his paper, and
finds that his companion was the Czar, who has given him
a good situation as well as his consent to his marriage with
Marie, the burgomaster's niece.

The leading numbers of the first act are the carpenter's
spirited song ("Grip your Axes"); Marie's jealousy song
(" Ah ! Jealousy is a bad Companion ") ; the humorous aria
of Van Bett (" Oh ! Sancta Justitia, I shall go raving");
the long duet for Van Bett and IvanorT (" Shall I make a
full Confession?"), and the effective quartets in the finale.



156 THE STANDARD OPERAS

The second act contains the best music of the opera. It
opens with a mixed chorus of a bacchanalian sort (" Long
live Joy and Pleasure "), which after a long dialogue is fol-
lowed by the tenor romanza (" Fare thee well, my Flan-
drish Maiden "), a quaint melody, running at the end of
each stanza into a duet, closing with full chorus accompa-
niment. A sextet ("The Work that we're beginning")
immediately follows, which, though brief, is the most effec-
tive number in the opera. The next number of any conse-
quence in this act is a rollicking bridal song (" Charming
Maiden, why do Blushes "), sung by Marie. The last act
has a comic aria and chorus ("To greet our Hero with a
stately Reception "), and an effective song for the Czar
(" In Childhood, with Crown and with Sceptre I played ").



MARSCHNER

HEINRICH MARSCHNER was born at Zittau,
Saxony, August 16, 1796, and died at Hanover,
December 14, 1861. Jn 18 16 he went to Leipzig with
the intention of studying law, but upon the advice of
Rochlitz and other musicians he decided to study music
instead. At a little later period he was confirmed in his
decision by Beethoven, whom he met in Vienna. His
first operatic works were "Der Kyffhauser Berg" and
" Heinrich IV." The latter was produced at Dresden
by Weber, and led to Marschner's appointment as joint
Capellmeister with Weber and Morlacchi. He resigned
the position in 1826, and settled at Leipzig in 1827 as
Capellmeister of the theatre. His first romantic opera,
"Der Vampyr," was produced in that city in 1828, with
extraordinary success. It also met with great favor in
London and led to his composing " Der Templer und
die Judin" for England. In 1831 he was appointed
Capellmeister at Hanover, where he brought out his mas-
terpiece, " Hans Heiling," the libretto originally written
by Edouard Devrient, for Mendelssohn, but declined by
him. After " Hans Heiling " he wrote several operas,
operettas, overtures, songs, and incidental music, but he
reached his highest success in the weird story of the
" King of the Gnomes." As a composer he is ranked
with Weber and Spohr. It was a curious characteristic
of his nature that while he abounded in humor and was
fond of nature his favorite subjects were of the supernat-
ural and ghostly kind.



158 THE STANDARD OPERAS



Hans Heiling

" Hans Heiling," romantic opera in three acts with a
prologue, text by Edouard Devrient, was first produced in
Berlin in 1833. Its theme is an old Erzgebirg legend.
Hans Heiling, the king of the gnomes, has fallen in love
with Anna, a beautiful girl of the upper earth. He an-
nounces to the gnomes in the prologue that he proposes
to leave them and join Anna, and succeeds in his purpose
notwithstanding the remonstrances of his mother. Find-
ing him bent upon going, she gives him a magic book and
set of jewels.

Arrived in the upper world Hans meets Anna, who ac-
cepts his suit and a golden chain. Her old mother, Ger-
trude, heartily approves of the match as well as of the chain.
Anna, desirous of displaying her ornaments, as well as her
lover, begs him to accompany her to a fair, but he declines
to go. She is greatly disappointed, and her disappoint-
ment changes to fear when she finds the magic book in his
room. She implores him to destroy it, and at last he con-
sents, thus cutting off his only connection with the under
world. Anna still remains so disappointed that he at last
consents to go to the fair upon condition that she will not
dance. She accepts the condition, but at the fair she
meets another of her lovers, Conrad, the hunter, and at
his urgent solicitation she violates the promise she has
made.

The second act discovers Anna in the forest, thinking
only of Conrad. To her suddenly appear the gnomes and
their queen, who reveal to her the real identity of Hans
and beg her to give him back to them. She soon meets
Conrad and implores his help. He goes home with her,
delighted to learn that she loves him, but immediately
Hans appears with his bridal gift. He makes no



MARSCHNER 159

impression upon Anna, who informs him that she has
learned his origin. In a rage he hurls his dagger at
Conrad and rushes out.

The third act reveals Hans alone in the mountains where
he decides to go back to the gnomes. They appear, but
have little comfort for him as they tell him that having de-
stroyed the magic book he has no further power over them,
and they add to his wretchedness by the announcement
that- Anna is going to marry Conrad. The gnomes, how-
ever, at last take pity upon him, and he returns with them
to the queen. The act closes with the wedding. As Anna
appears for the ceremony Hans is by her side. Conrad
attacks him, but his sword breaks. Hans summons the
gnomes, but the queen appears and persuades him to for-
give Anna and Conrad and go back to the gnome realm
with her. *

The prologue consists of a chorus (" Rastlos geschafft ")
and a duet for Heiling and the Queen (" Genug beendet ") .
The principal numbers in the first act are the aria for the
Queen (" O bleib' bei mir"), with chorus of spirits; ter-
zetto for Anna, Heiling, and Gertrude ("Ha! welche
Zeichen"); a delightful aria for Heiling ("An jenem
Tag") ; a brisk unison chorus of peasants (" Juchheisen ") ;
a song for Conrad with choral accompaniment (" Ein
sprodes allerliebstes Kind"); and the stirring finale
("Wie hupft mir von Freude das Herz").

The second act opens with a scene and aria for Anna
(" Einst war so tiefer Freude "), which inevitably suggests
Marguerite's song in the garden in Gounod's " Faust."
The principal numbers in the act are the ensemble and aria
for the Queen with choral accompaniment ("Aus der
Klufte ") ; the scena ("Wohl durch der griinen Wald ") ;
the duet for Conrad and Anna (Ha ! dieses Wort ") ;
Gertrude's effective melodramatic scene and aria ("Des
Nacht ") ; and the finale (" Ihr hort es schon ").



160 THE STANDARD OPERAS

The most important numbers in the last act are the open-
ing melodramatic scena and air with chorus ("Herauf") ;
the charming peasants' wedding march ; the stately choral
song in the chapel ("Segne Allmachtiger ") ; the ani-
mated duet for Anna and Conrad (" Nun bist du mein ") ;
and the finale ("So wollen wir auf kurze Zeit ").



MASCAGNI

PIETRO MASCAGNI, who leaped into fame at a single
bound, was born at Leghorn, December 7, 1863.
His father was a baker, and had planned for his son a
career in the legal profession; but, as often happens,
fate ordered otherwise. His tastes were distinctly musi-
cal, and his determination to study music was encouraged
by Signor Bianchi, a singing teacher, who recognized his
talent. For a time he took lessons, unknown to his
father, of SorTredini, but when it was discovered, he was
ordered to abandon music and devote himself to the law.
At this juncture his uncle Stefano came to his rescue, took
him to his house, provided him with a piano, and also
with the means to pursue his studies. Recognizing the
uselessness of further objections, the father at last with-
drew them, and left his son free to follow his own pleasure.
He progressed so rapidly under SorTredini that he was soon
engaged in composition, his first works being a symphony
in C minor and a " Kyrie," which were performed in 1879.
In 1 88 1 he composed a cantata, " In Filanda," and a
setting of Schiller's hymn, "An die Freude," both of
which had successful public performances. The former
attracted the attention of a rich nobleman who furnished
young Mascagni with the means to attend the Milan Con-
servatory. After studying there a short time, he suddenly
left Milan with an operatic troupe, and visited various
Italian cities, a pilgrimage which was of great value
to him, as it made him acquainted with the resources
of an orchestra and the details of conducting. The
troupe, however, met with hard fortunes, and was soon

11



1 62 THE STANDARD OPERAS

disbanded, throwing Mascagni upon the world. For a few
years he made a precarious living in obscure towns by
teaching, and had at last reached desperate extremities
when one day he read in a newspaper that Sonzogno,
the music publisher, had offered prizes for the three
best one-act operas, to be performed in Rome. He at
once entered into the competition, and produced " Cav-
alleria Rusticana." It took the first prize. It did more
than this for the impecunious composer. When per-
formed, it made an enthusiastic success. He was called
twenty times before the curtain. Honors and decora-
tions were showered upon him. He was everywhere
greeted with serenades and ovations. Every opera house
in Europe clamored for the new work. In a day he had
risen from utter obscurity and become world-famous. His
sudden popularity, however, had a pernicious effect, as it
induced him to rush out more operas without giving suffi-
cient time to their preparation. " L'Amico Fritz," based
upon the well-known Erckmann-Chatrian story, and " I
Rantzau" quickly followed "Cavalleria Rusticana," but
did not meet with its success. However, he produced
two operas at Milan, " Guglielmo Ratcliff" and "Silvano,"
which proved successful and his Japanese opera " Iris "
has met with favor.

Cavalleria Rusticana

"Cavalleria Rusticana," opera in one act, words by
Signori Targioni-Tozzetti and Menasci, was written in

1890, and was first performed at the Costanzi Theatre,
in Rome, May 20, of that year, with Gemma Bellinconi
and Roberto Stagno in the two principal roles. It had
its first American production in Philadelphia, September 9,

1 89 1, with Mme. Kronold as Santuzza, Miss Campbell as
Lola, Guille as Turridu, Del Puente as Alfio, and Jeannie
Teal as Lucia.



MASCAGNI 163

The story upon which the text of "Cavalleria Rusti-
cana " is based is taken from a Sicilian tale by Giovanni
Verga. It is peculiarly Italian in its motive, running a
swift, sure gamut of love, flirtation, jealousy, and death, — a
melodrama of a passionate and tragic sort, amid some-
what squalid environments, that particularly lends itself
to music of Mascagni's forceful sort. The overture graph-
ically presents the main themes of the opera, and these
themes illustrate a very simple but strong story. Turridu,
a young Sicilian peasant, arrived home from army service,
finds that his old love, Lola, during his absence has married
Alfio, a carter. To console himself he makes love to
Santuzza, who returns his passion with ardor. The in-
constant Turridu, however, soon tires of her and makes
fresh advances to Lola, who, inspired by her jealousy of
Santuzza, and her natural coquetry, smiles upon him again.
The latter seeks to reclaim him, and, when she is rudely
repulsed, tells the story of Lola's perfidy to Alfio, who
challenges Turridu and kills him.

During the overture Turridu sings a charming Siciliana
(" O Lola, c'hai di latti"), and the curtain rises, disclos-
ing a Sicilian village with a church decorated for Easter
service. As the sacristan opens its doors, the villagers
appear and sing a hymn to the Madonna. A hurried
duet follows, in which Santuzza reveals to mother Lucia
her grief at the perfidy of Turridu. Her discourse is in-
terrupted by the entrance of Alfio, singing a rollicking
whip-song (" II cavallo scalpita ") with accompaniment
of male chorus. The scene then develops into a trio,
closing with a hymn (" Inneggiamo, il Signor"), sung
by the people in the square, and led by Santuzza herself,
and blending with the "Regina Coeli," performed by
the choir inside the church with organ accompaniment,
the number finally working up into a tremendous climax
in genuine Italian style.



164 THE STANDARD OPERAS

In the next scene Santuzza tells her sad story to Lucia,
Turridu's mother, in a romanza of great power ("Voi lo
sapete "), closing with an outburst of the highest signifi-
cance as she appeals to Lucia to pray for her. In the
next scene Turridu enters. Santuzza upbraids him, and a
passionate duet follows in which Santuzza's suspicions are
more than confirmed by his avowal of his passion for Lola.
The duet is interrupted by a song of the latter, heard in
the distance with harp accompaniment (" Fior di giag-
golo"). As she approaches the pair the song grows
livelier, and at its close she banters poor Santuzza with
biting sarcasms, and assails Turridu with all the arts
of coquetry. She passes into the church, confident
that the infatuated Turridu will follow her. An impas-
sioned duo of great power follows, in which Santuzza
pleads with him to love her, but all in vain. He rushes
into the church. She attempts to follow him, but falls
upon the steps just as Alfio comes up. To him she re-
lates the story of her troubles, and of Turridu's baseness.
Alfio promises to revenge her, and another powerful duet
follows.

As they leave the stage, there is a sudden and most un-
expected change in the character of the music and the
motive of the drama. In the place of struggle, contesting
passions, and manifestations of rage, hate, and jealousy
ensues an intermezzo for orchestra, with an accompaniment
of harps and organ, of the utmost simplicity and sweetness,
breathing something like a sacred calm, and turning the
thoughts away from all this human turmoil into conditions
of peace and rest. It has not only become one of the
favorite numbers in the concert repertory, but is ground
out from every barrel-organ the world over, and yet it has
retained its hold upon popular admiration.

At its close the turmoil begins again and the action
hastens to the tragic denouement. The people come out




Calve as Santuzza



MASCAGNI 165

of the church singing a glad chorus which is followed by a
drinking-song (" Viva il vino "), sung by Turridu, and joined
in by Lola and chorus. In the midst of the hilarity Alfio
appears. Turridu invites him to join them and drink ; but
he refuses, and the quarrel begins. Lola and the fright-
ened women withdraw. Turridu bites Alfio's right ear, —
a Sicilian form of challenge. The scene closes with the
death of the former at Alfio's hands, and Santuzza is
avenged ; but the fickle Lola has gone her way bent upon
other conquests.

Iris

"Iris," opera in three acts, text by Luigi Illica, was
first produced at the Theatre Costanzi, Rome, in November,
1898, and in a revised form at Milan in 1899. The first
act opens with a musical picture of dawn and reveals Iris,
a beautiful Japanese girl, daughter of Cieco, a blind man,
playing with her dolls and talking adoringly to the sun.
Osaka, a young roue, plans to abduct her with the aid of
his accomplice, Kyoto. They arrange a puppet show, and
disguising themselves as players, seize Iris and carry her off
as she is watching the play. Osaka has left money for the
father, who, when he receives it, believes she has left him
voluntarily. His rage is increased when he is told she has
fled to the Yoshimara, a place of evil resort, and he begs
to be taken there that he may curse her.

In the second act Iris wakens to find herself in a beau-
tiful apartment in the Yoshimara, with Osaka and Kyoto
standing near and admiring her. As she awakens, they
leave, and she fancies herself dead and in paradise. Osaka
however shortly returns and makes love to her, but is baffled
by her ignorance of what he is doing. Thereupon he aban-
dons her to Kyoto, and seeks to make money by placing
her on exhibition to the street crowds. Osaka makes a
second attempt to win her, but in vain. Soon the blind



i66 THE STANDARD OPERAS

father appears and Iris flies to him, but he flings mud
in her face and curses her. She rushes from the spot and
throws herself into a sewer basin.

The third act opens with her discovery by rag-pickers
who seek to despoil the body of its dress and ornament,
but Iris moves and scares them away. She sinks back and
dies, but hovering between life and death she beholds the
rising sun, and they discourse together. Flowers spring up
about her as she is lifted up and taken to the Infinite.

The opening scene is by far the strongest number in
" Iris." The curtain rises upon a dark stage. Gloomy
rumblings tell of the night. Successive ascents towards a
climax paint the approach of dawn, the opening of the
flowers, the increase of light, and finally the uprising of the
sun in a powerful outburst of instrumentation with full cho-
rus (" II sole son ioson io la vita "). Other important
numbers are the opening song of Iris with harp accompani-
ment (" Ho fatto un triste sogno pauroso ") ; the graceful
orchestration accompanying the washerwomen's chorus ;
the characteristic puppet show music, in which one of the
geishas hums an oriental melody ; Iris's solo (" Un di al
tempio vidi ") in the second act ; and the finale to the third
act in which she sings to the sun as she sinks into death
and the sun answers her as in the beginning of the opera.

L'Amico Fritz

" L'Amico Fritz," comic opera in three acts, had its
first performance at the Theatre Costanzi, Rome, October
31, 1 89 1. The text is by Suaratoni, after the well-known
Erckmann-Chatrian story. The plot of the opera is very
simple. Fritz, a wealthy bachelor, is a confirmed woman-
hater and has determined never to marry. David, the
rabbi, is an equally determined matchmaker and vainly
seeks to induce Fritz to take a wife. Wearied with his
efforts in his behalf, Fritz finally makes a wager with the



MASCAGNI 167

rabbi, pledging his vineyard, that he will never marry. 1 ,
While visiting in the country he meets Suzel, the young and
beautiful daughter of one of his tenants, and in spite of
himself falls in love with her. The cunning rabbi confirms
him in his passion by telling him how many admirers and
what fine offers she has had. Provoked with himself be-
cause of his jealousy, he attempts to fly from the charmer,
and she, who is already deeply in love with him, weeps
bitterly. This so works upon Fritz's sympathies that he
asks her to be his bride. The rabbi wins the wager and all
ends with a dance and song.

The first act opens at Fritz's house in Alsace. It is his
birthday and the congratulations of Hanezo, his friend, and
the rabbi lead up to a delightful romanza for Suzel (" Son]
piochi fiori "), as she offers him a gift of violets. The ro-
manza is one of the most melodious and characteristic
numbers in the opera. During the pretty scene, Beppe, a
gypsy, appears with his violin and sings a charming bit
(" Luceri, miseri tanti bambini "). The act closes with an
effective march, taken from an Alsatian popular song, " I
bin lusti."

The second act reveals Suzel standing near a cherry tree.
Gathering some flowers, she sings the ballad (" Bel cava-
lier, che vai per la foresta "). A long duet follows for the
two lovers (" Suzel, buon di "), closing with Suzel' s singing
of a delightful bird song. The remaining numbers of im-
portance in the act are a scherzo (instrumental) called
" L'Arrivo del Biroccino," the music, of a religious
nature, to the story of Rebecca and Isaac, which is mutu-
ally related to Fritz by Suzel and David ; and a powerful
scena for Fritz (" Una strano turbamento ").

The third act is preluded with an instrumental number
somewhat resembling the popular " Intermezzo " in " Cav-
alleria Rusticana " but which ought to have more staying
qualities. The two great numbers of this act are Fritz's



1 68. THE STANDARD OPERAS

love aria (" O amore, o bella luce del core "), which culmi-
nates in a fine duet between Fritz and Suzel (" Io t'amo,
t'amo"). Though "L'Amico Fritz" has not been as
popular as " Cavalleria Rusticana," musically it is a more
finished work.



MASSE

FELIX MARIE MASSE, usually called Victor, was
born at Lorient, France, March 7, 1822, and died in
Paris, July 5, 1884. For ten years (1 834-1 844) he was
a piano pupil of Zimmerman and studied theory of HaleVy
at the Paris Conservatory, where he won the Grand Prix de
Rome. His first opera, " La Chambre Gothique " (1849),
was very successful. He was also chorusmaster at the
opera and in 1872 was professor of counterpoint in the
Conservatory. His most successful operas are " Galatee"
(1852); "Les Noces de Jeannette " (1853); "Miss
Fauvette " (1855) ; "La Reine Topaze " (1856) ; "Paul
and Virginia" (1876); "Une Nuit de Cleopatre "

(i877).

Paul and Virginia

" Paul and Virginia," romantic opera in three acts and
seven tableaux, text by Carre and Barbier, was first pro-
duced at the Op£ra Nationale Lyrique, Paris, November 15,
1876 ; in London, June 1, 1878 ; in New York, March 28,
1883. The scene is laid upon an island on the African
coast. The story follows the lines of Bernardin St. Pierre's
beautiful romance of the same name. The first act opens
with the recital of the history of Madame de la Tour,
mother of Virginia, and Margaret, the mother of Paul, and
reveals the love of the two children for each other. While
they are discussing the advisability of sending Paul to India
for a time, against which his slave Domingo piteously pro-
tests, islanders come rushing towards the cabin announcing
the arrival of a vessel from France. In hopes that she will
have a letter announcing that she has been forgiven by the



iyo THE STANDARD OPERAS

relatives who have renounced her, Madame de la Tour goes
to the port. A love scene between the children follows,
which is interrupted by the hurried entrance of the slave
Meala, who is flying from punishment by her master,
St. Croix. The two offer to go back with her and to inter-
cede for her forgiveness, in which they are successful.
St. Croix, who has designs upon Virginia, begs them to
remain until night ; but Meala warns them of their danger
in a song, and they leave while St. Croix wreaks his revenge
upon Meala.

The second act opens in the home of Madame de la
Tour. She has had a letter from her aunt forgiving her,
making Virginia her heiress if she will come to France, and
sending money for the journey. After a long struggle be-
tween duty to her mother and love for Paul, Virginia declines
to go. Meala makes them another hurried call, again fly-
ing from St. Croix, who this time is pursuing her with a
twofold purpose, first, of punishing Meala and, second, of
carrying out his base designs against Virginia. He soon
appears at the house and demands his slave, but Paul
refuses to give her up. At last St. Croix offers to sell her
to Paul, and Virginia furnishes the money. The faithful
Meala that night informs them of St. Croix's plot to seize
Virginia when she goes to the vessel ; but he is foiled, as
she does not leave. The act closes with a call from the
governor of the island, who bears express orders from
Virginia's relatives, signed by the King, that she must go
to France.

The last act is brief, and relates the tragedy. It opens
at a grotto on the seashore, where the melancholy Paul has
waited and watched week by week for the vessel which
will bring Virginia back to him. At last it is sighted, but
a storm comes up and soon develops into a hurricane, and
when it subsides the vessel is a wreck, and Virginia is
found dead upon the beach.



MASSE 171

The opera is replete with beautiful melodies. There
are, in the first act, a characteristic minor song for



Online LibraryGeorge P. (George Putnam) UptonThe standard operas: their plots, their music, and their composers → online text (page 12 of 37)