A Book of Operas
Henry Edward Krehbiel

Part 1 out of 5

The HTML version of this text produced by Bob Frone can be found

Plain text adaption by Andrew Sly.







"Old friends are best."--SELDEN.

"I love everything that's old,--old friends, old times, old manners,
old books, old wine."--GOLDSMITH.

"Old wood to burn! Old wine to drink! Old friends to trust!
Old authors to read!"--MELCHIOR.


Chapter I "Il Barbiere di Siviglia"

First performance of Italian opera in the United States--Production of
Rossini's opera in Rome, London, Paris, and New York--Thomas Phillipps
and his English version--Miss Leesugg and Mrs. Holman--Emanuel Garcia
and his troupe--Malibran--Early operas in America--Colman's "Spanish
Barber"--Other Figaro operas--How Rossini came to Write "Il Barbiere"
--The story of a fiasco--Garcia and his Spanish song--"Segui, o caro"
--Giorgi-Righetti--The plot of the opera--The overture--"Ecco ridente
in cielo"--"Una voce poco fà,"--Rossini and Patti--The lesson scene
and what singers have done with it--Grisi, Alboni, Catalani, Bosio,
Gassier, Patti, Sembrich, Melba, and Viardot--An echo of Haydn.

Chapter II "Le Nozze di Figaro"

Beaumarchais and his Figaro comedies--"Le Nozze" a sequel to "Il
Barbiere"--Mozart and Rossini--Their operas compared--Opposition
to Beaumarchais's "Marriage de Figaro"--Moral grossness of Mozart's
opera--A relic of feudalism--Humor of the horns--A merry overture
--The story of the opera--Cherubino,--"Non so più cosa son"--
Benucci and the air "Non più andrai"--"Voi che sapete"--A marvellous
finale--The song to the zephyr--A Spanish fandango--"Deh vieni non

Chapter III "Die Zauberflöte"

The oldest German opera current in America--Beethoven's appreciation
of Mozart's opera--Its Teutonism--Otto Jahn's estimate--Papageno, the
German Punch--Emanuel Schikaneder--Wieland and the original of the
story of the opera--How "Die Zanberflöte" came to be written--The
story of "Lulu"--Mozart and freemasonry--The overture to the opera--
The fugue theme and a theme from a sonata by Clementi--The opera's
play--"O Isis und Osiris"--"Hellish rage" and fiorituri--The song of
the Two Men in Armor--Goethe and the libretto of "Die Zauberflöte"--
How the opera should be viewed.

Chapter IV "Don Giovanni"

The oldest Italian operas in the American repertory--Mozart as an
influence--What great composers have said about "Don Giovanni,"--
Beethoven--Rossini--Gounod--Wagner--History of the opera--Da Ponte's
pilferings--Bertati and Gazzaniga's "Convitato di Pietra"--How the
overture to "Don Giovanni" was written--First performances of the
opera in Prague, Vienna, London, and New York--Garcia and Da Ponte
--Malibran--English versions of the opera--The Spanish tale of Don
Juan Tenorio--Dramatic versions--The tragical note in the overture
--The plot of the opera--Gounod on the beautiful in Mozart's music
--Leporello's catalogue--"Batti, batti o bel Masetto"--The three
dances in the first finale--The last scene--Mozart quotes from his
contemporaries--The original close of the opera.

Chapter V "Fidelio"

An opera based on conjugal love--"Fidelio," "Orfeo," and "Alceste"--
Beethoven a Sincere moralist--Technical history of "Fidelio,"--The
subject treated by Paër and Gaveaux--Beethoven's commission--The
first performance a failure--A revision by the composer's friends--
The second trial--Beethoven withdraws his opera--A second revision
--The revival of 1814--Success at last--First performances in London
and New York--The opera enriched by a ballet--Plot of "Fidelio"--
The first duet--The canon quartet--A dramatic trio--Milder-Hauptmann
and the great scena--Florestan's air--The trumpet call--The opera's
four overtures--Their history.

Chapter VI "Faust"

The love story in Gounod's opera--Ancient bondsmen of the devil--
Zoroaster, Democritus, Empedocles, Apollonius, Virgil, Albertus
Magnus, Merlin, Paracelsus, Theophilus of Syracuse,--The myth-making
capacity--Bismarck and the needle-gun--Printing, a black art--Johann
Fust of Mayence--The veritable Faust--Testimony of Luther and
Melanchthon--The literary history of Dr. Faustus--Goethe and his
predecessors--Faust's covenant with Mephistopheles--Dr. Faustus
and matrimony--The Polish Faust--The devil refuses to marry Madame
Twardowska--History of Gounod's opera--The first performance--
Popularity of the opera--First productions in London and New York--
The story--Marguerite and Gretchen--The jewel song--The ballet.

Chapter VII "Mefistofele"

Music in the mediaeval Faust plays--Early operas on the subject--
Meyerbeer and Goethe's poem--Composers of Faust music--Beethoven--
Boito's reverence for Goethe's poem--His work as a poet--A man of
mixed blood--"Mefistofele" a fiasco in Milan--The opera revised--
Boito's early ambitions--Disconnected episodes--Philosophy of the
opera--Its scope--Use of a typical phrase--The plot--Humors of the
English translation--Music of the prologue--The Book of Job--Boito's
metrical schemes--The poodle and the friar--A Polish dance in the
Rhine country--Gluck and Vestris--The scene on the Brocken--The
Classical Sabbath--Helen of Troy--A union of classic and romantic
art--First performance of Boito's opera in America, (footnote).

Chapter VIII "La Damnation de Faust"

Berlioz's dramatic legend--"A thing of shreds and patches"--Turned
into an opera by Raoul Gunsbourg--The composer's "Scenes from Faust"
--History of the composition--The Rakoczy March--Concert performances
in New York--Scheme of the work--The dance of the sylphs and the
aërial ballet--Dance of the will-o'-the-wisps--The ride to hell.

Chapter IX "La Traviata"

Familiarity with music and its effects--An experience of the
author's--Prelude to Verdi's last act--Expressiveness of some
melodies--Verdi, the dramatist--Von Bülow and Mascagni--How
"Traviata" came to be written--Piave, the librettist--Composed
simultaneously with "Il Trovatore,"--Failure of "La Traviata,"
--The causes--The style of the music--Dr. Basevi's view--Changes
in costuming--The opera succeeds--First performance in New York,
--A criticism by W. H. Fry--Story of the opera--Dumas's story and
harles Dickens--Controversy as a help to popular success.

Chapter X "Aïda"

Popular misconceptions concerning the origin of Verdi's opera--The
Suez Canal and Cairo Opera-house--A pageant opera--Local color--
The entombment scene--The commission for the opera--The plot and
its author, Mariette Bey--His archaeological discoveries at Memphis
--Camille du Locle and Antonio Ghislanzoni--First performance of
the opera--Unpleasant experiences in Paris--The plot--Ancient
Memphis--Oriental melodies and local color--An exotic scale--The
antique trumpets and their march.

Chapter XI "Der Freischütz"

The overture--The plot--A Leitmotif before Wagner--Berlioz and
Agathe's air--The song of the Bridesmaids--Wagner and his dying
stepfather--The Teutonism of the opera--Facts from a court record
--Folklore of the subject--Holda, Wotan, and the Wild Hint--How
magical bullets may be obtained--Wagner's description of the Wolf's
Glen--Romanticism and classicism--Weber and Theodor Körner--German
opera at Dresden--Composition of "Der Freischütz"--First
performances in New York, (footnote).

Chapter XII "Tannhäuser"

Wagner and Greek ideals--Methods of Wagnerian study--The story of
the opera--Poetical and musical contents of the overture--The
bacchanale--The Tannhäuser legend--The historical Tannhäuser--The
contest of minstrels in the Wartburg--Mediaeval ballads--Heroes
and their charmers--Classical and other parallels--Caves of Venus--
The Hörselberg in Thuringia--Dame Holda--The tale of Sir Adelbert.

Chapter XIII "Tristan und Isolde"

The old legend of Tristram and Iseult--Its literary history--Ancient
elements--Wagner's ethical changes--How the drama came to be written
--Frau Wesendonck--Wagner and Dom Pedro of Brazil--First performances
in Munich and New York--The prelude--Wagner's poetical exposition--
The song of the Sailor--A symbol of suffering--The Death Phrase--The
Shepherd's mournful melody--His merry tune--Tristan's death.

Chapter XIV "Parsifal"

The story--The oracle--The musical symbol of Parsifal--Herzeleide--
Kundry--Suffering and lamentation--The bells and march--The
eucharistic hymn--The love-feast formula--Faith--Unveiling of the
Grail--Klingsor's incantation--The Flower Maidens--The quest of the
Holy Grail--Personages and elements of the legend--Ethical idea of
Wagner's drama--Biblical and liturgical elements--Wagner's aim--The
Knights Templars--John the Baptist, Herodias, and the bloody head--
Relics of Christ's sufferings--The Holy Grail at Genoa--The sacred
lances at Nuremberg and Rome--Ancient and mediaeval parallels of
personages, apparatuses, and scenes--Wagner's philosophy--Buddhism--
First performances of "Parsifal" in Bayreuth and New York, (footnote).

Chapter XV "Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg"

"Ridendo castigat mores"--Wagner's adherence to classical ideals of
tragedy and comedy--The subject of the satire in "Die Meistersinger"
--Wagenseil's book on Nuremberg--Plot of the comedy--The Church of
St. Catherine in Nuremberg--A relic of the mastersingers--Mastersongs
in the Municipal Library--Wagner's chorus of mastersingers, (footnote)
--A poem by Sixtus Beckmesser--The German drama in Nuremberg--Hans
Sachs's plays--His Tannhäuser tragedy--"Tristram and Iseult"--"The
Wittenberg Nightingale" and "Wach' auf!"--Wagner's quotation from an
authentic mastersong melody--Romanticism and classicism--The prelude
to "Die Meistersinger."

Chapter XVI "Lohengrin"

Wolfram von Eschenbach's story of Loherangrin--Other sources of the
Lohengrin legend--"Der jüngere Titurel" and "Le Chevalier au Cygne"
--The plot of Wagner's opera--A mixture of myths--Relationship of
the Figaro operas--Contradictions between "Lohengrin" and "Parsifal"
--The forbidden question--Wagner's love of theatrical effect--The
finale of "Tannhäuser,"--The law of taboo in "Lohengrin"--Jupiter and
Semele--Cupid and Psyche--The saga of Skéaf--King Henry, the Fowler.

Chapter XVII "Hänsel und Gretel"

Wagner's influence and his successors--Engelbert Humperdinck--Myths
and fairy tales--Origin of "Hänsel und Gretel"--First performances--
An application of Wagnerian principles--The prelude--The Prayer Theme
--The Counter-charm--Theme of Fulfilment--Story of the opera--A relic
of an old Christmas song--Theme of the Witch--The Theme of Promise--
"Ring around a Rosy"--The "Knusperwalzer."



The history of what is popularly called Italian opera begins in the
United States with a performance of Rossini's lyrical comedy "Il
Barbiere di Siviglia"; it may, therefore, fittingly take the first
place in these operatic studies. The place was the Park Theatre,
then situated in Chambers Street, east of Broadway, and the date
November 29, 1825. It was not the first performance of Italian opera
music in America, however, nor yet of Rossini's merry work. In the
early years of the nineteenth century New York was almost as fully
abreast of the times in the matter of dramatic entertainments as
London. New works produced in the English capital were heard in New
York as soon as the ships of that day could bring over the books and
the actors. Especially was this true of English ballad operas and
English transcriptions, or adaptations, of French, German, and
Italian operas. New York was five months ahead of Paris in making
the acquaintance of the operatic version of Beaumarchais's "Barbier
de Séville." The first performance of Rossini's opera took place in
Rome on February 5, 1816. London heard it in its original form at
the King's Theatre on March 10, 1818, with Garcia, the first
Count Almaviva, in that part. The opera "went off with unbounded
applause," says Parke (an oboe player, who has left us two volumes
of entertaining and instructive memoirs), but it did not win the
degree of favor enjoyed by the other operas of Rossini then current
on the English stage. It dropped out of the repertory of the King's
Theatre and was not revived until 1822--a year in which the
popularity of Rossini in the British metropolis may be measured by
the fact that all but four of the operas brought forward that year
were composed by him. The first Parisian representation of the opera
took place on October 26, 1819. Garcia was again in the cast. By
that time, in all likelihood, all of musical New York that could
muster up a pucker was already whistling "Largo al factotum" and
the beginning of "Una voce poco fà," for, on May 17, 1819, Thomas
Phillipps had brought an English "Barber of Seville" forward at a
benefit performance for himself at the same Park Theatre at which
more than six years later the Garcia company, the first Italian
opera troupe to visit the New World, performed it in Italian on
the date already mentioned. At Mr. Phillipps's performance the
beneficiary sang the part of Almaviva, and Miss Leesugg, who
afterward became the wife of the comedian Hackett, was the Rosina.
On November 21, 1821, there was another performance for Mr.
Phillipps's benefit, and this time Mrs. Holman took the part of
Rosina. Phillipps and Holman--brave names these in the dramatic
annals of New York and London a little less than a century ago!
When will European writers on music begin to realize that musical
culture in America is not just now in its beginnings?

It was Manuel Garcia's troupe that first performed "Il Barbiere
di Siviglia" in New York, and four of the parts in the opera were
played by members of his family. Manuel, the father, was the Count,
as he had been at the premières in Rome, London, and Paris; Manuel,
son, was the Figaro (he lived to read about eighty-one years of
operatic enterprise in New York, and died at the age of 101 years in
London in 1906); Signora Garcia, mère, was the Berta, and Rosina was
sung and played by that "cunning pattern of excellent nature," as a
writer of the day called her, Signorina Garcia, afterward the famous
Malibran. The other performers at this representation of the Italian
"Barber" were Signor Rosich (Dr. Bartolo), Signor Angrisani (Don
Basilio), and Signor Crivelli, the younger (Fiorello). The opera was
given twenty-three times in a season of seventy-nine nights, and the
receipts ranged from $1843 on the opening night and $1834 on the
closing, down to $356 on the twenty-ninth night.

But neither Phillipps nor Garcia was the first to present an
operatic version of Beaumarchais's comedy to the American people.
French operas by Rousseau, Monsigny, Dalayrac, and Grétry, which may
be said to have composed the staple of the opera-houses of Europe in
the last decades of the eighteenth century, were known also in the
contemporaneous theatres of Charleston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and
New York. In 1794 the last three of these cities enjoyed "an opera
in 3 acts," the text by Colman, entitled, "The Spanish Barber; or,
The Futile Precaution." Nothing is said in the announcements of
this opera touching the authorship of the music, but it seems to
be an inevitable conclusion that it was Paisiello's, composed for
St. Petersburg about 1780. There were German "Barbers" in existence
at the time composed by Benda (Friedrich Ludwig), Elsperger, and
Schulz, but they did not enjoy large popularity in their own
country, and Isouard's "Barbier" was not yet written. Paisiello's
opera, on the contrary, was extremely popular, throughout Europe.
True, he called it "The Barber of Seville," not "The Spanish
Barber," but Colman's subtitle, "The Futile Precaution," came from
the original French title. Rossini also adopted it and purposely
avoided the chief title set by Beaumarchais and used by Paisiello;
but he was not long permitted to have his way. Thereby hangs a
tale of the composition and first failure of his opera which I
must now relate.

On December 26, 1815, the first day of the carnival season, Rossini
produced his opera, "Torvaldo e Dorliska," at the Teatro Argentina,
in Rome, and at the same time signed a contract with Cesarini, the
impresario of the theatre, to have the first act of a second opera
ready on the twentieth day of the following January. For this opera
Rossini was to receive 400 Roman scudi (the equivalent of about
$400) after the first three performances, which he was to conduct
seated at the pianoforte in the orchestra, as was then the custom.
He seems to have agreed to take any libretto submitted by the
impresario and approved by the public censor; but there are
indications that Sterbini, who was to write the libretto, had
already suggested a remodelling of Paisiello's "Barber." In order
to expedite the work of composition it was provided in the contract
that Rossini was to take lodgings with a singer named Zamboni, to
whom the honor fell of being the original of the town factotum
in Rossini's opera. Some say that Rossini completed the score in
thirteen days; some in fifteen. Castil-Blaze says it was a month,
but the truth is that the work consumed less than half that period.
Donizetti, asked if he believed that Rossini had really written the
score in thirteen days, is reported to have replied, no doubt with
a malicious twinkle in his eyes: "It is very possible; he is so
lazy." Paisiello was still alive, and so was at least the memory of
his opera, so Rossini, as a precautionary measure, thought it wise
to spike, if possible, the guns of an apprehended opposition. So
he addressed a letter to the venerable composer, asking leave to
make use of the subject. He got permission and then wrote a preface
to his libretto (or had Serbini write it for him), in which,
while flattering his predecessor, he nevertheless contrived to
indicate that he considered the opera of that venerable musician
old-fashioned, undramatic, and outdated. "Beaumarchais's comedy,
entitled 'The Barber of Seville, or the Useless Precaution,'"
he wrote, "is presented at Rome in the form of a comic drama under
the title of 'Almaviva, ossia l'inutile Precauzione,' in order
that the public may be fully convinced of the sentiments of respect
and veneration by which the author of the music of this drama is
animated with regard to the celebrated Paisiello, who has already
treated the subject under its primitive title. Himself invited to
undertake this difficult task, the maestro Gioachino Rossini, in
order to avoid the reproach of entering rashly into rivalry with
the immortal author who preceded him, expressly required that 'The
Barber of Seville' should be entirely versified anew, and also
that new situations should be added for the musical pieces which,
moreover, are required by the modern theatrical taste, entirely
changed since the time when the renowned Paisiello wrote his work."

I have told the story of the fiasco made by Rossini's opera on its
first production at the Argentine Theatre on February 5, 1816, in an
extended preface to the vocal score of "Il Barbiere," published in
1900 by G. Schirmer, and a quotation from that preface will serve
here quite as well as a paraphrase; so I quote (with an avowal of
gratitude for the privilege to the publishers):--

Paisiello gave his consent to the use of the subject, believing that
the opera of his young rival would assuredly fail. At the same time
he wrote to a friend in Rome, asking him to do all in his power to
compass a fiasco for the opera. The young composer's enemies were
not sluggish. All the whistlers of Italy, says Castil-Blaze, seemed
to have made a rendezvous at the Teatro Argentina on the night set
down for the first production. Their malicious intentions were
helped along by accidents at the outset of the performance. Details
of the story have been preserved for us in an account written
by Signora Giorgi-Righetti, who sang the part of Rosina on the
memorable occasion. Garcia had persuaded Rossini to permit him to
sing a Spanish song to his own accompaniment on a guitar under
Rosina's balcony in the first act. It would provide the needed local
color, he urged. When about to start his song, Garcia found that he
had forgotten to tune his guitar. He began to set the pegs in the
face of the waiting public. A string broke, and a new one was drawn
up amid the titters of the spectators. The song did not please the
auditors, who mocked at the singer by humming Spanish fiorituri
after him. Boisterous laughter broke out when Figaro came on the
stage also with a guitar, and "Largo al factotum" was lost in the
din. Another howl of delighted derision went up when Rosina's
voice was heard singing within: "Segui o caro, deh segui così"
("Continue, my dear, continue thus"). The audience continued "thus."
The representative of Rosina was popular, but the fact that she
was first heard in a trifling phrase instead of an aria caused
disappointment. The duet, between Almaviva and Figaro, was sung amid
hisses, shrieks, and shouts. The cavatina "Una voce poco fà" got a
triple round of applause, however, and Rossini, interpreting the
fact as a compliment to the personality of the singer rather than
to the music, after bowing to the public, exclaimed: "Oh natura!"
"Thank her," retorted Giorgi-Righetti; "but for her you would not
have had occasion to rise from your choir." The turmoil began again
with the next duet, and the finale was mere dumb show. When the
curtain fell, Rossini faced the mob, shrugged his shoulders, and
clapped his hands to show his contempt. Only the musicians and
singers heard the second act, the din being incessant from beginning
to end. Rossini remained imperturbable, and when Giorgi-Rhigetti,
Garcia, and Zamboni hastened to his lodgings to offer their
condolences as soon as they could don street attire, they found him
asleep. The next day he wrote the cavatina "Ecco ridente in cielo"
to take the place of Garcia's unlucky Spanish song, borrowing the
air from his own "Aureliano," composed two years before, into
which it had been incorporated from "Ciro," a still earlier work.
When night came, he feigned illness so as to escape the task of
conducting. By that time his enemies had worn themselves out. The
music was heard amid loud plaudits, and in a week the opera had
scored a tremendous success.

And now for the dramatic and musical contents of "Il Barbiere." At
the very outset Rossini opens the door for us to take a glimpse at
the changes in musical manner which were wrought by time. He had
faulted Paisiello's opera because in parts it had become antiquated,
for which reason he had had new situations introduced to meet the
"modern theatrical taste"; but he lived fifty years after "Il
Barbiere" had conquered the world, and never took the trouble to
write an overture for it, the one originally composed for the opera
having been lost soon after the first production. The overture which
leads us into the opera nowadays is all very well in its way and a
striking example of how a piece of music may benefit from fortuitous
circumstances. Persons with fantastic imaginations have rhapsodized
on its appositeness, and professed to hear in it the whispered
plottings of the lovers and the merry raillery of Rosina, contrasted
with the futile ragings of her grouty guardian; but when Rossini
composed this piece of music, its mission was to introduce an
adventure of the Emperor Aurelian in Palmyra in the third century of
the Christian era. Having served that purpose, it became the prelude
to another opera which dealt with Queen Elizabeth of England, a
monarch who reigned some twelve hundred years after Aurelian. Again,
before the melody now known as that of Almaviva's cavatina (which
supplanted Garcia's unlucky Spanish song) had burst into the
efflorescence which now distinguishes it, it came as a chorus from
the mouths of Cyrus and his Persians in ancient Babylon. Truly,
the verities of time and place sat lightly on the Italian opera
composers of a hundred years ago. But the serenade which follows the
rising of the curtain preserves a custom more general at the time of
Beaumarchais than now, though it is not yet obsolete. Dr. Bartolo,
who is guardian of the fascinating Rosina, is in love with her, or
at least wishes for reasons not entirely dissociated from her money
bags to make her his wife, and therefore keeps her most of the time
behind bolts and bars. The Count Almaviva, however, has seen her on
a visit from his estates to Seville, becomes enamoured of her, and
she has felt her heart warmed toward him, though she is ignorant of
his rank and knows him only under the name of Lindoro. Hoping that
it may bring him an opportunity for a glance, mayhap a word with his
inamorata, Amaviva follows the advice given by Sir Proteus to Thurio
in "The Two Gentlemen of Verona"; he visits his lady's chamber
window, not at night, but at early dawn, with a "sweet concert," and
to the instruments of Fiorello's musicians tunes "a deploring dump."
It is the cavatina "Ecco ridente in cielo." The musicians, rewarded
by Almaviva beyond expectations, are profuse and long-winded
in their expression of gratitude, and are gotten rid of with
difficulty. The Count has not yet had a glimpse of Rosina, who is
in the habit of breathing the morning air from the balcony of her
prison house, and is about to despair when Figaro, barber and
Seville's factotum, appears trolling a song in which he recites his
accomplishments, the universality of his employments, and the great
demand for his services. ("Largo al factotum dello città.") The
Count recognizes him, tells of his vain vigils in front of Rosina's
balcony, and, so soon as he learns that Figaro is a sort of man
of all work to Bartolo, employs him as his go-between. Rosina
now appears on the balcony. Almaviva is about to engage her in
conversation when Bartolo appears and discovers a billet-doux which
Rosina had intended to drop into the hand of her Lindoro. He demands
to see it, but she explains that it is but a copy of the words of an
aria from an opera entitled "The Futile Precaution," and drops it
from the balcony, as if by accident. She sends Bartolo to recover
it, but Almaviva, who had observed the device, secures it, and
Bartolo is told by his crafty ward that the wind must have carried
it away. Growing suspicious, he commands her into the house and
goes away to hasten the preparations for his wedding, after giving
orders that no one is to be admitted to the house save Don Basilio,
Rosina's singing-master, and Bartolo's messenger and general

The letter which Rosina had thus slyly conveyed to her unknown lover
begged him to contrive means to let her know his name, condition,
and intentions respecting herself. Figaro, taking the case in hand
at once, suggests that Almaviva publish his answer in a ballad. This
the Count does ("Se il mio nome saper"), protesting the honesty and
ardor of his passion, but still concealing his name and station. He
is delighted to hear his lady-love's voice bidding him to continue
his song. (It is the phrase, "Segui, o caro, deh segui così," which
sounded so monstrously diverting at the first representation of the
opera in Rome.) After the second stanza Rosina essays a longer
response, but is interrupted by some of the inmates of the house.
Figaro now confides to the Count a scheme by which he is to meet his
fair enslaver face to face: he is to assume the rôle of a drunken
soldier who has been billeted upon Dr. Bartolo, a plan that is
favored by the fact that a company of soldiers has come to Seville
that very day which is under the command of the Count's cousin. The
plan is promptly put into execution. Not long after, Rosina enters
Dr. Bartolo's library singing the famous cavatina, "Una voce poco
fà," in which she tells of her love for Lindoro and proclaims her
determination to have her own way in the matter of her heart, in
spite of all that her tyrannical guardian or anybody else can do.
This cavatina has been the show piece of hundreds of singers ever
since it was written. Signora Giorgi-Righetti, the first Rosina, was
a contralto, and sang the music in the key of E, in which it was
written. When it became one of Jenny Lind's display airs, it was
transposed to F and tricked out with a great abundance of fiorituri.
Adelina Patti in her youth used so to overburden its already florid
measures with ornament that the story goes that once when she sang
it for Rossini, the old master dryly remarked: "A very pretty air;
who composed it?" Figaro enters at the conclusion of Rosina's song,
and the two are about to exchange confidences when Bartolo enters
with Basilio, who confides to the old doctor his suspicion that the
unknown lover of Rosina is the Count Almaviva, and suggests that
the latter's presence in Seville be made irksome by a few adroitly
spread innuendoes against his character. How a calumny, ingeniously
published, may grow from a whispered zephyr to a crashing,
detonating tempest, Basilio describes in the buffo air "La
calunnia"--a marvellous example of the device of crescendo which
in this form is one of Rossini's inventions. Bartolo prefers his
own plan of compelling his ward to marry him at once. He goes
with Basilio to draw up a marriage agreement, and Figaro, who has
overheard their talk, acquaints Rosina with its purport. He also
tells her that she shall soon see her lover face to face if she will
but send him a line by his hands. Thus he secures a letter from her,
but learns that the artful minx had written it before he entered.
Her ink-stained fingers, the disappearance of a sheet of paper
from his writing desk, and the condition of his quill pen convince
Bartolo on his return that he is being deceived, and he resolves
that henceforth his ward shall be more closely confined than ever.
And so he informs her, while she mimics his angry gestures behind
his back. In another moment there is a boisterous knocking and
shouting at the door, and in comes Almaviva, disguised as a cavalry
soldier most obviously in his cups. He manages to make himself known
to Rosina, and exchanges letters with her under the very nose of her
jailer, affects a fury toward Dr. Bartolo when the latter claims
exemption from the billet, and escapes arrest only by secretly
making himself known to the officer commanding the soldiers who
had been drawn into the house by the disturbance. The sudden and
inexplicable change of conduct on the part of the soldiers petrifies
Bartolo; he is literally "astonied," and Figaro makes him the victim
of several laughable pranks before he recovers his wits.

Dr. Bartolo's suspicions have been aroused about the soldier,
concerning whose identity he makes vain inquiries, but he does
not hesitate to admit to his library a seeming music-master who
announces himself as Don Alonzo, come to act as substitute for Don
Basilio, who, he says, is ill. Of course it is Almaviva. Soon the
ill-natured guardian grows impatient of his garrulity, and Almaviva,
to allay his suspicions and gain a sight of his inamorata, gives him
a letter written by Rosina to Lindoro, which he says he had found in
the Count's lodgings. If he can but see the lady, he hopes by means
of the letter to convince her of Lindoro's faithlessness. This
device, though it disturbs its inventor, is successful, and Bartolo
brings in his ward to receive her music lesson. Here, according to
tradition, there stood in the original score a trio which was lost
with the overture. Very welcome has this loss appeared to the
Rosinas of a later day, for it has enabled them to introduce into
the "lesson scene" music of their own choice, and, of course,
such as showed their voices and art to the best advantage. Very
amusing have been the anachronisms which have resulted from these
illustrations of artistic vanity, and diverting are the glimpses
which they give of the tastes and sensibilities of great prime
donne. Grisi and Alboni, stimulated by the example of Catalani
(though not in this opera), could think of nothing nobler than
to display their skill by singing Rode's Air and Variations, a
violin piece. This grew hackneyed, but, nevertheless, survived
till a comparatively late day. Bosio, feeling that variations were
necessary, threw Rode's over in favor of those on "Gia della mente
involarmi"--a polka tune from Alary's "A Tre Nozze." Then Mme.
Gassier ushered in the day of the vocal waltz--Venzano's, of
amiable memory. Her followers have not yet died out, though Patti
substituted Arditi's "Il Bacio" for Venzano's; Mme. Sembrich,
Strauss's "Voce di Primavera," and Mme. Melba, Arditi's "Se saran
rose." Mme. Viardot, with a finer sense of the fitness of things,
but either forgetful or not apprehensive of the fate which befell
her father at the first performance of the opera in Rome, introduced
a Spanish song. Mme. Patti always kept a ready repertory for the
scene, with a song in the vernacular of the people for whom she was
singing to bring the enthusiasm to a climax and a finish: "Home,
Sweet Home" in New York and London, "Solovei" in St. Petersburg.
Usually she began with the bolero from "Les Vêpres Siciliennes," or
the shadow dance from "Dinorah." Mme. Seinbrich, living in a period
when the style of song of which she and Mme. Melba are still the
brightest exemplars, is not as familiar as it used to be when they
were children, also found it necessary to have an extended list of
pieces ready at hand to satisfy the rapacious public. She was wont
at first to sing Proch's Air and Variations, but that always led
to a demand for more, and whether she supplemented it with "Ah!
non giunge," from "La Sonnambula," the bolero from "The Sicilian
Vespers," "O luce di quest anima," from "Linda," or the vocalized
waltz by Strauss, the applause always was riotous, and so remained
until she sat down to the pianoforte and sang Chopin's "Maiden's
Wish," in Polish, to her own accompaniment. As for Mme. Melba, not
to be set in the shade simply because Mme. Sembrich is almost as
good a pianist as she is a singer, she supplements Arditi's waltz
or Massenet's "Sevillana" with Tosti's "Mattinata," to which she
also plays an exquisite accompaniment.

But this is a long digression; I must back to my intriguing
lovers, who have made good use of the lesson scene to repeat their
protestations of affection and lay plots for attaining their
happiness. In this they are helped by Figaro, who comes to shave Dr.
Bartolo in spite of his protests, and, contriving to get hold of the
latter's keys, "conveys" the one which opens the balcony lock, and
thus makes possible a plan for a midnight elopement. In the midst
of the lesson the real Basilio comes to meet his appointment, and
there is a moment of confusion for the plotters, out of which Figaro
extricates them by persuading Basilio that he is sick of a raging
fever, and must go instantly home, Almaviva adding a convincing
argument in the shape of a generously lined purse. Nevertheless,
Basilio afterwards betrays the Count to Bartolo, who commands him to
bring a notary to the house that very night so that he may sign the
marriage contract with Rosina. In the midst of a tempest Figaro and
the Count let themselves into the house at midnight to carry off
Rosina, but find her in a whimsy, her mind having been poisoned
against her lover by Bartolo with the aid of the unfortunate letter.
Out of this dilemma Almaviva extricates himself by confessing his
identity, and the pair are about to steal away when the discovery is
made that the ladder to the balcony has been carried away. As they
are tiptoeing toward the window, the three sing a trio in which
there is such obvious use of a melodic phrase which belongs to Haydn
that every writer on "Il Barbiere" seems to have thought it his duty
to point out an instance of "plagiarism" on the part of Rossini. It
is a trifling matter. The trio begins thus:--

[Musical excerpt--"Ziti, ziti, piano, piano, non facciamo

which is a slightly varied form of four measures from Simon's song
in the first part of "The Seasons":--

[Musical excerpt--"With eagerness the husbandman his tilling work

With these four measures the likeness begins and ends. A venial
offence, if it be an offence at all. Composers were not held
to so strict and scrupulous an accountability touching melodic
meum and tuum a century ago as they are now; yet there was then
a thousand-fold more melodic inventiveness. Another case of
"conveyance" by Rossini has also been pointed out; the air of the
duenna in the third act beginning "Il vecchiotto cerca moglie" is
said to be that of a song which Rossini heard a Russian lady sing
in Rome. I have searched much in Russian song literature and failed
to find the alleged original. To finish the story: the notary
summoned by Bartolo arrives on the scene, but is persuaded by Figaro
to draw up an attestation of a marriage agreement between Count
Almaviva and Rosina, and Bartolo, finding at the last that all his
precautions have been in vain, comforted not a little by the gift of
his ward's dower, which the Count relinquishes, gives his blessing
to the lovers.

I have told the story of "Il Barbiere di Siviglia" as it appears
in the book. It has grown to be the custom to omit in performance
several of the incidents which are essential to the development
and understanding of the plot. Some day--soon, it is to be
hoped--managers, singers, and public will awake to a realization
that, even in the old operas in which beautiful singing is supposed
to be the be-all and end-all, the action ought to be kept coherent.
In that happy day Rossini's effervescent lyrical arrangement of
Beaumarchais's vivacious comedy will be restored to its rights.



Beaumarchais wrote a trilogy of Figaro comedies, and if the tastes
and methods of a century or so ago had been like those of the
present, we might have had also a trilogy of Figaro operas--"Le
Barbier de Seville," "Le Mariage de Figaro," and "La Mère coupable."
As it is, we have operatic versions of the first two of the
comedies, Mozart's "Nozze di Figaro" being a sequel to Rossini's
"Il Barbiere," its action beginning at a period not long after the
precautions of Dr. Bartolo had been rendered inutile by Figaro's
cunning schemes and Almaviva had installed Rosina as his countess.
"Le Nozze" was composed a whole generation before Rossini's opera.
Mozart and his public could keep the sequence of incidents in view,
however, from the fact that Paisiello had acquainted them with the
beginning of the story. Paisiello's opera is dead, but Rossini's is
very much alive, and it might prove interesting, some day, to have
the two living operas brought together in performance in order to
note the effect produced upon each other by comparison of their
scores. One effect, I fancy, would be to make the elder of the
operas sound younger than its companion, because of the greater
variety and freshness, as well as dramatic vigor, of its music. But
though the names of many of the characters would be the same, we
should scarcely recognize their musical physiognomies. We should
find the sprightly Rosina of "Il Barbiere" changed into a mature
lady with a countenance sicklied o'er with the pale cast of a gentle
melancholy; the Count's tenor would, in the short interval, have
changed into barytone; Figaro's barytone into a bass, while the
buffo-bass of Don Basilio would have reversed the process with age
and gone upward into the tenor region. We should meet with some
new characters, of which two at least would supply the element of
dramatic freshness and vivacity which we should miss from the
company of the first opera--Susanna and Cherubino.

We should also, in all likelihood, be struck by the difference in
the moral atmosphere of the two works. It took Beaumarchais three
years to secure a public performance of his "Mariage de Figaro"
because of the opposition of the French court, with Louis XVI at
its head, to its too frank libertinism. This opposition spread also
to other royal and imperial personages, who did not relish the
manner in which the poet had castigated the nobility, exalted the
intellectuality of menials, and satirized the social and political
conditions which were generally prevalent a short time before the
French Revolution. Neither of the operas, however, met the obstacles
which blocked the progress of the comedies on which they are
founded, because Da Ponte, who wrote the book for Mozart, and
Sterbini, who was Rossini's librettist, judiciously and deftly
elided the objectionable political element. "Le Nozze" is by far the
more ingeniously constructed play of the two (though a trifle too
involved for popular comprehension in the original language), but
"Il Barbiere" has the advantage of freedom from the moral grossness
which pollutes its companion. For the unspoiled taste of the better
class of opera patrons, there is a livelier as well as a lovelier
charm in the story of Almaviva's adventures while outwitting Dr.
Bartolo and carrying off the winsome Rosina to be his countess
than in the depiction of his amatory intrigues after marriage.
In fact, there is something especially repellent in the Count's
lustful pursuit of the bride of the man to whose intellectual
resourcefulness he owed the successful outcome of his own wooing.

It is, indeed, a fortunate thing for Mozart's music that so few
opera-goers understand Italian nowadays. The play is a moral
blister, and the less intelligible it is made by excisions in its
dialogue, the better, in one respect, for the virtuous sensibilities
of its auditors. One point which can be sacrificed without detriment
to the music and at only a trifling cost to the comedy (even when it
is looked upon from the viewpoint which prevailed in Europe at the
period of its creation) is that which Beaumarchais relied on chiefly
to add piquancy to the conduct of the Count. Almaviva, we are given
to understand, on his marriage with Rosina had voluntarily abandoned
an ancient seignorial right, described by Susanna as "certe mezz'
ore che il diritto feudale," but is desirous of reviving the
practice in the case of the Countess's bewitching maid on the eve of
her marriage to his valet. It is this discovery which induces Figaro
to invent his scheme for expediting the wedding, and lends a touch
of humor to the scene in which Figaro asks that he and his bride
enjoy the first-fruits of the reform while the villagers lustily
hymn the merits of their "virtuous" lord; but the too frank
discussion of the subject with which the dialogue teems might easily
be avoided. The opera, like all the old works of the lyrical stage,
is in sad need of intelligent revision and thorough study, so that
its dramatic as well as its musical beauties may be preserved. There
is no lovelier merit in Mozart's music than the depth and tenderness
with which the honest love of Susanna for Figaro and the Countess
for her lord are published; and it is no demerit that the volatile
passion of the adolescent Cherubino and the frolicsome, scintillant,
vivacious spirit of the plotters are also given voice. Mozart's
music could not be all that it is if it did not enter fully and
unreservedly into the spirit of the comedy; it is what it is because
whenever the opportunity presented itself, he raised it into the
realm of the ideal. Yet Mozart was no Puritan. He swam along gayly
and contentedly on the careless current of life as it was lived
in Vienna and elsewhere in the closing decades of the eighteenth
century, and was not averse, merely for the fun of the thing, to go
even a step beyond his librettist when the chance offered. Here is
an instance in point: The plotters have been working a little at
cross-purposes, each seeking his own advantages, and their plans are
about to be put to the test when Figaro temporarily loses confidence
in the honesty of Susanna. With his trust in her falls to the ground
his faith in all woman-kind. He rails against the whole sex in the
air, beginning: "Aprite un po' quegl' occhi?" in the last act.
Enumerating the moral blemishes of women, he at length seems to be
fairly choked by his own spleen, and bursts out at the end with
"Il resto nol dico, gia ognuno lo sa" ("The rest I'll not tell
you--everybody knows it"). The orchestra stops, all but the horns,
which with the phrase

[Musical excerpt]

aided by a traditional gesture (the singer's forefingers pointing
upward from his forehead), complete his meaning. It is a pity that
the air is often omitted, for it is eloquent in the exposition of
the spirit of the comedy.

The merriest of opera overtures introduces "Le Nozze di Figaro," and
puts the listener at once into a frolicsome mood. It seems to be the
most careless of little pieces, drawing none of its material from
the music of the play, making light of some of the formulas which
demanded respect at the time (there is no free fantasia), laughing
and singing its innocent life out in less than five minutes as if it
were breathing an atmosphere of pure oxygen. It romps; it does not
reflect or feel. Motion is its business, not emotion. It has no
concern with the deep and gentle feelings of the play, but only with
its frolic. The spirit of playful torment, the disposition of a
pretty tease, speaks out of its second subject:--

[Musical excerpt]

and one may, if one wishes, hear the voice of only half-serious
admonition in the phrase of the basses, which the violins echo as
if in mockery:--

[Musical excerpt]

But, on the whole, the overture does not ask for analysis or
interpretation; it is satisfied to express untrammelled joy in

The curtain is withdrawn, and we discover the lovers preparing for
their wedding. Figaro is taking the dimensions of a room, and the
first motive of a duet illustrates his measured paces; Susanna is
trimming a hat, and her happiness and her complacent satisfaction
with her handiwork are published in the second motive, whose
innocent joy explodes in scintillant semi-quavers in the fiddles
at the third measure. His labors ended, Figaro joins Susanna in
her utterances of joy. But there is a fly in the ointment, Why has
Figaro been so busily measuring the room? To test its fitness as
their chamber, for the Count has assigned it to them, though it is
one of the best rooms in the palace. He points out its convenient
location (duet: "Se a caso madama"); so near the room of the
Countess that her maid can easily answer the "din din" of her bell,
and near enough to the room of the Count that his "don don" would
never sound in vain should he wish to send his valet on an errand.
Altogether too convenient, explains Susanna; some fine day the
Count's "don don" might mean a three-mile journey for the valet,
and then the devil would fetch the dear Count to her side in three
paces. Has he not been making love violently to her for a space,
sending Don Basilio to give her singing lessons and to urge her to
accept his suit? Did Figaro imagine it was because of his own pretty
face that the Count had promised her so handsome a dowry? Figaro had
pressed such a flattering unction to his soul, but now recalls, with
not a little jealous perturbation, that the Count had planned to
take him with him to London, where he was to go on a mission of
state: "He as ambassador, Figaro as a courier, and Susanna as
ambassadress in secret. Is that your game, my lord? Then I'll set
the pace for your dancing with my guitar" (Cavatina: "Se vuol

Almaviva's obedient valet disappears, and presto! in his place
we see our old friend, the cunning, resourceful barber and town
factotum of the earlier days, who shall hatch out a plot to confound
his master and shield his love from persecution. First of all he
must hasten the wedding. He sets about this at once, but all
unconscious of the fact that Dr. Bartolo has never forgiven nor
forgotten the part he played in robbing him of his ward Rosina.
He comes now to let us know that he is seeking revenge against
Figaro and at the same time, as he hopes, rid himself of his old
housekeeper, Marcellina, to whom he is bound by an obligation that
is becoming irksome. The old duenna has been casting amatory glances
in Figaro's direction, and has a hold on him in the shape of a
written obligation to marry her in default of repayment of a sum of
money borrowed in a time of need. She enlists Bartolo as adviser,
and he agrees to lay the matter before the Count. Somewhat early,
but naturally enough in the case of the conceited dotard, he gloats
over his vengeance, which seems as good as accomplished, and
celebrates his triumph in an air ("La vendetta!"). As she is about
to leave the room, Marcellina meets Susanna, and the two make a
forced effort to conceal their mutual hatred and jealousy in an
amusing duettino ("Via resti servita, madama brillante!"), full of
satirical compliments and curtsies. Marcellina is bowed out of the
room with extravagant politeness, and Susanna turns her attention to
her mistress's wardrobe, only to be interrupted by the entrance of
Cherubino, the Count's page. Though a mere stripling, Cherubino is
already a budding voluptuary, animated with a wish, something like
that of Byron's hero, that all woman-kind had but a single mouth and
he the privilege of kissing it. He adores the Countess; but not her
alone. Susanna has a ribbon in her hand with which, she tells him,
she binds up her mistress's tresses at night. Happy Susanna! Happy
ribbon! Cherubino seizes it, refuses to give it up, and offers in
exchange his latest ballad. "What shall I do with the song?" asks
Susanna. "Sing it to the Countess! Sing it yourself! Sing it to
Barbarina, to Marcellina, to all the ladies in the palace!" He
tells Susanna (Air: "Non so più cosa son") of the torments which he
endures. The lad's mind is, indeed, in a parlous state; he feels his
body alternately burning and freezing; the mere sight of a maiden
sends the blood to his cheeks, and he needs must sigh whenever he
hears her voice; sleeping and waking, by lakeside, in the shadow of
the woods, on the mountain, by stream and fountain, his thoughts are
only of love and its sweet pains. It is quite impossible to describe
the eloquence with which Mozart's music expresses the feverish
unrest, the turmoil, and the longing which fill the lad's soul.
Otto Jahn has attempted it, and I shall quote his effort:--

The vibration of sentiment, never amounting to actual passion,
the mingled anguish and delight of the longing which can never be
satisfied, are expressed with a power of beauty raising them out of
the domain of mere sensuality. Very remarkable is the simplicity of
the means by which this extraordinary effect is attained. A violin
accompaniment passage, not unusual in itself, keeps up the restless
movement; the harmonies make no striking progressions; strong
emphasis and accents are sparingly used, and yet the soft flow of
the music is made suggestive of the consuming glow of passion. The
instrumentation is here of a very peculiar effect and quite a novel
coloring; the stringed instruments are muted, and clarinets occur
for the first time, and very prominently, both alone and in
combination with the horns and bassoons.

Cherubino's philandering with Susanna is interrupted by the Count,
who comes with protestations of love, which the page hears from
a hiding-place behind a large arm-chair, where Susanna, in her
embarrassment, had hastily concealed him on the Count's entrance.
The Count's philandering, in turn, is interrupted by Basilio, whose
voice is heard long enough before his entrance to permit the Count
also to seek a hiding-place. He, too, gets behind the chair, while
Cherubino, screened by Susanna's skirts, ensconces himself in the
seat, and finds cover under one of the Countess's gowns which
Susanna hurriedly throws over him. Don Basilio comes in search of
the Count, but promptly begins his pleas in behalf of his master.
Receiving nothing but indignant rejoinders, he twits Susanna with
loving the lad, and more than intimates that Cherubino is in love
with the Countess. Why else does he devour her with his eyes when
serving her at table? And had he not composed a canzonetta for her?
Far be it from him, however, to add a word to what "everybody says."
"Everybody says what?" demands the Count, discovering himself. A
trio follows ("Cosa sento!") The Count, though in a rage, preserves
a dignified behavior and orders the instant dismissal of the page
from the palace. Susanna is overwhelmed with confusion, and plainly
betrays her agitation. She swoons, and her companions are about to
place her in the arm-chair when she realizes a danger and recovers
consciousness. Don Basilio cringes before the Count, but is
maliciously delighted at the turn which affairs have taken.

The Count is stern. Cherubino had once before incurred his
displeasure by poaching in his preserves. He had visited Barbarina,
the pretty daughter of his gardener, and found the door bolted. The
maid appeared confused, and he, seeking an explanation, drew the
cover from the table and found the page hiding under. He illustrates
his action by lifting the gown thrown over the chair, and there
is the page again! This, then, is the reason of Susanna's seeming
prudery--the page, her lover! He accuses Susanna, who asserts her
innocence, and truthfully says that Cherubino had come to ask her
to procure the Countess's intercession in his behalf, when his
entrance had thrown them both into such confusion that Cherubino
had concealed himself. Where? Behind the arm-chair. But the Count
himself had hidden there. True, but a moment before the page had
slipped around and into the chair. Then he had heard all that the
Count had said to Susanna? Cherubino says he had tried his best
not to overhear anything. Figaro is sent for and enters with the
villagers, who hymn the virtues of their lord. To the Count's
question as to the meaning of the demonstration, Figaro explains
that it is an expression of their gratitude for the Count's
surrender of seignorial rights, and that his subjects wish him to
celebrate the occasion by bestowing the hand of Susanna on Figaro at
once and himself placing the bridal veil upon her brow. The Count
sees through Figaro's trick, but believing it will be frustrated by
Marcellina's appeal, he promises to honor the bride, as requested,
in due season. Cherubino has begged for the Count's forgiveness, and
Susanna has urged his youth in extenuation of his fault. Reminded
that the lad knows of his pursuit of Susanna, the Count modifies his
sentence of dismissal from his service to banishment to Seville as
an officer in his regiment. Figaro playfully inducts him into the
new existence.

The air "Non più andrai," in which this is done, is in vigorous
march rhythm. Benucci, the original Figaro in Vienna, had a superbly
sonorous voice, and Michael Kelly, the English tenor (who sang the
two rôles of Don Basilio and Don Curzio), tells us how thrillingly
he sang the song at the first rehearsal with the full band. Mozart
was on the stage in a crimson pelisse and cocked hat trimmed with
gold lace, giving the time to the orchestra. Figaro gave the song
with the greatest animation and power of voice. "I was standing
close to Mozart," says Kelly, "who, sotto voce, was repeating:
'Bravo, bravo, Benucci!' and when Benucci came to the fine passage,
'Cherubino, alla vittoria, alla gloria militar,' which he gave out
with stentorian lungs, the effect was electricity itself, for the
whole of the performers on the stage, and those in the orchestra, as
if actuated by one feeling of delight, vociferated: 'Bravo, bravo,
maestro! Viva, viva, grande Mozart!' Those in the orchestra I
thought would never have ceased applauding by beating the bows of
their violins against the music desks. The little man acknowledged
by repeated obeisances his thanks for the distinguished mark of
enthusiastic applause bestowed upon him."

This ends the first act. At the opening of the second the Countess
asks our sympathy because of the unhappiness caused by her errant
husband. (Cavatina: "Porgi amor.") She prays the god of love to
restore her to his affections. Susanna entering, the Countess asks
her to continue her tale of the Count's pursuit of her. There is
nothing to add, says the maid; the Count wooed as noblemen woo women
of her class--with money. Figaro appears to tell that the Count
is aiding Marcellina in her scheme and of the trick which he has
devised to circumvent him. He had sent Basilio to his lordship with
a letter warning him that the Countess had made an appointment to
meet a lover at the ball to be given in the evening. This would fan
the fires of his jealousy and so enrage him that he would forget his
designs against Susanna until she was safely married, when he would
discover that he had been outwitted. In the meantime, while he is
reflecting on the fact that two could play at the game, Susanna is
to apprise the Count that she will meet him in the garden in the
evening. Cherubino, whose departure to Seville had been delayed for
the purpose, is to meet the Count disguised as Susanna, and the
Countess, appearing on the scene, is to unmask him. The Count is
supposed to have gone a-hunting, and the plotters have two hours for
preparation. Figaro leaves them to find Cherubino, that he may be
put into petticoats. When the page comes, the Countess first insists
on hearing the song which he had given to Susanna, and Cherubino,
stammering and blushing at first, sings it to Susanna's guitar.
(Canzone: "Voi che sapete.") Again I call upon Otto Jahn for a
description of the music. "Cherubino is not here directly expressing
his feelings; he is depicting them in a romance, and he is in the
presence of the Countess, toward whom he glances with all the
bashfulness of boyish passion. The song is in ballad form, to suit
the situation, the voice executing the clear, lovely melody, while
the stringed instruments carry on a simple accompaniment pizzicato,
to imitate the guitar: this delicate outline is, however, shaded and
animated in a wonderful degree by solo wind instruments. Without
being absolutely necessary for the progress of the melodies and the
completeness of the harmonies, they supply the delicate touches of
detail, reading between the lines of the romance, as it were, what
is passing in the heart of the singer. We know not whether to
admire most the gracefulness of the melodies, the delicacy of the
disposition of the parts, the charm of the tone coloring, or the
tenderness of the expression--the whole is of entrancing beauty."

Susanna finds that she and Cherubino are of the same height, and
begins to array him in garments belonging to her, first locking the
door against possible intruders. The Countess views the adventure
with some misgivings at first, but, after all, Cherubino is a mere
boy, and she rejoices him with approval of his songs, and smiles
upon him till he is deliriously happy. Basilio has given him his
commission in the Count's regiment, and the Countess discovers that
it lacks a seal to secure which would cause a longer and desired
delay. While Susanna is playing the rôle of dressing-maid to
Cherubino, and instructing him in a ladylike bearing, the Count
raps for admission to the room. Figaro's decoy letter caused him
uneasiness, and he had abandoned the hunt. Cherubino hurries
into the chamber, and the Countess turns the key upon him before
admitting his lordship, who enters in an ill-humor which is soon
turned into jealous rage. Cherubino has awkwardly overturned a chair
in the chamber, and though the Countess explains that Susanna is
within, she refuses to open the door, on the plea that her maid is
making her toilet. The Count goes for tools to break open the door,
taking the Countess with him. Susanna, who has heard all from an
alcove, hastens to Cherubino's rescue, who escapes by leaping
from the window of the Countess's apartment into the garden below.
Susanna takes his place in the chamber. Then begins the most
marvellously ingenious and beautiful finale in the whole literature
of opera. Fast upon each other follow no fewer than eight
independent pieces of music, each a perfect delineation of the
quickly changing moods and situations of the comedy, yet each built
up on the lines of musical symmetry, and developing a musical theme
which, though it passes from mouth to mouth, appears each time to
belong peculiarly to the person uttering it. The Countess throws
herself upon the mercy of the Count, confesses that Cherubino,
suspiciously garbed, is in the chamber, but pleads for his life and
protests her innocence of wrong. She gives the key to her enraged
husband, who draws his sword, unlocks the door, and commands
the page to stand forth. Susanna confronts the pair with grave
unconsciousness upon her features. The Countess is no less amazed
than her lord.

The Count goes into the chamber to search for the page, giving
Susanna a chance to explain, and the nimble-witted women are ready
for him when he comes back confused, confounded, and ready to ask
forgiveness of his wife, who becomes tearful and accusing, telling
him at length that the story of the page's presence was all
an invention to test him. But the letter giving word of the
assignation? Written by Figaro. He then shall be punished.
Forgiveness is deserved only by those willing to forgive. All is
well, and the Countess gives her hand to be kissed by her lord.
Enters Figaro with joyous music to announce that all's ready for
the wedding; trumpets sounding, pipes tootling, peasants singing
and dancing. The Count throws a damper upon his exuberant spirits.
How about that letter? In spite of the efforts of the Countess and
Susanna to make him confess its authorship, Figaro stoutly insists
that he knows nothing of it. The Count summons Marcellina, but
before she arrives, the drunken gardener Antonio appears to tell the
Count that some one had leaped out of the salon window and damaged
his plants and pots. Confusion overwhelms the women. But Figaro's
wits are at work. He laughs loudly and accuses Antonio of being too
tipsy to know what had happened. The gardener sticks to his story
and is about to describe the man who came like a bolt from the
window, when Figaro says it was he made the leap. He was waiting in
the salon to see Susanna, he explains, when he heard the Count's
footsteps, and, fearing to meet him because of the decoy letter, he
had jumped from the window and got a sprained ankle, which he offers
in evidence. The orchestra changes key and tempo, and begins a new
inquisition with pitiless reiteration:--

[Musical excerpt]

Antonio produces Cherubino's commission, "These, then, are your
papers?" The Count takes the commission, opens it, and the Countess
recognizes it. With whispers and signs the women let Figaro know
what it is, and he is ready with the explanation that the page had
left the paper with him. Why? It lacked--the women come again to his
rescue--it lacked the seal. The Count tears up the paper in his rage
at being foiled again. But his allies are at hand, in the persons
of Marcellina, Bartolo, and Basilio, who appear with the accusing
contract, signed by Figaro. The Count takes the case under
advisement, and the act ends with Figaro's enemies sure of triumph
and his friends dismayed.

The third act plays in a large hall of the palace decorated for the
wedding. In a duet ("Crudel! perche finora") the Count renews his
addresses to Susanna. She, to help along the plot to unmask him,
consents to meet him in the garden. A wonderful grace rests upon the
music of the duet, which Mozart's genius makes more illuminative
than the words. Is it Susanna's native candor, or goodness, or
mischievousness, or her embarrassment which prompts her to answer
"yes" when "no" was expected and "no" when the Count had already
received an affirmative? We can think as we please; the musical
effect is delicious. Figaro's coming interrupts further conversation,
and as Susanna leaves the room with her, she drops a remark to
Figaro, which the Count overhears: "Hush! We have won our case
without a lawyer." What does it mean? Treachery, of course. Possibly
Marcellina's silence has been purchased. But whence the money? The
Count's amour propre is deeply wounded at the thought that his
menials should outwit him and he fail of his conquest. He swears
that he will be avenged upon both. Apparently he has not long to
wait, for Marcellina, Don Curzio, and Bartolo enter, followed by
Figaro. Don Curzio announces the decision of the court in the
duenna's suit against Figaro. He must pay or marry, according to the
bond. But Figaro refuses to abide by the decision. He is a gentleman
by birth, as proved by the jewels and costly clothing found upon him
when he was recovered from some robbers who stole him when a babe,
and he must have the consent of his parents. He has diligently
sought them and will prove his identity by a mark upon his arm.
"A spatula on the right elbow?" anxiously inquires Marcellina.
"Yes." And now Bartolo and the duenna, who a moment ago would fain
have made him an OEdipus, recognize in Figaro their own son, born
out of wedlock. He rushes to their arms and is found embracing his
mother most tenderly by Susanna, who comes with a purse to repay the
loan. She flies into a passion and boxes Figaro's ears before the
situation is explained, and she is made as happy by the unexpected
dénouement as the Count and Don Curzio are miserable. Bartolo
resolves that there shall be a double wedding; he will do tardy
justice to Marcellina. Now we see the Countess again in her
lamentable mood, mourning the loss of her husband's love. (Aria:
"Dove sono.") Susanna comes to tell of her appointment with the
Count. The place, "in the garden," seems to be lacking in clearness,
and the Countess proposes that it be made more definite and certain
(as the lawyers say), by means of a letter which shall take the form
of a "Song to the Zephyr." This is the occasion of the exquisite
duet which was surely in the mind of the composer's father when,
writing to his daughter from Vienna after the third performance of
the opera, he said: "One little duet had to be sung three times."
Was there ever such exquisite dictation and transcription? Can any
one say, after hearing this "Canzonetta sull' aria," that it is
unnatural to melodize conversation? With what gracious tact the
orchestra gives time to Susanna to set down the words of her
mistress! How perfect is the musical reproduction of inquiry and
repetition when a phrase escapes the memory of the writer!

[Musical excerpt--Susanna: "sotto i pini?" Conte: "Sotto i pini del

The letter is written, read over phrase by phrase, and sealed with
a pin which the Count is to return as proof that he has received
the note.

The wedding festivities begin with a presentation of flowers to the
Countess by the village maidens, among whom in disguise is the rogue
Cherubino--so fair in hat and gown that the Countess singles him out
of the throng to present his nosegay in person. Antonio, who had
suspected that he was still about the palace, exposes him to the
Count, who threatens the most rigorous punishment, but is obliged to
grant Barberina's petition that he give his consent to her marriage
to the page. Had he not often told her to ask him what she pleased,
when kissing her in secret? Under the circumstances he can only
grant the little maid's wish. During the dance which follows (it
is a Spanish fandango which seems to have been popular in Vienna
at the time, for Gluck had already made use of the same melody in
his ballet "Don Juan"), Susanna kneels before the Count to have
him place the wreath (or veil) upon her head, and slyly slips the
"Canzonetta sull' aria" into his hands. He pricks his finger with
the pin, drops it, but, on reading the postscript, picks it up, so
that he may return it to the writer as a sign of understanding.
In the evening Barberina, who has been commissioned to carry the
pin to her cousin Susanna, loses it again, and her lamentation
"L'ho perdita," with its childish sobs while hunting it, is one
of the little gems of the opera. From her Figaro learns that the
letter which he had seen the Count read during the dance was from
Susanna, and becomes furiously jealous. In an air (which has already
been described), he rails against man's credulity and woman's
faithlessness. The time is come to unmask the Count. The Countess
and Susanna have exchanged dresses, and now come into the garden.
Left alone, Susanna gives voice to her longing and love (for Figaro,
though the situation makes it seem to be for the Count) in the air
which has won great favor in the concert-room: "Deh vieni non
tardar." Here some of Otto Jahn's words are again appropriate:--

Mozart was right to let the feelings of the loving maiden shine
forth in all their depth and purity, for Susanna has none but her
Figaro in her mind, and the sentiments she expresses are her true
ones. Figaro, in his hiding-place, listening and suspecting her of
awaiting the Count's arrival, throws a cross-light on the situation,
which, however, only receives its full dramatic signification by
reason of the truth of Susanna's expression of feeling. Susanna,
without her sensual charm, is inconceivable, and a tinge of
sensuality is an essential element of her nature; but Mozart has
transfigured it into a noble purity which may fitly be compared
with the grandest achievements of Greek sculpture.

Cherubino, watched from different places of concealment by the
Count, Figaro, and Susanna, appears, and, seeing the Countess, whom
he takes for Susanna, confounds not her alone, but also the Count
and Figaro, by his ardent addresses to her. He attempts to kiss her,
but the Count steps forward and interposes his cheek. The Count
attempts to box Cherubino's ears, but Figaro, slipping forward at
the moment, receives the blow instead. Confusion is at its height.
The Count makes love to his wife, thinking she is Susanna, promises
her a dowry, and places a ring on her finger. Seeing torches
approaching, they withdraw into deeper darkness. Susanna shows
herself, and Figaro, who takes her for the Countess, acquaints her
of the Count's doings which he has just witnessed. Susanna betrays
herself, and Figaro resolves to punish her for her masquerading.
He makes love to her with extravagant pathos until interrupted by
a slap in the face. Susanna's patience had become exhausted, and
her temper got the better of her judgment. Figaro laughs at her
ill-humor and confesses his trick, but renews his sham love-making
when he sees the Count returning. The latter calls for lights, and
seizes Figaro and his retainers. In the presence of all he is put
to shame by the disclosures of the personality of the Countess and
Susanna. He falls on his knees, asks forgiveness, receives it, and
all ends happily.



Mozart's "Zauberflöte"--"The Magic Flute"--is the oldest German
opera holding a place on the American stage, though not quite 118
years old; but so far as my memory and records go, it has had but
four performances in the original tongue in New York in a whole
generation. There have been a few representations in English within
this time and a considerable number in Italian, our operatic
institutions being quick, as a rule, to put it upon the stage
whenever they have at command a soprano leggiero with a voice
of sufficient range and flexibility to meet the demands of the
extraordinary music which Mozart wrote for the Queen of Night to
oblige his voluble-throated sister-in-law, Mme. Hofer, who was
the original representative of that character. The same operatic
conditions having prevailed in New York and London for many years,
it is not strange that English-speaking people have come to
associate "The Magic Flute" with the Italian rather than the German
repertory. Yet we have the dictum of Beethoven that it is Mozart's
greatest opera, because in it his genius showed itself in so large
a variety of musical forms, ranging from ditties in the folk-song
style to figurated chorale and fugue, and more particularly because
in it Mozart first disclosed himself as a German composer. By this
Beethoven did not mean that Mozart had not written music before for
a German libretto, but that he had never written German music before
in an opera. The distinction is one more easily observed by Germans
and critical historians than by the ordinary frequenters of our
opera-houses. "Die Zauberflöte" has a special charm for people of
German blood, which is both admirable and amiable. Its magnificent
choruses are sung by men, and Germany is the home of the Männergesang;
among the opera's songs are echoes of the Volkslied--ditties which
seem to have been caught up in the German nurseries or plucked off
the lips of the itinerant German balladist; its emotional music is
heartfelt, warm, ingenuous, and in form and spirit free from the
artificiality of Italian opera as it was in Mozart's day and as it
continued to be for a long time thereafter. It was this last virtue
which gave the opera its largest importance in the eyes of Otto
Jahn, Mozart's biographer. In it, he said, for the first time all
the resources of cultivated art were brought to bear with the
freedom of genius upon a genuine German opera. In his Italian
operas, Mozart had adopted the traditions of a long period of
development, and by virtue of his original genius had brought them
to a climax and a conclusion; but in "Die Zauberflöte" he "stepped
across the threshold of the future and unlocked the sanctuary of
national art for his countrymen."

In this view every critical historian can concur, no matter what his
tastes or where his home. But it is less easy for an English,
French, or Italian critic than a German to pardon the incongruities,
incoherences, and silly buffooneries which mar the opera. Some of
the disturbing elements are dear to the Teutonic heart. Papageno,
for instance, is but a slightly metamorphosed Kasperl, a Jack
Pudding (Hanswurst) twice removed; and Kasperl is as intimately
bound up in the German nature as his cousin Punch in the English.
Kasperl is, indeed, directly responsible for "Die Zauberflöte." At
the end of the eighteenth century there was in Vienna a singular
individual named Emmanuel Schikaneder, a Jack-of-all-trades so far
as public amusements were concerned--musician, singer, actor,
playwright, and manager. There can be no doubt but that he was a sad
scalawag and ribald rogue, with as few moral scruples as ever
burdened a purveyor of popular amusements. But he had some personal
traits which endeared him to Mozart, and a degree of intellectuality
which won him a fairly respectable place among the writers for the
stage at the turn of the century. Moreover, when he had become
prosperous enough to build a new theatre with the proceeds of "Die
Zauberflöte," he was wise enough to give a generous commission,
unhampered by his customary meddlesome restrictions, to Beethoven;
and discreet enough to approve of the highly virtuous book of
"Fidelio." At the beginning of the last decade of the eighteenth
century, however, his theatre had fallen on evil days, and in dire
straits he went to Mozart, whose friendship he had enjoyed from the
latter's Salzburg days, and begged him to undertake the composition
of an opera for which he had written the book, in conjunction with
one of his actors and choristers, named Gieseke (though this fact
never received public acknowledgment at his hands). Wieland's
"Oberon" had filled the popular mind with a great fondness for
fantastic and Oriental subjects, and a rival manager had been
successful with musical pieces in which the principal character was
the popular Kasperl. Casting about for an operatic subject which
should appeal to the general liking for romanticism and buffoonery
at once, Schikaneder hit upon a tale called "Lulu; oder, Die
Zauberflöte," written by Liebeskind, but published by Wieland in a
volume of Orientalia entitled "Dschinnistan." He had got pretty
deep in his work when a rival manager brought out an adaptation of
the same story, with music by Wenzel Müller. The farcical character
of the piece is indicated by its title, which was "Kasper, der
Fagottist; oder, Die Zauberzither"; but it made so striking a
success that Schikaneder feared to enter the lists against it with
an opera drawn from the same source. He was either too lazy, too
much in a hurry, or too indifferent to the principles of art to
remodel the completed portion, but finished his book on lines far
different from those originally contemplated. The transformation
thus accomplished brought about all the blemishes of "Die
Zauberflöte," but also gave occasion for the sublime music with
which Mozart transfigured some of the scenes. This will be
understood better if an outline of Liebeskind's tale is made to
precede the story of the opera as it came from Mozart's hand.

A wicked magician, Dilsenghuin, has robbed the "radiant fairy"
Perifirime of her daughter, Sidi, and carried off a magic talisman.
The magician keeps the damsel in confinement and persecutes her with
amatory advances which she is able to resist through a power which
is to support her so long as her heart is untouched by love.
Perifirime promises the hand of her daughter, whose father is the
King of Cashmere, to Prince Lulu, son of the King of Chorassan, if
he regain the stolen talisman for her. To do this, however, is given
only to one who has never felt the divine passion. Lulu undertakes
the adventure, and as aids the fairy gives him a magic flute and a
ring. The tone of the flute will win the hearts of all who hear it;
by turning the ring, the wearer is enabled to assume any form
desired at will; by throwing it away he may summon the fairy herself
to his aid. The Prince assumes the form of an old man, and, like
Orpheus, softens the nature of the wild beasts that he meets in the
forest. He even melts the heart of the magician himself, who admits
him to his castle. Once he is within its walls, the inmates all
yield to the charm of his magical music, not excepting the lovely
prisoner. At a banquet he throws the magician and his companions
into a deep sleep, and possesses himself of the talisman. It is a
gold fire-steel, every spark struck from which becomes a powerful
spirit whose service is at the command of the possessor. With the
help of genii, struck from the magical implement, and the fairy whom
he summons at the last, Prince Lulu overcomes all the obstacles
placed in his way. Discomfited, the magician flies away as an owl.
Perifirime destroys the castle and carries the lovers in a cloud
chariot to her own palace. Their royal fathers give their blessings,
and Prince Lulu and Princess Sidi are joined in wedlock.

Following in a general way the lines of this story, but supplying
the comic element by the creation of Papageno (who is Kasperl in a
habiliment of feathers), Schikaneder had already got his hero into
the castle of the wicked magician in quest of the daughter of the
Queen of Night (in whose character there was not yet a trace of
maleficence), when the success of his rival's earlier presentation
of the story gave him pause. Now there came to him (or to his
literary colleague) a conceit which fired the imagination of Mozart
and added an element to the play which was bound at once to dignify
it and create a popular stir that might lead to a triumph. Whence
the suggestion came is not known, but its execution, so far as the
libretto was concerned, was left to Gieseke. Under the Emperor
Leopold II the Austrian government had adopted a reactionary policy
toward the order of Freemasons, which was suspected of making
propaganda for liberal ideas in politics and religion. Both
Schikaneder and Mozart belonged to the order, Mozart, indeed, being
so enthusiastic a devotee that he once confessed to his father his
gratitude to God that through Freemasonry he had learned to look
upon death as the gateway to true happiness. In continuing the book
of the opera, Schikaneder (or Gieseke for him) abruptly transformed
the wicked magician into a virtuous sage who had carried off the
daughter of a wicked sorceress, the Queen of Night, to save the
maiden from the baleful influence of her mother. Instead of seeking
to frustrate the efforts of the prince who comes to rescue her,
the sage initiates him into the mysteries of Isis, leads him into
the paths of virtue and wisdom, tests him by trials, and rewards
him at the last by blessing his union with the maiden. The trials
of silence, secrecy, and hardihood in passing through the dread
elements of fire and water were ancient literary materials; they may
be found in the account of the initiation of a neophyte into the
mysteries of Isis in Apuleius's "Metamorphoses; or, The Golden Ass,"
a romance written in the second century. By placing the scene of the
opera in Egypt, the belief of Freemasons that their order originated
in that unspeakably ancient land was humored, while the use of some
of its symbolism (such as the conflict between light and darkness)
and the proclamation of what were believed to be some of its ethical
principles could safely be relied upon to delight the knowing and
irritate the curiosity of the uninitiated. The change also led to
the shabby treatment which woman receives in the opera, while
Schikaneder's failure to rewrite the first part accounts for such
inconsistencies as the genii who are sent to guide the prince
appearing first in the service of the evil principle and afterward
as agents of the good.

The overture to "Die Zauberflöte," because of its firm establishment
in our concert-rooms, is more widely known than the opera. Two of its
salient features have also made it the subject of large discussion
among musical analysts; namely, the reiterated chords, three times
three, which introduce the second part of the overture. {1}

[Musical excerpt]

and the fugued allegro, constructed with a skill that will never
cease to be a wonder to the knowing, built up on the following

[Musical excerpt]

In the chords (which are heard again in the temple scene, at
which the hero is admitted as a novice and permitted to begin his
probation), the analysts who seek to find as much symbolism as
possible in the opera, see an allusion to the signals given by
knocking at the door of the lodge-room. Some such purpose may been
have in the mind of Mozart when he chose the device, but it was
not unique when he applied it. I have found it used in an almost
identical manner in the overture to "Günther von Schwarzburg," by
Ignaz Holzbauer, a German opera produced in Mannheim fifteen years
before "Die Zauberflöte" saw the light of the stage lamps. Mozart
knew Holzbauer, who was a really great musician, and admired his
music. Connected with the fugue theme there is a more familiar
story. In 1781 Clementi, the great pianist and composer, visited
Vienna. He made the acquaintance of Haydn, was introduced at court,
and Emperor Joseph II brought him and Mozart together in a trial of
skill at playing and improvising. Among other things Clementi played
his own sonata in B-flat, the first movement of which begins thus:--

[Musical excerpt]

The resemblance between this theme and Mozart's fugal subject is
too plain to need pointing out. Such likenesses were more common in
Mozart's day than they were a century ago; they were more common
in Handel's day than in Mozart's; they are almost as common in our
day as they were in Handel's, but now we explain them as being the
products of "unconscious cerebration," whereas in the eighteenth
century they were frank borrowings in which there was no moral
obliquity; for originality then lay as much in treatment as in
thematic invention, if not more.

Come we now to a description of the action of the opera. Tamino,--
strange to say, a "Japanese" prince,--hunting far, very far, from
home, is pursued, after his last arrow has been sped, by a great
serpent. He flees, cries for help, and seeing himself already in the
clutch of death, falls in a swoon. At the moment of his greatest
danger three veiled ladies appear on the scene and melodiously and
harmoniously unite in slaying the monster. They are smitten, in
unison, with the beauty of the unconscious youth whom they have
saved, and quarrel prettily among themselves for the privilege of
remaining beside him while information of the incident is bearing
to the Queen of Night, who lives hard by in a castle. No two being
willing that the third shall stay, all three go to the Queen, who is
their mistress. Tamino's consciousness returning, he discovers that
the serpent has been slain, and hails Papageno, who comes upon the
scene, as his deliverer. Papageno is a bird-catcher by trade and
in the service of the Queen of Night--a happy-go-lucky, talkative
fellow, whose thoughts do not go beyond creature comforts. He
publishes his nature (and incidentally illustrates what has been
said above about the naïve character of some of the music of the
opera) by trolling a ditty with an opening strain as follows:--

[Musical excerpt]

Papageno has no scruples about accepting credit and gratitude for
the deed performed by the ladies, and, though he is the veriest
poltroon, he boasts inordinately about the gigantic strength which
had enabled him to strangle the serpent. He is punished for his
mendacity when the ladies return and place a padlock upon his mouth,
closing his lips to the things of which he is most fond--speech and
food. To Tamino they give a miniature portrait, which excites him to
rapturous song ("Dies Bildniss ist bezaubernd schön," or "Oh! cara
immagine," as the case may be). Then he learns that the original of
the portrait is Pamina, daughter of the Queen of Night, stolen from
her mother by a "wicked demon," Sarastro. In the true spirit of
knight-errantry he vows that he will restore the maid to her
mother's arms. There is a burst of thunder, and the Queen appears
in such apparel and manner as the exchequer at the theatre and the
ingenuity of the stage mechanic are able to provide. (When last I
saw her her robe was black, bespangled with stars and glittering
gems, and she rode upon the crescent moon.) She knows the merits and
virtues of the youth, and promises that he shall have Pamina to wife
if he succeeds in his adventure. Papageno is commanded to accompany
him, and as aids the ladies give to Tamino a magic flute, whose
tones shall protect him from every danger, and to Papageno a
bell-chime of equal potency. (These talismans have hundreds of
prototypes in the folk-lore of all peoples.) Papageno is loath to
accompany the prince, because the magician had once threatened to
spit and roast him like the bird he resembled if ever he was caught
in his domain, but the magical bells give him comfort and assurance.
Meanwhile the padlock has been removed from his lips, with
admonitions not to lie more. In the quintet which accompanies these
sayings and doings, there is exquisite music, which, it is said,
Mozart conceived while playing at billiards. Finally the ladies
announce that three boys, "young, beautiful, pure, and wise," shall
guide the pair to the castle of Sarastro.

We are next in a room of the castle before the would-be rescuers
arrive. Pamina has tried to escape, and is put in chains by her
keeper, the Moor Monostatos. She weeps because of her misery, and
repulses the protestations of love with which her jailer plagues
her. Papageno enters the room, and he and the jailer run in opposite
directions at sight of each other--Papageno frightened by the
complexion of the blackamoor, Monostatos terror-stricken at the
sight of a man in feathers. Returning, Papageno convinces himself
of the identity of Pamina with the daughter of the Queen of Night,
tells her of Tamino, who is coming for her with a heart full of
love, and promptly they sing of the divine dignity of the marital
state. It is the duet, "Bei Männern weiche Liebe fühlen," or "Là
dove prende, amor ricetto," familiar to concert-rooms, and the
melody to some hymnals. A story goes that Mozart had to write
this duet three or five times before it would pass muster in the
censorious eyes of Schikaneder. After the opera had made good its
success, the duet as we have it to-day alternated at the performance
with a more ornate version--in all likelihood one of the earlier
forms in which Mozart cast it.

The three boys--genii they are, and if I were stage-manager they
should fly like Peter Pan--lead Tamino into a grove wherein stand
three temples dedicated respectively to Wisdom, Nature, and Reason.
The precinct is sacred; the music tells us that--the halo streaming
from sustained notes of flutes and clarinets, the muted trumpets,
the solemn trombones in softest monotone, the placid undulations of
the song sung by the violins, the muffled, admonitory beats of the
kettledrums. The genii leave Tamino after admonishing him to be
"steadfast, patient, and silent." Conscious of a noble purpose, the
hero boldly approaches the Temple of Reason, but before he can enter
its portals, is stopped by an imperative injunction from within:
"Back!" He essays the Temple of Nature, and is turned away again by
the ominous word. Out of the Temple of Wisdom steps an aged priest,
from whom he learns that Sarastro is master within, and that no
one is privileged to enter whose heart, like his, harbors hatred
and vengeful thoughts. Tamino thinks Sarastro fully deserving of
hatred and revenge, and is informed that he had been deceived by a
woman--one of the sex "that does little, chatters much." Tamino asks
if Pamina lives, but the priest is bound by an oath to say nothing
on that subject until "the hand of friendship shall lead him to an
eternal union within the sanctuary." When shall night vanish and the
light appear? Oracular voices answer, "Soon, youth, or never!" Does
Pamina live? The voices: "Pamina still lives!" Thus comforted, he
sings his happiness, filling the pauses in his song with interludes
on the flute, bringing to his feet the wild beasts and forest
creatures of all sorts. He hears Papageno's syrinx, and at length
finds the fowler with Monostatos; but before their joy can have
expression Pamina and the slaves appear and capture them. Papageno
recollects him of his magic bells; he plays upon them, and the
slaves, willy-nilly, dance themselves out of sight. Scarcely are the
lovers free when a solemn strain announces the approach of Sarastro.
He comes in a chariot drawn by lions and surrounded by a brave
retinue. Pamina kneels to him, confesses her attempt to escape, but
explains that it was to free herself from the odious attentions of
Monostatos. The latter, asking his reward for having thwarted the
plan of Papageno, receives it from Sarastro in the shape of a
bastinado. Pamina pleads for restoration to her mother, but the sage
refuses to free her, saying that her mother is a haughty woman,
adding the ungallant reflection that woman's heart should be
directed by man lest she step outside her sphere. He commands that
Tamino and Papageno be veiled and led into the Temple of Probation.
The first act is ended.

The initiation of Tamino and Papageno into the mysteries, their
trials, failures, triumph, and reward, form the contents of the
second act. At a conclave of the elect, Sarastro announces that
Tamino stands at the door of the Temple of Wisdom, desirous to gaze
upon the "great light" of the sanctuary. He prays Isis and Osiris
to give strength to the neophytes:--

[Musical excerpt--"O Isis und Osiris schenket Der Weisheit Geist
dem neuen Paar."]

To the impressiveness of this prayer the orchestra contributes as
potent a factor as the stately melody or the solemn harmonies. All
the bright-voiced instruments are excluded, and the music assigned
to three groups of sombre color, composed, respectively, (1) of
divided violas and violoncellos; (2) of three trombones, and (3) of
two basset horns and two bassoons. The assent of the sacerdotal
assembly is indicated by the three trumpet blasts which have been
described in connection with the overture, and Tamino and Papageno
are admitted to the Temple, instructed, and begin their probationary
trials. True to the notion of the order, two priests warn the
neophytes against the wiles of woman. Papageno has little inclination
to seek wisdom, but enters upon the trials in the hope of winning a
wife who shall be like himself in appearance. In the first trial,
which is that of silence, the value of the priestly warning just
received is at once made apparent. Tamino and Papageno have scarcely
been left alone, when the three female attendants of the Queen of
Night appear and attempt to terrify them with tales of the false
nature of the priests, whose recruits, say they, are carried to
hell, body and breeches (literally "mit Haut und Haar," i.e. "with
skin and hair"). Papageno becomes terror-stricken and falls to the
floor, when voices within proclaim that the sanctity of the temple
has been profaned by woman's presence. The ladies flee.

The scene changes. Pamina is seen asleep in a bower of roses,
silvered over by the light of the moon. Monostatos, deploring the
fact that love should be denied him because of his color, though
enjoyed by everything else in nature, attempts to steal a kiss. A
peal of thunder, and the Queen of Night rises from the ground. She
importunes Pamina to free herself and avenge her mother's wrongs
by killing Sarastro. To this end she hands her a dagger and pours
out the "hellish rage" which "boils" in her heart in a flood of
scintillant staceati in the tonal regions where few soprano voices

[Musical excerpt]

Monostatos has overheard all. He wrenches the dagger from Pamina,
urges her again to accept his love, threatens her with death, and
is about to put his threat into execution when Sarastro enters,
dismisses the slave, and announces that his revenge upon the Queen
of Night shall lie in promoting the happiness of the daughter by
securing her union with Tamino.

The probationary trials of Tamino and Papageno are continued. The
two are led into a hall and admonished to remain silent till they
hear a trumpet-call. Papageno falls to chattering with an old woman,
is terrified beyond measure by a thunder-clap, and recovers his
composure only when the genii bring back the flute and bells and a
table of food. Tamino, however, remains steadfast, though Pamina
herself comes to him and pleads for a word of love. Papageno boasts
of his own hardihood, but stops to eat, though the trumpet has
called. A lion appears; Tamino plays his flute, and the beast
returns to his cage. The youth is prepared for the final trial; he
is to wander for a space through flood and flame, and Pamina is
brought to say her tearful farewells. The courage and will of the
neophyte remain unshaken, though the maiden gives way to despair and
seeks to take her own life. The genii stay her hand, and assure her
that Tamino shall be restored to her. Two men in armor guard the
gates of a subterranean cavern. They sing of the rewards to be won
by him who shall walk the path of danger; water, fire, air, and
earth shall purify him; and if he withstand death's terrors, heaven
shall receive him and he be enlightened and fitted to consecrate
himself wholly to the mysteries of Isis:--

[Musical excerpt--"Der, welcher wandert diese Strasse voll Beschwerde"]

A marvellous piece of music is consorted with this oracular
utterance. The words are set to an old German church melody--"Ach
Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein"--around which the orchestral
instruments weave a contrapuntal web of wondrous beauty. At the
gates Pamina joins her lover and accompanies him on his journey,
which is happily achieved with the help of the flute. Meanwhile
Papageno is pardoned his loquacity, but told that he shall never
feel the joy of the elect. He thinks he can make shift with a
pretty wife instead. The old woman of the trial chamber appears and
discloses herself as the charming, youthful Papageno, but only for
an instant. He calls after her in vain, and is about to hang himself
when the genii remind him of his magic bells. He rings and sings;
his feathered mate comes to him. Monostatos aids the Queen of Night
and her companions in an assault upon the sanctuary; but a storm
confounds them, and Sarastro blesses the union of Tamino and Pamina,
amidst joyful hymning by the elect.

An extraordinary hodgepodge, truly, yet, taken all in all, an
effective stage piece. Goethe was so impressed with the ingenuity
shown by Schikaneder in treating the device of contrast that he
seriously contemplated writing a second part, the music of which was
to be composed by Wranitzky, who set Gieseke's operatic version of
"Oberon." German critics and managers have deplored its absurdities
and contradictions, but have found no way to obviate them which
can be said to be generally acceptable. The buffooneries cannot be
separated from the sublimities without disrupting the piece, nor can
its doggerel be turned into dignified verse. It were best, I fancy,
that managers should treat the opera, and audiences receive it, as a
sort of Christmas pantomime which Mozart has glorified by his music.
The tendency of German critics has been to view it with too much
seriousness. It is difficult to avoid this while one is under the
magic spell of its music, but the only way to become reconciled to
it on reflection is to take it as the story of its creation shows
that its creators intended it to be taken; namely, as a piece
designed to suit the tastes of the uncultivated and careless masses.
This will explain the singular sacrifice of principle which Mozart
made in permitting a mountebank like Schikaneder to pass judgment on
his music while he was composing it, to exact that one duet should
be composed over five times before he would accept it, and even to
suggest melodies for some of the numbers. Jahn would have us believe
that Mozart was so concerned at the failure of the first act to win
applause at the first performance that he came behind the scenes
pale as death to receive comfort and encouragement from Schikaneder;
I prefer to believe another story, which is to the effect that
Mozart almost died with laughing when he found that the public went
into ecstasies over his opera. Certain it is that his pleasure in
it was divided. Schikaneder had told him that he might occasionally
consult the taste of connoisseurs, and he did so, finding profound
satisfaction in the music written for Sarastro and the priests, and
doubtless also in the fine ensembles; but the enthusiasm inspired
by what he knew to be concessions to the vulgar only excited his
hilarity. The beautiful in the score is amply explained by Mozart's
genius and his marvellous command of the technique of composition.
The dignity of the simple idea of a celebration of the mysteries
of Isis would have been enough, without the composer's reverence
for Freemasonry and its principles, to inspire him for a great
achievement when it came to providing a setting for the scenes in
which the priests figure. The rest of the music he seems to have
written with little regard to coherency or unity of character. His
sister-in-law had a voice of extraordinary range and elasticity;
hence the two display airs; Papageno had to have music in keeping in
his character, and Mozart doubtless wrote it with as little serious
thought as he did the "Piece for an Organ in a Clock, in F minor,
4-4," and "Andante to a Waltz for a Little Organ," which can be
found entered in his autograph catalogue for the last year of
his life. In the overture, one of the finest of his instrumental
compositions, he returned to a form that had not been in use since
the time of Hasse and Graum; in the scene with the two men in armor
he made use of a German chorale sung in octaves as a canto firmo,
with counterpoint in the orchestra--a recondite idea which it is
difficult to imagine him inventing for this opera. I fancy (not
without evidence) that he made the number out of material found in
his sketch-book. These things indicate that the depth which the
critics with deep-diving and bottom-scraping proclivities affect
to see in the work is rather the product of imagination than real.


{1} These chords, played by all the wind instruments of the band,
are the chords of the introduction raised to a higher power.



In the preceding chapter it was remarked that Mozart's "Zauberflöte"
was the oldest German opera in the current American repertory.
Accepting the lists of the last two decades as a criterion, "Don
Giovanni" is the oldest Italian opera, save one. That one is "Le
Nozze di Figaro," and it may, therefore, be said that Mozart's
operas mark the beginning of the repertory as it exists at the
present time in America. Twenty-five years ago it was possible to
hear a few performances of Gluck's "Orfeo" in English and Italian,
and its name has continued to figure occasionally ever since in the
lists of works put forth by managers when inviting subscriptions for
operatic seasons; but that fact can scarcely be said to have kept
the opera in the repertory.

Our oldest Italian opera is less than 125 years old, and "Don
Giovanni" only 122--an inconsiderable age for a first-class work of
art compared with its companion pieces in literature, painting, and
sculpture, yet a highly respectable one for an opera. Music has
undergone a greater revolution within the last century than any
other art in thrice the period, yet "Don Giovanni" is as much
admired now as it was in the last decade of the eighteenth century,
and, indeed, has less prejudice to contend with in the minds of
musicians and critics than it had when it was in its infancy, and
I confidently believe that to its score and that of "Le Nozze di
Figaro" opera writers will soon be turning to learn the methods of
dramatic characterization. Pure beauty lives in angelic wedlock with
psychological expression in Mozart's dramatic music, and these
factors will act as powerful loadstones in bringing composers who
are now laboriously and vainly seeking devices for characterization
in tricks and devices based on arbitrary formulas back to the gospel
of truth and beauty. Wagner has had no successful imitator. His
scheme of thematic identification and development, in its union of
calculation, reflection, and musical inspiration, is beyond the
capacities of those who have come after him. The bow of Ulysses is
still unbent; but he will be a great musician indeed who shall use
the resources of the new art with such large ease, freedom, power,
and effectiveness as Mozart used those of the comparatively
ingenuous art of his day. And yet the great opera composer who is to
come in great likelihood will be a disciple of Gluck, Mozart, and
the Wagner who wrote "Tristan und Isolde" and "Die Meistersinger"
rather than one of the tribe of Debussy.

The great opera composers of the nineteenth century were of one mind
touching the greatness of "Don Giovanni." Beethoven was horrified by
its licentious libretto, but tradition says that he kept before him
on his writing-table a transcript of the music for the trombones in
the second finale of the opera. Shortly after Mme. Viardot-Garcia
came into possession of the autograph score of the masterpiece,
Rossini called upon her and asked for the privilege of looking at
it, adding, "I want to bow the knee before this sacred relic."
After poring over a few pages, he placed his hands on the book and
said, solemnly: "He is the greatest, the master of them all; the
only composer who had as much science as he had genius, and as
much genius as he had science." On another occasion he said to a
questioner: "Vous voulez connaître celui de mes ouvrages que j'aime
le mieux; eh bien, c'est 'Don Giovanni.'" Gounod celebrated the
centenary of the opera by writing a commentary on it which he
dedicated to young composers and artists called upon to take part
in performances of the opera. In the preface of his book he
characterizes it as "an unequalled and immortal masterpiece," the
"apogee of the lyrical drama," a "wondrous example of truth, beauty
of form, appropriateness of characterization, deep insight into the
drama, purity of style, richness and restraint in instrumentation,
charm and tenderness in the love passages, and power in pathos"--in
one word, a "finished model of dramatic music." And then he added:
"The score of 'Don Giovanni' has exercised the influence of a
revelation upon the whole of my life; it has been and remains for
me a kind of incarnation of dramatic and musical impeccability. I
regard it as a work without blemish, of uninterrupted perfection,
and this commentary is but the humble testimony of my Veneration and
gratitude for the genius to whom I owe the purest and most permanent
joys of my life as a musician." In his "Autobiographical Sketch"
Wagner confesses that as a lad he cared only for "Die Zauberflöte,"
and that "Don Giovanni" was distasteful to him on account of the
Italian text, which seemed to him rubbish. But in "Oper und Drama"
he says: "Is it possible to find anything more perfect than every
piece in 'Don Juan'? . . . Oh, how doubly dear and above all honor
is Mozart to me that it was not possible for him to invent music
for 'Tito' like that of 'Don Giovanni,' for 'Cosi fan tutte' like
that of 'Figaro'! How shamefully would it have desecrated music!"
And again: "Where else has music won so infinitely rich an
individuality, been able to characterize so surely, so definitely,
and in such exuberant plenitude, as here?" {1}

Mozart composed "Don Giovanni" for the Italian Opera at Prague,
which had been saved from ruin in the season 1786-1787 by the
phenomenal success of "Le Nozze di Figaro." He chose the subject and
commissioned Lorenzo da Ponte, then official poet to the imperial
theatres of Austria, to write the book of words. In doing so, the
latter made free use of a version of the same story made by an
Italian theatrical poet named Bertati, and Dr. Chrysander (who in
1886 gave me a copy of this libretto, which Mozart's biographer,
Otto Jahn, had not succeeded in finding, despite diligent search)
has pointed out that Mozart also took as a model some of the music
to which the composer Gazzaniga had set it. The title of the opera
by Bertati and Gazzaniga was "Il Convitato di Pietra." It had been
brought forward with great success in Venice and won wide vogue
in Italy before Mozart hit upon it. It lived many years after
Mozart brought out his opera, and, indeed, was performed in London
twenty-three years before Mozart's opera got a hearing. It is
doubtful, however, if the London representation did justice to the
work. Da Ponte was poet to the opera there when "Il Convitato" was
chosen for performance, and it fell to him to prepare the book to
suit the taste of the English people. He tried to persuade the
management to give Mozart's opera instead, and, failing in that,
had the malicious satisfaction of helping to turn the work of
Bertati and Gazzaniga into a sort of literary and musical pasticcio,
inserting portions of his own paraphrase of Bertati's book in place
of the original scenes and preparing occasion for the insertion of
musical pieces by Sarti, Frederici, and Guglielmi.

Mozart wrote the music to "Don Giovanni" in the summer of 1787.
Judging by the circumstance that there is no entry in his autograph
catalogue between June 24 and August 10 in that year, it would seem
that he had devoted the intervening seven weeks chiefly, if not
wholly, to the work. When he went to Prague in September he carried
the unfinished score with him, and worked on it there largely in the
summer house of his friends, the Duscheks, who lived in the suburbs
of the city. Under date of October 28 he entered the overture in his
catalogue. As a matter of fact, it was not finished till the early
morn of the next day, which was the day of the first production of
the opera. Thereby hangs the familiar tale of how it was composed.
On the evening of the day before the performance, pen had not been
touched to the overture. Nevertheless, Mozart sat with a group of
merry friends until a late hour of the night. Then he went to his
hotel and prepared to work. On the table was a glass of punch, and
his wife sat beside him--to keep him awake by telling him stories.
In spite of all, sleep overcame him, and he was obliged to interrupt
his work for several hours; yet at 7 o'clock in the morning the
copyist was sent for and the overture was ready for him. The tardy
work delayed the representation in the evening, and the orchestra
had to play the overture at sight; but it was a capital band, and
Mozart, who conducted, complimented it before starting into the
introduction to the first air. The performance was completely
successful, and floated buoyantly on a tide of enthusiasm which set
in when Mozart entered the orchestra, and rose higher and higher as
the music went on. On May 7, 1788, the opera was given in Vienna,
where at first it made a fiasco, though Mozart had inserted new
pieces and made other alterations to humor the singers and add to
its attractiveness. London heard it first on April 12, 1817, at the
King's Theatre, whose finances, which were almost in an exhausted
state, it restored to a flourishing condition. In the company which
Manuel Garcia brought to New York in 1825 were Carlo Angrisani, who
was the Masetto of the first London representation, and Domenico
Crivelli, son of the tenor Gaetano Crivelli, who had been the
Don Ottavio. Garcia was a tenor with a voice sufficiently deep to
enable him to sing the barytone part of Don Giovanni in Paris and
at subsequent performances in London. It does not appear that he
had contemplated a performance of the opera in New York, but here
he met Da Ponte, who had been a resident of the city for twenty
years and recently been appointed professor of Italian literature
at Columbia College. Da Ponte, as may be imagined, lost no time in
calling on Garcia and setting on foot a scheme for bringing forward
"my 'Don Giovanni,'" as he always called it. Crivelli was a
second-rate tenor, and could not be trusted with the part of Don
Ottavio, and a Frenchman named Milon, whom I conclude to have been
a violoncello player, afterward identified with the organization of
the Philharmonic Society, was engaged for that part. A Mme. Barbieri
was cast for the part of Donna Anna, Mme. Garcia for that of Donna
Elvira, Manuel Garcia, Jr. (who died in 1906 at the age of 101
years) for that of Leporello, Angrisani for his old rôle of Masetto,
and Maria Garcia, afterward the famous Malibran, for that of
Zerlina. The first performance took place on May 23, 1826, in the
Park Theatre, and the opera was given eleven times in the season.
This success, coupled with the speedily acquired popularity of
Garcia's gifted daughter, was probably the reason why an English
version of the opera which dominated the New York stage for nearly
a quarter of a century soon appeared at the Chatham Theatre. In
this version the part of the dissolute Don was played by H. Wallack,
uncle of the Lester Wallack so long a theatrical favorite in the
American metropolis. As Malibran the Signorina Garcia took part in
many of the English performances of the work, which kept the Italian
off the local stage till 1850, when it was revived by Max Maretzek
at the Astor Place Opera-house.

I have intimated that Bertati's opera-book was the prototype of Da
Ponte's, but the story is centuries older than either. The Spanish
tale of Don Juan Tenorio, who killed an enemy in a duel, insulted
his memory by inviting his statue to dinner, and was sent to hell
because of his refusal to repent him of his sins, was but a literary
form of a legend of considerable antiquity. It seems likely that
it was moulded into dramatic shape by monks in the Middle Ages; it
certainly occupied industriously the minds of playwrights in the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Spain, Italy, Germany, and
England. The most eminent men who treated it at various times were
the Spaniard known as Tirza di Molina, the Frenchman Molière,
the Italian Goldoni, and the Englishman Thomas Shadwell, whose
"Libertine Destroyed" was brought forward in 1676. Before Mozart,
Le Tellier had used it for a French comic opera, Righini and
Gazzaniga for Italian operas, and Gluck for a ballet.

But we are concerned now only with the play as Da Ponte and Mozart
gave it to us. In the dramatic terminology of the eighteenth century
"Don Giovanni" was a dramma giocoso; in the better sense of the
phrase, a playful drama--a lyric comedy. Da Ponte conceived it as
such, but Mozart gave it so tragical a turn by the awful solemnity
with which he infused the scene of the libertine's punishment that
already in his day it was felt that the last scene as written and
composed to suit the conventional type of a comic opera was an
intolerable anticlimax. Mozart sounds a deeply tragical note at the
outset of his overture. The introduction is an Andante, which he
drew from the scene of the opera in which the ghostly statue of the
murdered Commandant appears to Don Giovanni while he is enjoying
the pleasures of the table. Two groups of solemn chords command
attention and "establish at once the majestic and formidable
authority of divine justice, the avenger of crime." {2} They are
followed by a series of solemn progressions in stern, sinister,
unyielding, merciless, implacable harmonies. They are like the
colossal strides of approaching Fate, and this awfulness is twice
raised to a higher power, first by a searching, syncopated phrase
in the violins which hovers loweringly over them, and next by a
succession of afrighted minor scales ascending crescendo and
descending piano, the change in dynamics beginning abruptly as the
crest of each terrifying wave is reached. These wonderful scales
begin thus:--

[Musical excerpt]

in the last scene of the opera. They were an afterthought of the
composer's. They did not appear in the original score of the scene,
as the autograph shows, but were written in after the music had once
been completed. They are crowded into the staves in tiny notes which
sometimes extend from one measure into the next. This circumstance
and the other, that they are all fairly written out in the autograph
of the overture, indicate that they were conceived either at one of
the rehearsals or while Mozart was writing the overture. They could
not have been suggested at the first performance, as Jahn seems to
imply. {3} The introduction is only thirty measures long, and the
Allegro which follows is made up of new material. I quote again
from Gounod: "But suddenly, and with feverish audacity, the Allegro
breaks out in the major key, an Allegro full of passion and
delirium, deaf to the warnings of Heaven, regardless of remorse,
enraptured of pleasure, madly inconstant and daring, rapid and
impetuous as a torrent, flashing and swift as a sword, overleaping
all obstacles, scaling balconies, and bewildering the alguazils." {4}
From the tragic introduction through the impetuous main section we
are led to a peaceful night scene in the garden before the house
of Donna Anna. There Leporello, the servant of Don Giovanni, is
awaiting in discontented mood for the return of his master, who has
entered the house in quest of amatory adventure. Leporello is weary
of the service in which he is engaged, and contrasts his state with
that of the Don. (Air: "Notte e giorno faticar.") He will throw off
the yoke and be a gentleman himself. He has just inflated himself
with pride at the thought, when he hears footsteps, and the poltroon
in his nature asserts itself. He hides behind the shrubbery. Don
Giovanni hurries from the house, concealing his features with his
cloak and impeded by Donna Anna, who clings to him, trying to get a
look into his face and calling for help. Don Giovanni commands
silence and threatens. The Commandant, Donna Anna's father, appears
with drawn sword and challenges the intruder. Don Giovanni hesitates
to draw against so old a man, but the Commandant will not parley.
They fight. At first the attacks and defences are deliberate (the
music depicts it all with wonderful vividness), but at the last it
is thrust and parry, thrust and parry, swiftly, mercilessly. The
Commandant is no match for his powerful young opponent, and falls,
dying. A few broken ejaculations, and all is ended. The orchestra
sings a slow descending chromatic phrase "as if exhausted by the
blood which oozes from the wound," says Gounod. How simple the means
of expression! But let the modern composer, with all his apparatus
of new harmonies and his multitude of instruments, point out a scene
to match it in the entire domain of the lyric drama! Don Giovanni
and his lumpish servant, who, with all his coward instincts, cannot
help trying his wit at the outcome of the adventure, though his
master is in little mood for sportiveness, steal away as they see
lights and hear a commotion in the palace. Donna Anna comes back to
the garden, bringing her affianced lover, Don Ottavio, whom she had
called to the help of her father. She finds the Commandant dead,


Back to Full Books