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Mary Schell Hoke Bacon.

Operas that every child should know; descriptions of the text and music of some of the most famous masterpieces online

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THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY

OF CALIFORNIA

LOS ANGELES



MUSIC
LIBRARY





mi^m.



d



OPERAS
EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW



./K



POEMS EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW

Edited by Maxy E. Burt
FAIRY TALES EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW

Edited by H. W. Mabie
MYTHS EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW

Edited by H. W. Mabee
SONGS EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW

Edited by Dolores Bacon
LEGENDS EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW

Edited by H. W. Mabie
HEROES EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW

Edited by H. W. Mabie
BIRDS EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW

By Neltje Buvnchan
WATER WONDERS EVERY CHILD SHOULD
KNOW

By Jean M. Thompson
FAMOUS STORIES EVERY CHILD SHOULD
KNOW

Edited by H. W. MABIE
HYMNS EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW

Edited by Dolores Bacon
HEROINES EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW

Co-edited by H. W. Mabie and Kate Stephens
ESSAYS EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW

Edited by H. W. Mabie
PROSE EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW

Edited by Mary E. Burt
PICTURES EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW

By Dolores Bacon
ADVENTURES EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW:
PINOCCHIO

Edited by Mary E. Burt
KIPLING STORIES AND POEMS EVERY CHILD
SHOULD KNOW

Edited by Mary E. Burt and W. T. Chapin
WILD FLOWERS EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW

By Frederic Willlam: Stack
TREES EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW

By Julia Ellen Rogers
EARTH AND SKY EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW

By Julia Ellen Rogers
OPERAS EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW

Edited by Dolores Bacon
FOLK TALES EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW

Edited by H. W. Mabie




UECFRIED



OPERAS THAT EVERY
CHILD SHOULD KNOW

DESCRIPTIONS OF THE TEXT AND MUSIC OF
SOME OF THE MOST FAMOUS MASTERPIECES



:BY:



DOLORES BACON



Decorated by
BLANCHE OSTERTAG




G.VRDEX City New York

DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY

1913



ALL BIGHTS RESERVED INCLUDING THAT OF TRANSLATION
INTO FOREIGN LANGUAGES, INCLUDING THE SCANDINAVIAN



COPYRIGHT, igix, BY DODBLEDAY, PAGE fc COMPANY



Library

FOREWORD

In selecting a few of the operas every child should
know, the editor's greatest difficiilty is in determining
what to leave out. The wish to include " L'Africaine,"
"Othello," "Lucia," "Don Pasquale," " Mignon,"
" Nozze di Figaro," " Don Giovanni," "Rienzi" " Tann-
hiiuser," " Romeo and Juliet," " Parsifal," "Freischutz,"
and a hundred others makes one impatient of limitations.

The operas described here are not all great composi-
tions: Some of them are hopelessly poor. Those of
Balfe and Flo tow are included because they were expres-
sions of popular taste when our grandfathers enjoyed
going to the opera.

The Nibelung Ring is used in preference to several
other compositions of Wagner because the four operas
included in it are the fullest both of musical and story
wonders, and are at the same time the least understood.

"Aida" and "Carmen" belong here as do many
which are left out because of their beauty and musi-
cal splendour. Few, instead of many, operas have been
written about in this book, because it seemed better to
give a complete idea of several than a superficial sketch
of many.

The beginnings of opera music-drama are un-
known; but Sulpitius, an Italian, declared that opera
was heard in Italy as early as 1490. The Greeks, of
course, accompanied their tragedies with music long be-
fore that time, but that would not imply "opera" as we






vi Foreword

understand it. However, modern opera is doubtless
merely the development of that manner of presenting
drama.

After the opera, came the ballet, and that belonged dis-
tinctively to France. Before 1681 there were no women
dancers in the ballet only males. All ballets of shep-
herdesses and nymphs and dryads were represented by
men and boys; but at last, the ladies of the court of France
took to the ballet for their own amusement, and thus
women dancers became the fashion.

Even the most heroic or touching stories must lose
much of their dignity when made into opera, since in
that case the "music's the thing," and not the "play."
For this reason it has seemed necessary to tell the stories
of such operas as "II Trovatore, " with all their bombas-
tic trimmings complete, in order to be faithful in show-
ing them as they really are. On the other hand, it has
been necessary to try to treat "Pinafore" in Gilbert's
rollicking fashion.

Opera is the most superficial thing in the world, even
if it appears the most beautiful to the senses, if not to
the intelligence. We go to opera not specially to under-
stand the story, but to hear music and to see beautiful
scenic efifects. It is necessary, however, to know enough
of the story to appreciate the cause of the movement
upon the stage, and without some acquaintance of it be-
forehand one gets but a very imperfect knowledge of an
opera story from hearing it once.

A very great deal is said of music-motif and music-
illustration, and it has been demonstrated again and
again that this is largely the effort of the ultra-artistic
to discover what is not there. At best, music is a "con-
cord of sweet sounds" heroic, tender, exciting, etc.;



Foreword vii

but the elemental passions and emotions are almost all
it can define, or even suggest. Certain music is called
''characteristic" anvil choruses, for example, where
hammers or triangles or tin whistles are used, but that is
not music in its best estate, and musical purpose is best
understood after a composer has labelled it, whether the
ultra-artistic are ready to admit it or not.

The opera is never more enjoyed than by a music lover
who is incapable of criticism from lack of musical knowl-
edge: music being first and last an emotional art; and as
our emotions are refined it requires compositions of a
more and more elevated character to appeal to them.
Thus, we range from the bathos and vulgarity of the mu-
sic hall to the glories of grand opera!

The history of opera should be known and composers
classified, just as it is desirable to know and to classify
authors, painters, sculptors, and actors.

Music is first of all something to be felt, and it is one of
the arts which does not always explain itself.

Dolores Bacon.



CONTENTS



CHAPTER



PAGE



I. Balfe: The Bohemian Girl ... 3

II. Beethoven: Fidelio 35

III. Berlioz: The Damnation of Faust 51

IV. Bizet: Carmen 69

V. DeKo\ten : Robin Hood .... 95

VI. Flotow: Martha 105

\TI. Humperdinck : Hansel and Gretel 135

Mil. Mascagni: Cavalleria Rusticana 152

IX. Meyerbeer: The Prophet ... 163

X. Mozart: The Magic Flute ... 191

XL Sullivan: Pinafore 218

XII. Verdi: Rigoletto, II Trovatore,

AiDA 238

XIII. Wagner: The Nibelung Ring, The
Mastersingers of Nuremberg,

Lohengrin 306



OPERAS
EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW



OPERAS EVERY CHILD SHOULD
KNOW

BALFE

THE story of The Bohemian Girl is supposed "to
have been taken from a French ballet entitled The
Gipsy, which was produced in Paris in 1839. Again, it
is said to have been stolen from a play written by the
Marquis de Saint- Georges, which was named La Bo-
hemienne. However that may be, it would at first
sight hardly seem worth stealing, but it has nevertheless
been popular for many decades. Balfe, the composer,
had no sense of dramatic composition and was not much''
of a musician, but he had a talent for writing that which
could be sung. It was not always beautiful, but it was
always practicable.

The original title of La Bohemienne has in its mean-
ing nothing to do with Bohemia, and therefore a literal
translation does not seem to have been especially appli-
cable to the opera as Bunn made it. The story is placed
in Hungary and not in Bohemia, and the hero came from
Warsaw, hence the title is a misnomer all the way around.
It was Balfe who tried to establish English opera in Lon-
don, and to that purpose he wrote an opera or two in
which his wife sang the principal roles; but in the midst
of that enterprise he received favourable propositions
from Paris, and therefore abandoned the London engage-

3



4 Operas Every Child Should Know

raent. When he went to Paris, The Bohemian Giri
was only partly written, and he took from its score
several of its arias for use in a new opera. When he re-
turned to London he wrote new music for the old opera,
and thus The Bohemian Girl knew many vicissitudes
oflF, as well as on, the stage.

The first city to hear this opera, outside of London,
was New York. It was produced in America at the
Park Theatre, November 25, 1844. The most remark-
able thing about that performance was that the part of
Arline was sung in the same cast by two women, Miss
Dyott and Mrs. Seguin: the former singing it in the first
act, the latter in the second and third. When it was
produced in London, Piccolomini (a most famous
singer) sang Arline and it was written that "applause
from the many loud enough to rend the heavens"
followed.

Because of this inconsequent opera, Balfe was given
the cross of the Legion of Honour from Napoleon III.,
and was made Commander of the Order of Carlos III.
by the regent of Spain. This seems incredible, for good
music was perfectly well known from bad, but the un-
defined element of popularity was there, and thus the
opera became a living thing.

A story is told of Balfe while he belonged to the Drury
Lane orchestra. "Vauxliall Gardens" were then in
vogue, and there was a call for the Drury Lane musi-
cians to go there to play. The "Gardens" were a long
way ofi', and there was no tram-car or other means of
transportation for their patrons. Those who hadn't a
coach had no way of getting there, and it must have cost
Balfe considerable to go and come each day. He de-
cided to find lodgings near the Gardens to save himself



The Bohemian Girl ^ 5

expense. He looked and looked, on the day he first went
out. Others wanted the same thing, and it was not easy
to place himself. However, by evening, he had decided
to take anything he could find; so he engaged a room at
an unpromising looking house. He was kept waiting by
the landlady for a long time in the passageway, but at
last he was escorted up to his room, and, being tired out,
he immediately went to bed and to sleep. In the morn-
ing he began to look about, and to his horror and amaze-
ment he found a corpse stowed away in a cupboard.
Some member of his landlady's family who occupied the
bed had died. When he applied for the room, he had
been made to wait while the previous occupant was
hastily tucked out of sight. After that, he never hired
lodgings without first looking into the cupboards and
under the bed.

Balfe was a good deal of a wag, and his waggishness
was not always in good taste, as shown by an incident at
carnival time in Rome. His resemblance to a great pa-
troness of his, the Countess Mazzaras, a well-known woman
of much dignity, induced him upon that occasion to dress
himself in women's clothes, stand in a window conspicu-
ously, and make the most extraordinary and hideous
faces at the monks and other churchmen who passed.
Every one gave the credit of this remarkable conduct to
the Countess Mazzaras. Balfe had pianos carried up to
the sleeping rooms of great singers before they got out
of bed, and thus made them listen to his newly composed
tunes. He sometimes announced himself by the titles
of his famous tunes, as, "We May Be Happy Yet,"
and was admitted, and received as readily as if he had
resorted to pasteboard politeness.

In short, Balfe was never a great musician, yet he had



6 Operas Every Child Should Know

all the eccentricities that one might expect a great mu-
sician to have, and he succeeded quite as well as if he had
had genius.

Balfe was born May 15, 1808, and died October
20, 1870.

THE BOHEMIAN GIRL

CHARACTERS OF THE OPERA WITH THE ORIGINAL CAST



Arline

Gipsy Queen
Thaddeus
Devilshoof
Count Arnheim
Florestein



Scene laid in Hungary.

Composer: Michael Balfe.
Author: Alfred Bunn.



Miss Romer.
Miss Betts.
Mr. Harrison.
Mr. Stretton.
Mr. Borrani.
Mr. Durnset.



First sung at London, England, Her Majesty's Theatre, Drury
Lane, Nov. 27, 1843.

ACT I



Many years ago, when noblemen, warriors, gipsies,
lovers, enemies and all sorts and conditions of men fra-
ternized without drawing very fine distinctions except
when it came to levying taxes, a company of rich nobles
met in the gardens of the Count Arnheim to go hunting
together. The Count was the Governor of Presburg, and
a very popular man, except with his inferiors.

They began their day's sport with a rather highfalutin
song sung by the Count's retainers:



' Up with the banner and down with the slave,
Who shall dare dispute the right,
Wherever its folds in their glory wave.
Of the Austrian eagle's flight?"



The Bohemian Girl 7

The verses were rather more emotional than intelligent,
but the singers were all in good spirits and prepared for
a fine day's sport.

After this preliminary all the party among whom
was the young daughter of the Count, whose name was
Arline, and a girUe sort of chap, Florestein, who was the
Count 's nephew came from the castle, with huntsmen
and pages in their train; and what with pages run-
ning about, and the huntsmen's bright colours, and the
horns echoing, and the horses that one must feel were
just without, stamping with impatience to be off, it
was a gay scene. The old Count was in such high
feather that he, too, broke into song and, while
singing that

" Bugles shake the air,"

he caught up his little daughter in his arms and told how
dear she was to him. It was not a proper thing for so
young a girl to go on a hunt, but Arline was a spoiled
young countess. When a huntsman handed a rifle to
Florestein, that young man shuddered and rejected it
which left one to wonder just what he was going to do at
a hunt without a rifle, but the others were less timid, and
all separated to go to then: various posts, Arline going by
a foot-path in charge of a retainer.

These gay people had no sooner disappeared than a
handsome yovmg fellow, dishevelled, pursued, rushed
into the garden. He looked fearfully behind him, and
stopped to get his breath.

"I can run no farther," he gasped, looking back upon
the road he had come; and then suddenly at his side, he
saw a statue of the Austrian Emperor. He was even
leaning against it.



8 Operas Every Child Should Know

"Here I am, in the very midst of my foes! a statue
of the Emperor himself adorning these grounds!" and
he became even more alarmed. While he stood thus,
hesitating what to do next, a dozen dusky forms leaped
the wall of the garden and stood looking at him. Thad-
deus was in a soldier's dress and looked like a soldier.
Foremost among the newcomers, who huddled together
in brilliant rags, was a great brigand-looking fellow, who
seemed to lead the band.

"Hold on! before we undertake to rob this chap, let us
make sure of what we are doing," he cautioned the others.
"If he is a soldier, we are likely to get the worst of it"
showing that he had as much wisdom as bravado. After
a moment's hesitation they decided that caution was the
better part of valour, and since it was no harm to be a
gipsy, and there was a penalty attached to being a robber,
they nonchalantly turned suspicion from themselves by
beginning to sing gaily of their gipsy life. Frequently
when they had done this, they had received money for it.
If they mayn't rob this soldier chap, at least he might be
generous and toss them a coin. During this time, Thad-
deus was not napping. The Austrian soldiery were after
him, and at best he could not expect to be safe long.
The sight of the vagabonds inspired him with hope, al-
though to most folks they would have seemed to be a
rather uninspiring and hopeless lot. He went up to the
leader, Devilshoof:

"My friend, I have something to say to you. I am
in danger. You seem to be a decent sort gay and
friendly enough. The Austrian soldiers are after me. I
am an exile from Poland. If I am caught, my life will be
forfeited. I am young and you may count upon my good
will. If you will take me along with you as one of you,



The Bohemian Girl 9

I may stand a chance of escaping with my life what
do you say?"

The gipsies stared at him; and Devilshoof did so in no
Gnfriendly manner. The leader was a good-natured
wanderer, whose main fault was stealing but that was
a fault he shared in common with all gipsies. He was
quite capable of being a good friend.

"Just who are you?" he asked, wanting a little more
information.

"A man without country, friends, hope or money."

"Well, you seem able to qualify as a gipsy pretty well.
So come along." Just as he spoke, another gipsy, who
was reconnoitering, said softly:

"Soldiers are coming "

" Good we'll give them something to do. Here,
friend, we'll get ready for them," he cried, delighted with
the new adventure.

At that the gipsies fell to stripping off Thaddeus's
soldier clothes, and exchanging them for a gipsy's smock;
but as this was taking place, a roll of parchment fell at
Devilshoof's feet.

"What's this?" he asked, taking it up.

"It is my commission as a soldier of Poland the only
thing I have of value in the world. I shall never part
with it," and Thaddeus snatched it and hid it in his dress
and then mixed with the gipsies just as the Emperor's
soldiers came up.

"Ho, there! You vagabonds have you seen any-
thing of a stranger who has passed this way?"

"What a Polish soldier?"

"That's our man."

"Young?"

"Yes, yes where did he go?"



xo Operas Every Child Should Know

"A handsome fellow?"

"Have done there, and answer where did he go?"

"I guess that may be the one?" Devilshoof reflected,
consulting his comrades with a deliberation which made
the ofl5cer wish to run his sword through him.

" Speak up or "

"Yes, yes that's right we have the right man!
Up those rocks there," pointing. "That is the way he
went. I shouldn't wonder if you might catch him."

The officer didn't wait to hear any more of this elabo-
rate instruction, but rushed away with his men.

"Now, comrade," Devilshoof said to Thaddeus: "It
is time for us to be off, while om: soldier friends are enjoy-
ing the hunt. Only you lie around here while we explore
a little; this gipsy life means a deal of wear and tear, if
a fellow would live. There is likely to be something
worth picking up about the castle, and after we have
done the picking, we'll all be off."

As the gipsies and Thaddeus went away, the hunts-
men rushed on, shouting to each other, and sounding
their horns. Florestein came along in their wake. He
was about the last man on earth to go on a hunt. He
made this known without any help, by singing:

Is no succour near at hand?
For my intellect so reels,

I am doubtful if I stand
; On my head or on my heels.

No gentleman, it's very clear,
, Such a shock should ever know,

And when once I become a peer,

They shall not treat me so

That seemed to suggest that something serious had
happened, but no one knew what till Thaddeus and a
crowd of peasants rushed wildly in.



The Bohemian Girl ii

"The Count's child, Arline, is attacked by an infuri-
ated animal, and we fear she is killed," that is what
Florestein had been bemoaning, instead of hurrying to
the rescue! The Count Arnheim ran in then, distraught
with horror. But Thaddeus had not remained idle; he
had rushed after the huntsmen. Presently he hurried
back, bearing the child in his arms. The retainer whose
business it was to care for Arline fell at the Count's feet.

"Oh, great sir, just as we were entering the forest a
wild deer rushed at us, and only for the bravery of this
young gipsy, " indicating Thaddeus " the child would
have been torn in pieces. As it is, she is wounded in the
arm.

The Count took his beloved daughter in his arms.

"Her life is safe and the wound is not serious, thank
God. Take her within and give her every care. And
you, young man you will remain with us and share
our festivities and ask of me anything that you will :
I can never repay this service."

"Humph! Thaddeus is a fool," Devilshoof muttered.
"First he served his enemy and now has to stand his
enemy's thanks."

Thaddeus refused at first to remain, but when his re-
fusal seemed to draw too much attention to the gipsy
band, he consented, as a matter of discretion. So they
all seated themselves at the table which had been laid
in the garden, and while they were banqueting, the gip-
sies and peasants danced to add to the sport; and little
Arline could be seen in the nurse's arms, at a window of
the castle, v/atching the fun, her arm bound up.

"Now," cried the old Count, when the banquet was
over, "I ask one favour of all and that is that you
drink to the health of our great Emperor." He rose and



12 Operas Every Child Should Know

lifted his glass, assuming that all would drink. But that
was a bit too much for Thaddeus! The Emperor was
the enemy of Poland. Most certainly he would not
drink not even to save his life.

Florestein, who was always doing everything but what
he ought, walked up to Thaddeus and pointed out his
glass to him.

"Your fine acquaintance, uncle, is not overburdened
with politeness, it seems to me. Hedoes not respond to
your wishes."

"What does he not drink to the Emperor? My
friend, I challenge you to drink this health." The old
Count filled Thaddeus's glass and handed it to him.

"And thus I accept the challenge," Thaddeus cried;
and before Devilshoof or any one else could stop him, the
reckless chap went up to the statue of the Emperor and
dashed the wine in its face.

This was the signal for a great uproar. The man who
has dared insult the Emperor must be punished. The
nobles made a dash for him, but the old Count was under
an obligation too great to abandon Thaddeus yet. He
tried to silence the enraged guests for a moment, and
then said aside to Thaddeus:

"Go, I beg of you, your life is not worth a breath if
you remain here. I cannot protect you and indeed
I ought not. Go at once," and he threw Thaddeus a
purse of gold, meaning thus to reward him, and get him
away quickly. Thaddeus immediately threw the purse
amidst the nobles who were threatening him, and shouted:

"I am one whom gold cannot reward!" At that the
angry men rushed upon him, but Devilshoof stood
shoulder to shoulder with Thaddeus.

"Now, then, good folks, come on! I guess together



The Bohemian Girl 13

we can give you a pretty interesting fight, if it's fighting
you are after!" A scrimmage was just in Devilshoof's
line, and once and forever he declared himself the cham-
pion of his new comrade.

" Really, this is too bad," Florestein whimpered,
standing at the table with the bone of a pheasant in one
hand and a glass of wine in the other. "Just as a man is
enjoying his dinner, a boor like this comes along and in-
terrupts him." But by that time the fight was on, and
Thaddeus and Devilshoof were against the lot. The old
Count ordered his retainers to separate the nobles and
the gipsies, and then had Devilshoof bound and carried
into the castle. Thaddeus was escorted off by another
path.

The row was over and the nobles seated themselves
again at the table. The nurse, who had Arline at the
window, now left her nursling and came down to speak
with the Count.

Immediately after she left the castle chamber, Dev-
ilshoof could be seen scrambling over the castle roof,
having escaped from the room in which he was confined.
Reaching the window where Arline was left, he closed it.
The nurse had been gone only a moment, when she re-
entered the room. Whatever had taken place in her
absence caused her to scream frightfully. The whole
company started up again, while the nurse threw open
the window and leaned out, crying:

"Arline is gone stolen help, help!" All dashed
into the castle. Presently some of the nobles came to
the window and motioned to those left outside. It was
quite true. Arline was gone. Out they all rushed
again. Every one in the place had gone distracted. The
poor old Count's grief was pitiable. At that moment



14 Operas Every Child Should Know

Devilshoof could be seen triumphantly mounting the
rocks, with Arline in his arms. He had avenged his com-
rade Thaddeus.

All at once the crowd saw the great gipsy leaping
from rock to rock with the little child in his arms, and
with a roar they started after him. Then Devilshoof
seemed fairly to fly over the rocks, but the crowd gained
upon him, till they reached a bridge which spanned a deep
chasm; there Devilshoof paused; he was over, and with
one tremendous effort he knocked from under the struc-
ture the trunk of a tree which supported the far end of
the bridge, and down it went! The fall of timbers
echoed back with Devilshoof's shout of laughter as
he sped up the mountain with Arline.



Online LibraryMary Schell Hoke BaconOperas that every child should know; descriptions of the text and music of some of the most famous masterpieces → online text (page 1 of 28)