George P. (George Putnam) Upton.

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

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passionate song of mourning for Adonis (" Amours divins ") ;


Paris's fable ("A11 Mont Ida, trois deesses "), in which he
tells the well-known apple story ; the march and chorus
(" Voici les rois de la Grece "), in which, one after the other,
they come forward and announce themselves in an irresisti-
bly funny manner ; Helen's mock sentimental song (" Nous
naissons toutes soucieuses ") ; the droll goose march of the
kings ; a fascinating chorus (" En couronnes tressons
roses ") ; Helen's song (" Un mari sage "), one of the
most characteristic numbers in the opera ; and in the last
act Orestes's song (" Malgre cette ardente flamme ") ; the
spirited trio (" Lorsque la Grece est un camp de carnage ") ;
and the final chorus (" Que notre colere "), which preludes
the Trojan war.

Orph£e aux Enfers

"Orph£e aux Enfers," opera bouffe, in three acts,
text by Cremieux, was first produced at the Bouffes Parisi-
ens, Paris, October 21, 1858. The best musical work of
Offenbach undoubtedly is to be found in his " Orphee aux
Enfers," and the text which his librettist furnished him is in
keeping with the music. It was a bold as well as droll
conception to invest the Olympian gods and goddesses with
human attributes and make them symbols of worldly depart-
ments of action and official life, to parade them in proces-
sions like the ordinary street pageant, to present them in
banquets, to dress them in the most fantastically individual
manner, and to make nineteenth-century caricatures of the
whole Olympian coterie.

The first scene of the opera discloses Eurydice in the
Theban meadows plucking flowers with which to decorate
the cabin of Aristeus, the shepherd, who is really Pluto in
disguise. Suddenly Orpheus appears, not with his tortoise-
shell lyre, but playing the violin and serenading, as he
supposes, a shepherdess with whom he is in love. His mis-
take reveals the fact that each of them is false to the other,,



and a violent quarrel of the most ludicrous description en-
sues, ending in their separation. He goes to his shep-
herdess, she to her shepherd. Shortly afterwards, Aristeus
meets Eurydice in the fields and reveals his real self. By
supernatural power he turns day into night and brings on a
tempest, in the midst of which he bears her away to the in-
fernal regions, but not before she has written upon Orpheus's
hut the fate that has overtaken her. When Orpheus re-
turns he is overjoyed at his loss, but in the midst of his ex-
ultation, Public Opinion appears and commands him to go
to Olympus and demand from Jupiter the restoration of his
wife. Orpheus reluctantly obeys the order.

The second act opens in Olympus, where the gods and
goddesses are enjoying a nap, from which they are awak-
ened by the blasts of Diana's horn. Thereupon much
slanderous gossip is circulated amongst them, the latest
news discussed being Pluto's abduction of Eurydice. Pluto
himself shortly comes in, and is at once taxed by Jupiter
with his unseemly behavior, whereupon Pluto retaliates by
reference to Jupiter's numerous amours with mortals. This
arouses the jealousy of Juno. Venus, with Cupid's assist-
ance, starts a veritable riot, which is suddenly interrupted
by the arrival of Orpheus and his guide, Public Opinion.
He demands that his wife shall be restored to him, and
Jupiter not only consents, but agrees to attend to the matter

The third act finds Eurydice in Hades, carefully guarded
by John Styx. Jupiter is faithful to his promise, and soon
arrives there, but not in his proper person. He appears in
the disguise of a fly, and allows Eurydice to catch him,
after which he reveals himself. When Pluto comes in, he
finds her transformed into a bacchante of the most convivial
sort. Other deities make their appearance, and finally
Orpheus comes sailing up the Styx, playing his violin,
and demanding of Jupiter the fulfilment of his contract.

Jeanne Granier as Eur y dice


Jupiter consents, but makes the condition that he shall
return to his boat, Eurydice following him, and that he
must not look back. Orpheus sets out, but just before
he reaches the boat, the cunning Jupiter launches a
thunderbolt after him, which causes him to turn and lose
Eurydice, much to the disgust of Public Opinion, but
greatly to the edification of Orpheus, who is now at liberty
to return to his shepherdess on the Theban plain.

The most striking numbers in this curious travesty are
the opening aria of Eurydice, as she gathers the flowers
(" La femme dont la cceur reve ") ; the pastoral sung, to
her by Aristeus ( w< Voir, voltiger sous les treilles ") the
fascinating hunting-song of Diana ( " Quand Diane
descend dans la plaine ") ; the characteristic and taking
song of John Styx (" Quand j'etais roi de Beotie "), which
in its way is as striking as the sabre song in " The Grand
Duchess " ; Eurydice's delicate fly-song (" Bel insecte,
a, 1'aile doree ") ; the drinking-song in the infernal regions
("Vive le vin ") ; and Eurydice's vivacious bacchanalian
song which immediately follows it (" J'ai vu le dieu
Bacchus ").


IGNACE JAN PADEREWSKI, the piano virtuoso,
was born in Podolia, Russian Poland, November 6,
1859. He began the study of the piano at the age of
seven with a local teacher, Sowinski, with whom he re-
mained four years. After this he studied with Roguski
in Warsaw ; Urban, Wuerst, and Kiel in Berlin ; and then
made a tour in eastern Europe playing his own com-
positions. At eighteen he was nominated professor in
the Warsaw Conservatory and in 1884 held a professor-
ship at the Conservatory at Strasburg. During that year,
however, he abandoned teaching and decided to become
a virtuoso. He accordingly placed himself under Les-
chetizky in Vienna and after hard study with that famous
teacher for three years made a brilliantly successful debut
before a critical Viennese audience. Since that time he
has devoted himself to concert tours, making his first
appearance in France in 1889, in England in 1890, and
in this country in 1891. "Manru" is his only opera
and only vocal composition of great importance, but his
piano compositions are numerous, including ballads,
nocturnes, legends, minuets, polonaises, sonatas, fugues,
and fantasies on original themes. He has also written
several graceful songs. As a virtuoso his success has
been extraordinary and continuous.


" Manru," opera in three acts, text by Alfred Nossig,
was first produced at the Court Theatre, Dresden, May
29, 1901, with the following cast:


Manru Herr Anthes.

Ulana Frl. Krull.

Hedwig Frl. von Chavanne.

Urok Herr Scheidemantel.

Asa Frl. Kammer.

The first performance in this country was given in New
York, February 14, 1902, with the following cast of the
above characters :

Manru Mr. von Bandrowski.

Ulana Mme. Sembrich.

Hedwig Mme. Homer.

Urok Mr. Bispham.

Asa Miss Fritzi Scheff.

The other parts were cast as follows : Latidmadchen,
Mme. Van Cauteren ; Oros, Mr. Muhlmann ; and jfagu,
Mr. Blass.

The libretto of " Manru " is based upon a Polish novel
by Kraszewski, called "Chata za wsia," or "The Cabin
behind the Wood." The scene is laid in the Tatra
Mountains on the border of Hungary. In a hut in these
mountains lives Manru, a gypsy, who has abandoned his
own people and Asa, his gypsy love, for the sake of
Ulana, daughter of Hedwig and belle of the village, whom
he has married and taken to this lonely spot. She also
has been disowned by her people and their only asso-
ciate is Urok, an ugly dwarf, who is in love with Ulana.
Her mother promises to forgive her if she will leave
Manru, but she refuses. She confesses to Urok that
Manru is growing restless and she fears the Wanderlust
has seized him. At her bidding the dwarf mixes an herb
potion which is to revive Manru's love.

The second act discloses Ulana rocking her child in
the cabin. Manru is at work in his smithy and Urok
is taunting the two. While bitterly lamenting that he
ever left his people and longing to return to his old


wandering ways, he hears Jagu, one of the band, approach-
ing and playing on his violin to bring him back to his band
and to Asa, his old love. Manru rushes to meet him ;
Urok appears bringing the potion which he gives to
Ulana ; Jagu labors with Manru and begs him to return,
but Manru is not yet ready, however, to leave her, and
Jagu departs ; subsequently he drinks the potion and his
love is restored for the time at least.

In the last act the old desire returns stronger than ever.
The potion is no longer powerful, and Manru wanders off
into the mountains to find his people. There he meets
Asa, who urges him to return and make her his wife,
offering him as an inducement the leadership of the tribe
which has been assumed by Oros, his rival. Ulana,
searching for him, finds him going away with Asa, and
throws herself into the lake. As Oros appears, seeking
to punish his rival, who, in the meantime, is seeking for
Ulana, Urok comes up behind Manru and pushes him
into the lake, where, it is to be assumed, his troubles
are ended.

The opera is without overture. The opening scene is
introduced by a brief, plaintive oboe melody preceding a
very tender chorus of peasants (" Windet den Kranz").
Indeed the peasants' choruses, the motive of which is
contained in the recurring phrase, " 1st der Mond am
Himmel voll, dann wird der Zigeuner toll " (" When the
Moon is full the Gypsy runs wild "), constitute the prin-
cipal material of the act, which closes with a wild gypsy
dance, full of fascinating melody and haunting rhythms.

The second act is also without prelude. Its opening
scene is a powerful one, especially in the duet between
Manru, working in his smithy (" Da sitzt sie d'rin und
wiegt das Kind ") and Ulana, during which the latter
sings a charming lullaby (" Schlaf wohl, theures Kind").
The next point of interest is the strange, appealing gypsy

Bispham as Urok

Bandrowski as Manru

Photos, Copyright, Aime Dupont

Sembrich as Ulana


strain played by Jagu upon his violin which is fascinating
in its rhythmic effect. Then follow some long musical
declamations leading up to the love duet closing the act
("Wie im Sonnenscheine ") which is full of passionate

There is a strong symphonic prelude to the last act
descriptive of the tempest raging in Manru's soul which
has much musical as well as poetical significance. The
remaining numbers of the highest importance in this act
are the gypsy march and choruses \ what might be called
Asa's Temptation scene or scenes which abound in Tzigane
music with its marked rhythm and weird effects, in which
the gypsy dulcimer plays its part; and the furious hurly-
burly of the double tragedy at the close, which ends this
wild gypsy orgy of jealousy, hate, and passion.


July 31, 1850. He studied music in- the Con-
servatory, Duprato being his teacher in composition. His
first work was in chansons and other styles of popular
lyrics for the cafes and vaudevilles ; and his first regular
stage work the operetta, " Paille d'Avoine " (1874). His
first great success was " Les Cloches de Corneville "
("The Chimes of Normandy"), which was produced in
1877 anc * had the extraordinary run of 400 nights.
His later works are " Surcouf " (1887) ; " Le Talisman "
(1892); "Pamurge" (1895), and "Mam'zelle Quat'-
sous " (1897). Besides these he has written "The Old
Guard" (1887) and "Paul Jones" (1889), for London,
but " The Chimes of Normandy " is the opera by which
he is best known.

The Chimes of Normandy

"The Chimes of Normandy," opera comique in three
acts, text by Clairville and Gabet, was first produced
at the Folies Dramatiques, Paris, April 19, 1877. The
scene is laid in Normandy in the time of Louis XV.
The first act of this charming opera, one of the most
popular of its class, opens in an old Norman village
during the progress of a fair. Henri, the Marquis
of Villeroi, who has been an exile since childhood, has
just returned. The first scene discloses a number
of village gossips who are retailing scandals about Ser-
polette, the good-for-nothing, who arrives in time to
vindicate herself and retaliate upon the gossips. Gas-
pard, the miser, has arranged to give his niece Germaine


in marriage to the sheriff, who is the chief dignitary in
the village. Germaine, however, objects to the proposi-
tion, since if she marries at all she claims she must marry
Jean Grenicheux, a young fisherman, in gratitude for
saving her life. To escape the marriage she and Jean
become the servants of the Marquis, and are joined by
Serpolette, which is one of the privileges of fair-time.

The second act is occupied with the exposure of the
ghosts in the castle of Villeroi. The Marquis is confident
that there is nothing supernatural about the apparition
which has been seen or the sounds which have been heard
in the various apartments. He therefore introduces his
servants into the castle, and after careful searching dis-
covers that the ghost of Villeroi is old Gaspard, the
miser, who, when he is found out, becomes crazy through
fear of losing treasures which are concealed there.

In the last act the castle is restored to its old splendor,
and the Marquis takes possession as master. He gives
a fete and the villagers are invited, the crazy Gaspard
being among them. Serpolette appears as a grand lady
with Jean as her factotum, some papers found in the
castle indicating she is the lost heiress. After a love
scene between Henri and Germaine, however, Gaspard,
who has recovered his reason, discloses that Germaine,
and not Serpolette, is the rightful heiress and the true
claimant to the title of marchioness. All the complica-
tions are now unravelled. Gaspard's treasure is restored
to its rightful owner. Germaine comes to her rights,
and Serpolette remains with her as her friend.

The music of the opera is delightful throughout, and
has scarcely a dull moment. Its most conspicuous num-
bers are Serpolette's rondo (" In my mysterious His-
tory"); a delightful little fantasie (" Go, little Sailor");
the legend of the chimes (" Alas ! we have lost excellent
Masters ") ; Henri's grand aria (" I have thrice made the


Tour of the World ") ; and his couplets (" Under the
Armor from Top to Toe ") ; Serpolette's sprightly aria
("Viscountess and Marchioness"); the chorus with the
chimes, a most graceful and interesting number closing
the second act ; and in the last act Gaspard's quaint old
Norman song (" We were full Five Hundred Rogues ") ;
Serpolette's rondo ("The Apple's a Fruit full of Vigor");
and Henri's romance (" A Servant, what Matter to me ? ")•


AMILCARE PONCHIELLI was born in Cremona,
l August 31, 1834, and died in Milan, January 16,
1886. His early studies were at the Milan Conservatory
(1 843-1854). After leaving the Conservatory, he was
organist at one of the Cremona churches and later band-
master. After that time, however (1856), he devoted
himself to composition, the only other position held by
him being that of leader in the cathedral at Piacenza,
for which he wrote sacred music. His first stage work
was the opera "I Promessi Sposi," brought out at Cre-
mona in 1856, which was followed by " La Savojarda "
(1861); "Roderico, re de' Goti " (1864); and "La
Stella del Monte " (1867). A revision of his "I Promessi
Sposi" in 1872 met with such success that he secured a
commission for a ballet from La Scala which he filled
with " Le Due Gemelle." produced in the following year.
Several operas followed, all of which proved successful,
among them, " I Lituani " (1874) ; " La Gioconda "
(1876); " II Figliuol Prodigo " (1880), and "Marion De-
lorme" (1885). Ponchielli also wrote several other light
operettas, farces, and ballets, a cantata dedicated to the
memory of Donizetti, a funeral march for Manzoni, and a
hymn for Garibaldi.

La Gioconda

"La Gioconda," opera in four acts, text by Tobia
Garrio, anagram for Arrigo Boito, was first produced


at La Scala, Milan, April 8, 1876, with the following
cast :

Gioconda Sig. Mariani.

Laura Sig. BlANCOLlNi.

La Cieca Sig. Barlandini.

Enzo Sig. Gayarro.

Barnaba Sig. Aldighieri.

The first performance in this country was in New York,
December 20, 1883, under the direction of Signor Vianesi.
The libretto is partly based upon Victor Hugo's drama,
" Angelo, the Tyrant of Syracuse."

The scene is laid in Venice in the seventeenth century.
The first act, called " The Lion's Mouth," opens in the
courtyard of the Ducal Palace, upon a great festivity.
After the lively regatta chorus (" Feste e pane "), and
the departure of the crowd to see the sports, Barnaba,
the Inquisition's spy, is left alone. He sings a mono-
logue (" E danzan su lor tombe "), which contains a
motive that follows him throughout. From this monologue
it appears that he loves Gioconda, who appears at that
instant leading her blind mother, La Cieca, to the
neighboring church. Barnaba conceals himself and a very
dramatic trio (" Figlia, che reggi il tremulo ") follows,
as Gioconda goes in quest of Enzo, a noble whom she
loves. Barnaba seizes her and forces his protestation of
love upon her so violently that the mother is alarmed
and makes an outcry. The crowd returns bearing the
winner of the regatta in triumph and making sport of
Tuane, the loser, who is persuaded by Barnaba that his
defeat was the result of La Cieca's spells. This raises
another disturbance in the midst of which Enzo appears
with La Gioconda. He goes to the rescue of La Cieca
and denounces the crowd as cowards. As they turn
against him he calls his comrades to his assistance, just
as Aloise, one of the chiefs of the Inquisition, appears




^ 3


























with his wife Laura, who is masked. He restores order
and releases La Cieca from the crowd, who gives Laura
her rosary as a mark of her gratitude. During this
scene Laura recognizes Enzo as the proscribed Prince of
Santafior to whom she was once affianced and whom
she still loves. Barnaba informs him that he is known,
that his love for Laura is no secret, and that she will
be on his ship at nightfall — it being Barnaba's pur-
pose to get Enzo out of the way so that he may have
Gioconda to himself. After an expressive air for La
Cieca ("Voce di donna"), a very powerful duet for
Enzo and Barnaba follows (" Pertutti ma non per me ").
The crafty spy warns Aloise that Enzo is about to elope
with Laura and the act closes with Gioconda's lament
over Enzo's perfidy ("Tradita? Ahime!"), with the
Angelus of the monks and people for a background. The
finale is also greatly enlivened by the ballet ("La Fur-
lana ") danced by the revellers.

The second act is called "The Roses," and passes on
board Enzo's vessel and on the banks of the Fusina
lagoon. It opens with a vigorous marinaresca or sea chorus
(" Ha ! he ! ha ! he ! "). Barnaba appears in his boat ap-
proaching the vessel and singing a graceful but significant
barcarole (" Ah ! pescator "), which is followed by the
appearance of Enzo on the deck of his vessel where he
sings a passionate romance of his love for Laura (" Cielo
e mar "). Another boat approaches and Laura, escorted
by Barnaba, steps on deck. Left alone, Laura sings a
prayer for protection (" Stella del marinar "). The jealous
Gioconda meanwhile has stolen on board. An intensely
passionate duet ("E un anatema") follows, during which
Gioconda attempts to stab Laura. She refrains, how-
ever, when Laura lifts the rosary which La Cieca had
given her. Barnaba and Aloise are seen approaching,
but Gioconda gets Laura away before their arrival. An


intensely dramatic scene ensues between Enzo and Gio-
conda at the close of which he sets his vessel afire when
he finds that the Venetian galleys are surrounding him.

The third act, "The House of Gold," opens with a
sombre monologue by Aloise (" Si ! moris-ella de ! "), in
which he determines upon the poisoning of Laura dur-
ing a fete. Laura enters and a long duet follows in which
she is notified she must drink the poison which he
places before her, before some passing gondoliers sing
the last notes of their serenade. He leaves and Gio-
conda enters bringing with her a narcotic, which she
gives to Laura, at the same time transferring the poison
to her own phial. Aloise returns and observing the empty
bottle thinks his revenge is complete. The scene changes
to a fete and the brilliant, graceful ballet of " The Hours "
is introduced. Enzo appears, believing Barnaba's story
that Laura is dead, and in a finale of great power dis-
closes his love for her and at the same time is threatened
with Aloise's vengeance.

The fourth act, called "The Orfano Canal," opens in
the vestibule of a ruined palace, Gioconda's home. By
her side are lighted lanterns, poison, and daggers. Two
street singers enter bearing the sleeping Laura, whom they
place upon a bed. Gioconda is tempted to take Laura's
life but resists. Enzo comes in and supposing Laura to
be dead he is about to wreak his vengeance upon Gio-
conda when she wakes and reveals to him who has saved
her. The trio of parting between them ("Sulle tue
mani") is intensely dramatic, and the intensity increases
to the close, making a climax of extraordinary power.
Gioconda, pretending to keep her word to Barnaba, ar-
rays herself in her gayest attire and then stabs herself,
with the words, "I have sworn to be thine. Take me,
I am thine." The furious wretch, balked of his prey,
exclaims : " Ah ! stay thee ! T is a jest ! Well then, thou


2 55

shalt hear this, and die ever damned ! Last night thy
mother did offend me. I have strangled her. She hears
me not ! "

In "La Gioconda " the composer has departed from
all the conventional Italian methods and his music clearly
shows Wagner's influence. It is a sombre theme that
dominates the chapters of horrors and the music shares
the nature of the libretto, though the score contains
many attractive scenes and there are passages for the
voice of much brilliancy as well as power.


GIACOMO PUCCINI, descended from a long line
of musicians, and one of a family of six, all devoted
to music, was born at Lucca, Italy, in 1858. He began
his musical studies at an exceedingly early age and after
a time his talent manifested itself so conspicuously that
the Queen of Italy granted him a pension sufficient to
pay for his tuition at the Milan Conservatory, from which
he was graduated with high honors — his graduation of-
fering being a Sinfonia Capriccio for orchestra, which
proved a great success. Puccini was a pupil of Ponchielli
in the Conservatory and at his suggestion composed the
one act opera, "Le Villi" (1884). It was written for
a prize offered by a Milan publisher but failed to obtain
it because of its almost unreadable caligraphy, but with
Boito's assistance it was produced and made a great
success. "Le Villi" was followed by "Edgar," pro-
duced at La Scala, April 21, 1889, but it did not add
to his popularity. " Manon Lescaut " was his next opera,
and showed stronger work. This in turn was followed
by "La Boheme " (1896) and "La Tosca " (1900).,
Both these operas have proved very successful. "La
Boheme" is unquestionably his masterpiece and deserves
to be heard more frequently than it has been, as it is
one of the most musical works in the modern Italian

La Boheme
" La Boheme," opera in four acts, text by Giacosa
and Illica, was first produced at the Theatre Regio, Turin,
February 1, 1896, and in English, as "The Bohemians,"

Saleza as Rodolfo

Copyright, Aime ' Dupont

Group from " La Boheme"


by the Carl Rosa English opera troupe, at Manchester,
England, April 22, 1897. As ft would be next to im-
possible to make a connected libretto from Murger's famous
realistic " La Vie de Boheme," the librettists have selected
four scenes, which introduce the romantic poet Rodolphe,
struggling with love and poverty ; Marcel, the optimistic
artist ; Schaunard, the eccentric musician ; Colline, the
cheerful philosopher; the coquettish Musette, and Mimi,
the pathetic little grisette. It is only a few chapters in
their Bohemian life that have been used, but rarely has

Online LibraryGeorge P. (George Putnam) UptonThe standard operas: their plots, their music, and their composers → online text (page 18 of 37)