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George P. (George Putnam) Upton.

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

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into the hands of the Saracens. Dame Durden's encounter
with the Sheriff and Friar Tuck's antics as an odalisque
add merriment to the story.

In the last act all the principals are back in England
and the scene opens with a Christmas revel in Huntington
Castle. Robin thwarts all the schemes of the Sheriff, comes
into his rights, and is reunited to Maid Marian.

While the story lacks in interest as compared with that
of " Robin Hood," the music gains in dramatic power and
seriousness of purpose, and at the same time is full of life
and vivacity. The overture is notable for being in genuine
concert form, — the first instance of the kind in comic
opera for many years past, — and thus naturally sets the
pace, as it were, for the opera, and gives the clew to its
musical contents. The most noticeable numbers in the
first act are the Cellarer's Toast, " The Cellar is dark and
the Cellar is deep," a rollicking song for Scarlet, Friar
Tuck, and chorus ; the charmingly melodious " Song of
the Falcon," " Let one who will go hunt the Deer," for



68 THE STANDARD OPERAS

Maid Marian ; the Sheriff's song, " I am the Sheriff mild
and good," which is always popular; and a delightful
madrigal, the quintet, " Love may come and Love may
go." The second act contains many pleasing and charac-
teristic songs, among them "The Monk and the Magpie,"
sung by Scarlet and chorus ; the " Song of the Outlaw," a
spirited ballad by Robin Hood ; the Sheriff's serenade,
a popular tune, " When a Man is in Love " ; " The Snake
Charmer's Song," by Maid Marian; and the vigorous
" Song of the Crusader " by Robin ; but the two most
effective numbers are a graceful song, " Tell me again,
Sweetheart," sung by Allan-a-Dale, and the duet in waltz
manner, " True Love is not for a Day," by Robin and
Marian. The third act is largely choral, the introductory
Christmas carolling and dance rhythms being especially
effective, and it contains one of the best solo numbers in
the work, the dainty song with chorus, " Under the Mistle-
toe Bough." The music throughout is dramatic, strong,
and well written. While the opera has not been as popu-
lar as its predecessor, yet the music is of a higher order,
and occasionally approaches grand opera in its breadth
and earnestness.



DELIBES

1E0 DELIBES, the French composer, was born at St.
j 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 GrifTard " 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 he after-
wards made his specialty. His first ballet, " La Source,"
was produced at the Opera, November 12, 1865, and de-
lighted all Paris. It was followed by a divertissement for
the revival of Adam's " Corsaire " (1867), the ballet
"Coppelia " (1870), a three-act opera, " Le Roi l'a dit "
(1873), an d the exquisite ballet in three acts and five
tableaux, "Sylvia" (1876), with the music of which
Theodore Thomas has made American audiences familiar.
His opera " Lakme " was written in 1879.

Lakme

The romantic opera, " Lakme," written in 1879, was first
performed in this country by the American Opera Com-
pany 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



70 THE STANDARD OPERAS

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,
and evidently also to await developments when she returns.
Lakme soon approaches in her boat, and there is a des-
perate case of love at first sight. Their demonstrations
of affection are 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 retain-
ing 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 alle-
giance to his queen, and possibly the remembrance of his
engagement to a young English girl, prove stronger J;han
his love for Lakme. The latter returns, discovers his faith-
lessness, 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



DE*LIBES



7*



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 em-
bellished aria with tinkling accompaniment, which will al-
ways be a favorite. The recognition follows; and the
remaining numbers of importance are an impassioned song
by Gerald ("Ah! then 'tis 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 denoue-
ment. 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 remem-
bers "), followed by a pretty three-part chorus in the dis-
tance and Lakme's dying measures, "To me the fairest



72 THE STANDARD OPERAS

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, refine-
ment, and genuine poetical effect.



DONIZETTI

GAETANO DONIZETTI was born at Bergamo, Italy,
September 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 " (18 18), which was soon followed
by a second, " II 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. "II Furioso," " Parisina," "Torquato Tasso,"
" Lucrezia Borgia," and " Gemma di Vergi," rapidly fol-
lowed one another. In 1835 he brought out "Marino
Faliero," in Paris, but its success was small. Ample com-
pensation was made, however, when in the same year
" Lucia " appeared and was received with acclamations of
delight. In 1840 he revisited Paris and produced "II
Poliuto," "La Fille du Regiment," and "La Favorita."
Leaving Paris he visited Rome, Milan, and Vienna, bring-
ing out " Linda di Chamouni " in the latter city. Return-
ing 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



74 THE STANDARD OPERAS

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 ab-
straction 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 Regi-
ment "), opera comique in two acts, words by Bayard and
St. Georges, was first produced at the Opera Comique,
Paris, February 11, 1840, with Mme. Anna Thillon in the
role of Marie. Its first performance in English was at the
Surrey Theatre, London, December 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 prin-
cipal > interest centering in the charming nature of the
story and its humorous situations, which afford capital op-
portunities 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 bat-
tle, by Sergeant Sulpice. On her person was affixed a let-
ter 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 Birth-
place "), in which she tells the story of her life, and by the
duet with Sulpice, known the world over as " The Rata-
plan," which is of a very animated, stirring, and martial




Jenny Lind as Marie



DONIZETTI 75

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 Ber-
kenfeld 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 un-
suitable person to be connected in any capacity with her
noble family. Marie sings a touching adieu to her com-
rades ("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 Mar-
chioness desires Marie to rehearse a romance, "The
Light of Early Day was breaking," which she is to
sing to them. Before she finishes it she and the Ser-
geant break out into the rollicking Rataplan and go
through with the military evolutions, to the horror of the



76 THE STANDARD OPERAS

Marchioness. While regret for the absent Tony keeps her
in a sad mood, she is suddenly cheered up by the sound of
drums and fifes, announcing the approach of soldiers.
They are the gallant Twenty-first, with Tony, now a
colonel, at their head. He sues once more for Marie's
hand. The soldiers also put in a spirited choral appeal,
"We have come, our Child to free." The Marchioness
again refuses. Tony proposes an elopement, to which
Marie, in resentment at her aunt's cruelty, consents. To
thwart their plans, the Marchioness reveals to Marie that
early in life she had been secretly married to an officer of
lower family position than her own, and that this officer
was Marie's father. Unable to dispute the wishes of her
mother, she renounces Tony in an agony of grief. At last
Marie's sorrow arouses old associations in the mind of
the Marchioness, and she consents to the union of Tony
and Marie.

While the music of the opera is light, it is none the less
very attractive, and the work is nearly always popular
when performed by good artists, owing to the comedy
strength of the three leading parts, Marie, Tony, and the
Sergeant. The role of the heroine, small as it is, has
always been a favorite one with such great artists as Jenny
Lind, Patti, Sontag, and Albani, while in this country Miss
Kellogg and Mrs. Richings-Bernard made great successes
in the part. The latter singer, indeed, and her father,
whose personation of the Sergeant was very remarkable,
were among the first to perform the work in the United
States.

La Favortta

" La Favorita," grand opera in four acts, words by Royer
and Waetz, the subject taken from the French drama,
" Le Comte de Commingues," was first produced at the
Academie, Paris, December 2, 1840, with Mme. Stolz as
Leonora, Duprez as Fernando, and Baroelhst as Balthasar.



DONIZETTI 77

Its success in England, where it was first produced Feb-
uary 16. 1847, was made by Grisi and Mario. The scene
of the opera is laid in Spain, and the first act opens in the
monastery of St. James, of Compostella, where the young
novice, Fernando, is about to take his vows. Before
the rites take place he is seized with a sudden passion
for Leonora, a beautiful maiden who has been worshipping
in the cloisters. He confesses his love to Balthasar, the
superior, who orders him to leave the monastery and go
out into the world. Leonora, meanwhile, is beloved by
Alphonso, king of Castile, who has provided her a secret
retreat on the island of St. Leon. Though threatened by
the pontiff with excommunication, he has resolved to repu-
diate his queen, in order that he may carry out his inten-
tion of marrying the beautiful Leonora. To her asylum a
bevy of maidens conducts Fernando. He declares his
passion for her and finds it reciprocated. He urges
her to fly with him, but she declares it impossible, and,
giving him a commission in the army signed by the King,
urges him to go to the wars and win honors for her
sake.

In the second act Balthasar, in the name of the pontiff,
visits their retreat and pronounces the papal anathema
upon the guilty pair. The same curse is threatened to all
the attendants unless Leonora is driven from the King,
and the act closes with their vengeful menaces.

In the third act Fernando returns victorious from the
war with the Moors. Already beginning to fear the result
of the papal malediction, and having learned of Leonora's
passion for the victor, Alphonso heaps rewards upon him,
even to the extent of giving him Leonora's hand. Fer-
nando, who is ignorant of her past relations to the King,
eagerly accepts the proffer ; but Leonora, in despair, sends
her attendant, Inez, to inform him of the real nature of
the situation and implore his forgiveness. The King



78 THE STANDARD OPERAS

intercepts her, and the marriage takes place at once,
Fernando not discovering Leonora's shame until it is
revealed by the courtiers, who avoid him. He flies from
the world to the monastery once more for shelter and con-
solation, followed by Leonora, who dies in his arms after
she has obtained forgiveness.

The music of the work is very dramatic in its character,
some of the finales being the strongest Donizetti has
written. In the first act there is a beautifully melodious
aria ("Una Vergine"), in which Fernando describes to
Balthasar the vision of Leonora which had appeared to
him at his orisons, and a very tender duet (" Deh, vanne !
deh, parti") between Fernando and Leonora, in which
they sorrowfully part from each other. In the second act
the King has a very passionate aria, where he curses his
courtiers for leaguing against him at Rome, followed by a
very dramatic duet with Leonora ("Ah ! 1' alto ardor").
The third act contains the beautiful aria, " O mio Fer-
nando ! " which is a favorite with all contraltos. It is
remarkable for its warmth and richness, as well as its dra-
matic spirit, and the act closes with a concerted finale of
splendid power, in which Fernando breaks his sword, and
once more Balthasar anathematizes the King. The fourth
act is the most beautiful of all in its music and the most
powerful in dramatic effect. The chorus of monks in the
first scene (" Scaviam 1' asilo ") is remarkable for its
religious character and solemnity. In the third scene
occurs one of the tenderest and loveliest romanzas ever
written (" Spirto gentil "), which Donizetti transferred to
this work from his opera, " Le Due d'Albe," which had
not been performed, the libretto of which was originally
written by Scribe for Rossini. The closing duet between
Fernando and Leonora is full of pathos and beauty, and
forms a fitting close to an act which, in one sense at least,
is an inspiration, as the whole act was composed in four



DONIZETTI 79

hours, — a proof of the marvellous ease and facility with
which Donizetti wrote.



Don Pasquale

" Don Pasquale," opera buffa in three acts, was first
produced at the Theatre des Italiens, in Paris, January 4,
1843, with the following extraordinary cast :

Norina Mme. Grisi.

Ernesto Sig. Mario.

Dr. Malatesta Sig. Tamburini.

Don Pasquale Sig. Lablache.

The scene of this brilliant and gay little opera is laid
in Rome. Don Pasquale is in a rage with Ernesto, his
nephew, because he will not marry to suit him. Dr. Mala-
testa, his friend and physician, who is also very much
attached to the nephew, contrives a plot in the latter's
interest. He visits the Don, and urges him to marry a
lady, pretending that she is his sister, though in reality she
is Norina, with whom Ernesto is in love. He then calls
upon Norina, and lets her into the secret of the plot, and
instructs her how to play her part. She is to consent to
the marriage contract, and then so harass the Don that he
will not only be glad to get rid of her, but will give his
consent to her marriage with Ernesto. The second act
opens in Don Pasquale's house, where Ernesto is bewail-
ing his fate. The Don enters, magnificently dressed, and
ready for the marriage. Norina appears with Malatesta,
•and feigns reluctance to enter into the contract ; but when
the notary arrives she consents to sign. No sooner, how-
ever, has she signed it than she drops her assumed
modesty. Ernesto, who is present, is bewildered at the
condition of affairs, but is kept quiet by a sign from the
Doctor. Norina refuses all the Don's amatory demon-
strations, and declares Ernesto shall be her escort. She



80 THE STANDARD OPERAS

summons the servants, and lays out a scheme of house-
keeping so extravagant that the Don is enraged, and
declares he will not pay the bills. She insists he shall, for
she is now mistress of the house. In the third act we find
Norina entertaining milliners and modistes. Don Pas-
quale enters, and learning that she is going to the theatre
forbids it, which leads to a quarrel, during which Norina
boxes his ears. As she leaves the room she drops a letter,
the reading of which adds the pangs of jealousy to his
other troubles. The Doctor at this juncture happens in
and condoles with him. The Don insists that Norina
shall quit his house at once. In the next scene he taxes
her with having a lover concealed in the house, and orders
her to leave. The Doctor counsels him to let his nephew
marry Norina ; and in the course of explanations the Don
discovers that the Doctor's sister and Norina are one and
the same person, and that the marriage was a sham. He
is only too glad of an escape to quarrel with the Doctor
for his plot, and the young couple are speedily united, and
have the old man's blessing.

The charm of the opera lies in its comic situations, and
the gay, cheerful music with which they are illustrated. It
is replete with humor and spirit, and flows along in such a
bright stream that it is almost impossible to cull out special
numbers, though it contains two duets and a quartet which
are of more than ordinary beauty, and the exquisite sere-
nade in the last act, "Com' e gentil," which has been
heard on almost every concert stage of the world, and still
holds its place in universal popular esteem. For brilliant
gayety it stands in the front rank of all comic operas,
though Donizetti was but three weeks in writing it. It is
said that when it was in rehearsal its fate was uncertain.
The orchestra and singers received it very coldly; but
when the rehearsal was over, Donizetti merely shrugged
his shoulders and remarked to his friend, M. Dormoy, the



DONIZETTI 81

publisher : " Let them alone ; they know nothing about it.
I know what is the matter with 'Don Pasquale.' Come
with me." They went to the composer's house. Rum-
maging among a pile of manuscripts, Donizetti pulled out
a song. "This is what 'Don Pasquale' wants," he said.
"Take it to Mario and tell him to learn it at once."
Mario obeyed, and when the opera was performed sang it
to the accompaniment of a tambourine, which Lablache
played behind the scenes. The opera was a success at
once, and no song has ever been more popular.

In strange contrast with the gay humor of " Don Pas-
quale," it may be stated that in the same year Donizetti
wrote the mournful "Don Sebastien," which has been
described as " a funeral in five acts." Crowest, in his
"Anecdotes," declares that the serenade is suggestive of
Highland music, and that many of his other operas are
Scottish in color. He accounts for this upon the theory
that the composer was of Scotch descent, his grandfather
having been a native of Perthshire, by the name of Izett,
and that his father, who married an Italian lady, was
Donald Izett. The change from Donald Izett to Doni-
zetti was an easy one. The story, however, is of doubtful
authenticity.

Lucia di Lammermoor

" Lucia di Lammermoor," opera seria in three acts, words
by Cammarano, was first produced at Naples in 1835, with
Mme. Persiani and Sig. Duprez, for whom the work was
written, in the principal roles of Lucia and Edgardo. Its
first presentation at Paris was August 10, 1839 ; in London,
April 5, 1838; and in English, at the Princess Theatre,
London, January 19, 1843. The subject of the opera is taken
from Sir Walter Scott's novel, " The Bride of Lammermoor,"
and the scene is laid in Scotland ; time, about 1669.

Sir Henry Ashton, of Lammermoor, brother of Lucy, the



Online LibraryGeorge P. (George Putnam) UptonThe standard operas: their plots, their music, and their composers → online text (page 6 of 37)