George P. (George Putnam) Upton.

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

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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



"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 Heav-
ens " contains five numbers, a prelude, and chorus of the
mystic choir ; instrumental scherzo, preluding the appear-
ance 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 peas-
ants 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 (Mephis-
topheles in disguise), whose identity is disclosed by a
motive from the prologue. Faust shudders at his pres-
ence, 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 Mephis-
topheles out with a shriek. When 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 an allegretto quartet
("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 num-
bers 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 (" La' 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 as Marguerite falls
and dies, 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

Marie Roze as Helen


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 ac-
companied by Pantalis. The opening duet for the latter
(" La luna immobile ") is one of exceeding grace and love-
liness, 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 re-
flecting upon the events of his unsatisfactory life, and
contemplating a happier existence in heaven. Mephis-
topheles is still by his side as the tempter, offers him his
cloak, and urges him to fly again. The heavenly trum-
pets which rang through the prologue are again heard,
and the celestial choirs are singing. Enraged, Mephis-
topheles 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 or-
chestration is bold and independent in character, and
the voice-parts are very striking in their adaptation to
the dramatic requirements.


IGNAZ BRULL, who is known both as pianist and
composer, was born at Prossnitz, Moravia, Novem-
ber 7, 1846. He first came into notice by his piano
concertos and some minor works, among them a serenade,
for orchestra, which were played in 1864. He made sev-
eral concert tours as a pianist, playing his own composi-
tions with great success. From 1872 to 1878 he was
regularly engaged in teaching at the Horak Institute in
Vienna. His first opera, " Der Bettler von Samarkand "
(1864), was not very successful, but his second, " Das
Goldene Kreuz"("The Golden Cross "), speedily became
popular in Austria, Germany, and England, Carl Rosa bring-
ing it out in the latter country. Among others of his operas
are "Der Landfriede " (1877), " Bianca " (1879), Koni-
gin Mariette" (1883), "Das Steinerne Herz " (1888),
"Gringoire" (1892), "Schach dem Konig " (1893), and
"Der Husar" (1898). He has also written several con-
certos and sonatas for piano and violin, besides many

The Golden Cross

"Das Goldene Kreuz"("The Golden Cross"), two-act
opera, text by Mosenthal, was first produced in Berlin,
December 22, 1875. The scene is laid at the village of
Melun, not far from Paris, and its time is 181 2 and 1815.
The libretto is an adaptation of the French comedy,
"Croix d' Or," by Brazier and Melville.

The story of " The Golden Cross " is quite simple. In
the opening scene, Nicholas, a mill-owner in the village, is


summoned by Bombardon, the sergeant, to join the army,
— his name being on the conscription list, — upon the very
day fixed for his marriage to his cousin Theresa. His sister
Christine vainly implores some of the young men of the
village, who have been protesting their love for her, to go
as his substitute, and offers her hand to any one who will
go to the war and bring back the golden cross which she
takes from her neck. No one is willing to go and Nicho-
las is about to follow Bombardon, when the latter declares
he has found a substitute, a young French nobleman, who
will accept her cross upon her conditions. Three years
are supposed to have elapsed when the second act opens
at the same locality. Among those at the tavern is
Goutrau l'Ancre, who is recovering from a serious wound
received in the war. Christine has tenderly nursed him
through his long illness and fallen in love with him, but
she feels it her duty to await the return of the unknown
substitute with her cross. At last he informs her he is
the substitute but he is unable to produce the cross, as
he gave it to a comrade, when he thought he was dying,
to return to her. Bombardon appears at this juncture,
and, supposing Goutrau to be dead, shows the cross and
jestingly demands her hand ; upon hearing Goutrau's voice,
however, Bombardon bears witness to the truth of his
comrade's statement and all ends happily.

As the dialogues are spoken the musical numbers can
be readily denoted. The first scene opens with a lively
and graceful chorus of village girls congratulating Theresa
upon her wedding day (" Rosmasin mit bunten Ban-
dern"), which is followed by a romanza for Christine,
("Die Eltern Starben friihe"), leading up to a very
pretty duet for Theresa and Christine (" Man soli's nicht
verschevoren "). The principal number in the third
scene is an effective duet for Bombardon and Goutrau,
(" Halt, Front, Gewehr bei Fuss "), and in the fourth, a


song for Goutrau with its haunting refrain, " Jugendgluck,
Jugendtraum," which is reproduced several times in the
progress of the work. A tender and impassioned quintet
for Christine, Theresa, Goutrau, Nicholas, and Bombardon
is in strong contrast with the lively rataplan song of Bom-
bardon, which follows ("Bom, bom, bom, trara, trara").
In the finale of the first act there is a graceful waltz meas-
ure, the soldiers sing a spirited rataplan behind the scenes
as the recruits march off, and the curtain falls as Goutrau
repeats his farewell refrain.

The second act opens with a duet for Theresa and
Nicholas (" Schau, schau, mein Mannchen "), followed by
a pretty aria for Theresa (" Der Mauner muss man sich
dressiren ") and a romanza for Goutrau (" Nein, nein, ich
will ihr Herz nicht zwingen "), these in turn followed by
the charming supper-table quartet ("Da ist sie, zu
Tische ! "). The fourth scene opens with one of the most
effective numbers in the opera, a love duet for Christine
and Goutrau (" Durf ich's glauben "), which beginning
softly and tenderly closes with a fine climax. The remain-
ing numbers of importance are Bombardon's fine song
(" Wie anders war es "), the repetition of Goutrau's delight-
ful refrain, the chorus of rejoicing, and Bombardon's
rataplan summons to the altar —

" Allons ! Vorwarts, junges Paar !
Grenadier ! — Marsch, Zum Altar !
Bom plan, plan, trara, trara."

The story is simple and charming and the music is of
a character which admirably fits it.


CHERUBINI was born in Florence, September 14,
1760, and died March 15, 1842. His musical talent was
displayed at an early age, and at sixteen he had already
composed many works for the church, which made him
well known. By the aid of royal patronage he went to
Bologna in 1778 and studied polyphony, acquiring such
proficiency that he soon excelled nearly every musician of
his time. It was not until 1780 that his first opera,
" Quinto Fabio," appeared, and for the next fourteen years
he was almost continuously engaged in operatic compo-
sition. He did a great work for the development of opera
in France and was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor
by Napoleon and afterwards elected a member of the In-
stitute under Louis XVIII. In 1822 he became Director
of the Paris Conservatoire. The catalogue of his works is
a long one, including both vocal and instrumental, secular
and sacred music. His most important operas are " Dem-
ophon" (1788); "Lodoiska" (1791) ; "Ali Baba "
(1794) ; "Medea" (1797) ; "Anacreon" (1803) ; " Fan-
iska " (1806) ; and " Les deux journ£es " (1800), known
in Germany as " Der Wassertrager," and in England as
"The Water Carrier." It is this opera which, in Bee-
thoven's estimation, placed Cherubini at the head of all
living operatic composers.

Les deux journees

" Les deux journeys," popularly known in England and
in this country as " The Water Carrier," opera comique in
three acts, text by Bouilly, was first produced in Paris,


January 16, 1800. The first scene opens at the house of
Michele, a water carrier of Paris, whose son, Antonio, is
about to wed Angeline, a young peasant lass living at Ge-
nesee. Michele has a daughter, Marcelline, and from
motives of gratitude for past benefits is interested in a Count
Armand, who is persecuted by Cardinal Mazarin. The
city gates are watched so that he shall not escape, and no
one is allowed to leave without a pass. As Michele has
passes for his son and daughter, he devises a plan for the
escape of Armand and his wife Costanza. He induces
Marcelline to give up going to her brother's wedding and
arranges that Costanza shall personate her and get out of
the city, escorted by Antonio. Costanza effects her de-
parture with little trouble, and then Michele has to arrange
the union of Armand with his wife. The Count is carried
past the gates in Michele's water-barrel, but at one time
during the trip he has to hide in a hollow tree. When the
coast is clear it is planned that Costanza shall clap her hands
thrice as a signal to her husband. Soldiers, however, con-
cealed among the rocks, seize Costanza, whereupon Ar-
mand rushes to her rescue and confronts her assailants
with a brace of pistols. As the murder now is out, Armand
proclaims himself, and is about to be carried away when
Michele comes forward with the news that the persecution
has ceased and that the Count's title, estates, and liberty
are restored to him.

The principal numbers in the first act are the romanza
for Antonio (" Da casa il princo, mio signor ") ; the aria
("Deh so m'ascolti ") in Michele's couplet ; the aria for
Costanza (" No se donessi "), and the trio for Armand, Cos-
tanza, and Michele (" O mio liberator"), one of the most
beautiful numbers in the opera, followed by a charming
duet for Armand and Costanza. The second act opens
with an intensely dramatic ensemble for Costanza, Antonio,
and the soldiers (" Via ! cedete ulF evidenza "), which is one


of those masterpieces in dramatic writing for which
Cherubini was famous. The trio in the finale of this act,
with its effective march, is also very dramatic. The con-
spicuous numbers of the last act are the Wedding Chorus
(" La pastorella "), which is full of rustic color and fresh-
ness, and merges into a picturesque soldiers' chorus
(" Nulla pieta de omai "), the finale of the act reaching
its climax in a brilliant quartet and double chorus.

" Les deux journees " is designated by some writers as
grand opera, but from its general character and especially
from the use of spoken dialogue it is more correct to class
it as opera comique. It is a work characterized by sim-
plicity in treatment and absence of all sensation, great
dignity, and strong dramatic effect, and by exceedingly
rich instrumentation, although Cherubini had not the ad-
vantage of modern resources. Its beautiful overture is still
a frequent number on orchestral programmes. It is to
be regretted that the whole work is not more frequently


WALTER J. DAMROSCH, son of Dr. Leopold Dam-
rosch, was born in Breslau, Silesia, January 30,
1862, and inherited musical ability from his father, with
whom he studied, as well as with Rischbieter, Draeseke,
Von Inten, Bockelmann, and Max Pinner. He also took
lessons in the art of conducting from his father and Von
Biilow. He is conductor of the New York Oratorio and
Symphony Society, founded the New York Symphony
Orchestra in 1892, and the Damrosch Opera Company in
1894. He occupies a prominent position before the pub-
lic at present as a conductor, and is also performing a very
important educational work by his lectures and piano illus-
trations of Wagner's operas. His most important compo-
sitions are the opera, " The Scarlet Letter," and the
"Manila Te Deum." He has also written several songs
which are great favorites in the concert room.

The Scarlet Letter

" The Scarlet Letter," opera in three acts, text by
George Parsons Lathrop, was first produced in Boston,
Mass., February 10, 1896, with the following cast of the
principal characters :

Hester Pryiine Johanna Gadski.

Arthur Dimmesdale Barron Berthold.

Gov. Bellingham Conrad Behrens.

Rev.JoJm Wilson Gerhard Steiiman.

Roger Chilli?igworth Wilhelm Merten.

The text is an original poem upon the theme developed
by Hawthorne in his well-known romance, " The Scarlet


Letter." Mr. Lathrop himself calls it a poem " after
Hawthorne's romance," though many liberties are taken
with the original story, especially in the tragic and, in some
respects, inconsistent denouement. The first act dis-
closes Hester brought from prison, amid the jeers of the
crowd, her condemnation to wear the scarlet letter " A,"
and her unwitting disclosure of her lover as he is brought
fainting out of church. The second act is occupied with
interviews between the governor and Chillingworth and
the two lovers, who in the finale make their plans to escape
to England. These plans are frustrated in the third act,
which is mainly devoted to the tragedy. The minister
ascends the pillory with Hester, makes his confession and
dies while Hester, declaring "Thou shalt not go alone,"
poisons herself and dies to the melody of the final chorus,
" The Flower of Sacrifice," sung by those who have just
been jeering her.

In " The Scarlet Letter " Mr. Damrosch has made the
first attempt, since the days of Fry and Bristow, to write
a serious work upon the lines of grand opera, and he has
measurably succeeded. Much of the music indeed is so
effective that it is to be regretted he has not made further
attempts in the same direction. The most successful num-
bers are the Brook solo, followed by the May Day madrigal,
sung by the newly arrived Pilgrims at the opening of the
second act ; the chorus of Pilgrims interrupted by the
Shipmaster's song — one of the best of modern sea songs ;
the scenes between Hester and Chillingworth, and at the
pillory, with the final chorus, " Hush, hush, their Souls
are fled," in the third act.


EGINALD DE KOVEN, the American composer,
was born at Middletown, Conn., April 3, 1859. He
was educated in Europe and took his degree at Oxford in
1879. Meanwhile he had studied the piano, and after his
graduation went to Germany where he studied the piano
and harmony with various teachers ; to perfect himself in
his work he also studied singing with Vanuccini in Italy
and operatic composition with Genee and Delibes. The
most of his time has been devoted to operettas and in this
line he has been very successful. The best of them are
"The Begum" (1887); "Don, Quixote" (1889);
"RobinHood" (1889) ; "The Algerian" (1893) ; "Rob
Roy" (1894); "Maid Marian" (1901); and "Happy
Land " (1905).

Robin Hood

"Robin Hood," comic opera in three acts, text by
Harry B. Smith, was first produced in Chicago, June 9,
1890. The scene is laid in England, time of Richard the
First. The first act opens in the market-place of Notting-
ham, where the villagers are holding a fair and at the same
time celebrating May Day with a blithe chorus, for Robin
Hood's name is often associated with that day. The three
outlaws, Allan-a-Dale, Little John, and Will Scarlet, enter,
and most lustily sing the praises of their free life in Sher-
wood Forest, the villagers joining in chorus. The tantara
changes to a graceful and yet hilarious dance chorus ("A
Morris Dance must you entrance "), sung fortissimo. The
second number is a characteristic and lively song by Friar


Tuck, in which he offers at auction vension, ale, and home-
spun, followed by the third number, a humorous pastoral,
the milkmaid's song with chorus ("When Chanticleer
crowing"). This leads up to the entrance of Robin
Hood in a spirited chorus (" Come the Bowmen in Lin-
coln Green"), in which the free life of the forest is still
further extolled. Another and still more spirited scene
introduces Maid Marian, which is followed by an ex-
pressive and graceful duet for Maid Marian and Robin
Hood ("Though it was within this Hour we met"),
closing in waltz time. This is followed by the Sheriff's
buffo song with chorus ("I am the merry Sheriff of
Nottingham"), and this in turn by a trio introduced by
the Sheriff ("When a Peer makes Love to a Damsel
fair "), which, after the entrance of Sir Guy and his luck-
less wooing, closes in a gay waltz movement (" Sweet-
heart, my own Sweetheart"). In the finale Robin Hood
demands that the Sheriff shall proclaim him Earl. The
Sheriff declares that by his father's will he has been disin-
herited, and that he has the documents to show that before
Robin Hood's birth his father was secretly married to a
young peasant girl, who died when the Earl's first child
was born. He further declares that he reared the child,
and that he is Sir Guy, the rightful heir of Huntington.
Maid Marian declares she will suppress the King's com-
mand and not accept Sir Guy's hand, and Robin Hood
vows justice shall be done when the King returns from the

The second act opens with a brisk hunting-chorus (" Oh !
cheerily soundeth the Hunter's Horn "), sung by Allan-a-
Dale, Little John, Scarlet, and the male chorus, in the
course of which Scarlet tells the story of the tailor and the
crow, set to a humming accompaniment. This is followed
by Little John's unctuous apostrophe to the nut-brown ale
("And it's will ye quaff with me, my Lads"). The next.



number is a tinker's song ("'Tis merry Journeymen we
are "), with characteristic accompaniment, followed by an
elaborate sextet ("Oh, see the Lambkins play"). Maid
Marian sings a joyous forest song (" In Greenwood fair "),
followed by Robin Hood's serenade ("A Troubadour sang
to his Love "), and a quartet in which Maid Marian declares
her love for Robin Hood and Allan-a-Dale vows revenge.
In the finale, opening in waltz time, the Sheriff is placed in
the stocks by the outlaws, who jeer at him while Dame
Durden flouts him, but he is finally rescued by Sir Guy and
his archers. The outlaws in turn find themselves in
trouble, and Maid Marian and Robin Hood are in

The last act opens with a vigorous armorer's song (" Let
Hammer on Anvil ring "), followed by a pretty romance,
("The Legend of the Chimes "), with a ding-dong accom-
paniment. A graceful duet follows (" There will come a
Time"), in which Robin Hood and Maid Marian plight
their troth. In strong ^contrast with this, Annabel, Dame
Durden, Sir Guy, the Sheriff, and Friar Tuck indulge in a
vivacious quintet (" When Life seems made of Pains and
Pangs, I sing my Too-ral-loo-ral-loo "). A jolly country
dance and chorus (" Happy Day, Happy Day ") intro-
duce the finale, in which Maid Marian is saved by the
timely arrival of Robin Hood at the church door with the
King's pardon, leaving him free to marry.

Maid Marian

" Maid Marian," comic opera in three acts, text by
Harry B. Smith, was first produced at Chestnut Street
Opera House, Philadelphia, Pa., November 4, 1901. The
scene is laid in England and Palestine, time of Richard
the First. The story of " Maid Marian " introduces most
of the familiar characters in " Robin Hood " and some
new ones and is intended as a sequel to the latter opera.


The plot begins at the point where Maid Marian and Robin
Hood were betrothed. Robin has joined the Crusaders
and left Marian on the eve of the wedding. He also
leaves a letter for Marian in Little John's charge, directing
her in case of trouble to apply to him for help. This letter
is stolen by the Sheriff of Nottingham, who substitutes for
it a forged missive calculated to make her believe that
Robin is false. The first act closes with the arrival of
Little John and the forest outlaws, who leave for the holy
war. Marian joins them to seek for Robin.

The second act opens in the camp of the Crusaders,
near the city of Acre. Maid Marian has been captured by
the Saracens and sold into slavery, but is rescued by Robin
Hood. Then the Sheriff of Nottingham and Guy of
Gisborne, the latter still intent upon marrying Marian,
appear in the disguise of merchants and betray the camp

Online LibraryGeorge P. (George Putnam) UptonThe standard operas: their plots, their music, and their composers → online text (page 5 of 37)