A Book of Operas
Henry Edward Krehbiel

Part 2 out of 5

and breaks into agonizing cries and tears. Only an accompanied
recitative, but every ejaculation a cry of nature! Gounod is wrought
up to an ecstasy by Mozart's declamation and harmonies. He suspends
his analysis to make this comment:--

But that which one cannot too often remark nor too often endeavor
to make understood, that which renders Mozart an absolutely unique
genius, is the constant and indissoluble union of beauty of form
with truth of expression. By this truth he is human, by this beauty
he is divine. By truth he teaches us, he moves us; we recognize each
other in him, and we proclaim thereby that he indeed knows human
nature thoroughly, not only in its different passions, but also in
the varieties of form and character that those passions may assume.
By beauty the real is transfigured, although at the same time it
is left entirely recognizable; he elevates it by the magic of a
superior language and transports it to that region of serenity and
light which constitutes Art, wherein Intelligence repeats with a
tranquillity of vision what the heart has experienced in the trouble
of passion. Now the union of truth with beauty is Art itself.

Don Ottavio attempts to console his love, but she is insane with
grief and at first repulses him, then pours out her grief and calls
upon him to avenge the death of her father. Together they register
a vow and call on heaven for retribution.

It is morning. Don Giovanni and Leporello are in the highway near
Seville. As usual, Leporello is dissatisfied with his service and
accuses the Don with being a rascal. Threats of punishment bring
back his servile manner, and Don Giovanni is about to acquaint him
of a new conquest, when a lady, Donna Elvira, comes upon the scene.
She utters woful complaints of unhappiness and resentment against
one who had won her love, then deceived and deserted her. (Air:
"Ah! chi mi dice mai.") Don Giovanni ("aflame already," as Leporello
remarks) steps forward to console her. He salutes her with soft
blandishment in his voice, but to his dismay discovers that she is
a noble lady of Burgos and one of the "thousand and three" Spanish
victims recorded in the list which Leporello mockingly reads to her
after Don Giovanni, having turned her over to his servant, for
an explanation of his conduct in leaving Burgos, has departed
unperceived. Leporello is worthy of his master in some things.
In danger he is the veriest coward, and his teeth chatter like
castanets; but confronted by a mere woman in distress he becomes
voluble and spares her nothing in a description of the number of
his master's amours, their place, the quality and station of his
victims, and his methods of beguilement. The curious and also
the emulous may be pleased to learn that the number is 2065,
geographically distributed as follows: Italy, 240; Germany, 231;
France, 100; Turkey, 91; and Spain, 1003. Among them are ladies from
the city and rustic damsels, countesses, baronesses, marchionesses,
and princesses. If blond, he praises her dainty beauty; brunette,
her constancy; pale, her sweetness. In cold weather his preferences
go toward the buxom, in summer, svelte. Even old ladies serve to
swell his list. Rich or poor, homely or beautiful, all's one to him
so long as the being is inside a petticoat. "But why go on? Lady,
you know his ways." The air, "Madamina," is a marvel of malicious
humor and musical delineation. "E la grande maestoso"--the music
rises and inflates itself most pompously; "la piccina"--it sinks in
quick iteration lower and lower just as the Italians in describing
small things lower their hands toward the ground. The final words,
"Voi sapete, quel che fa," scarcely to be interpreted for polite
readers, as given by bass singers who have preserved the Italian
traditions (with a final "hm" through the nose), go to the extreme
of allowable suggestiveness, if not a trifle beyond. The insult
throws Elvira into a rage, and she resolves to forego her love
and seek vengeance instead.

Don Giovanni comes upon a party of rustics who are celebrating in
advance the wedding of Zerlina and Masetto. The damsel is a somewhat
vain, forward, capricious, flirtatious miss, and cannot long
withstand such blandishments as the handsome nobleman bestows
upon her. Don Giovanni sends the merrymakers to his palace for
entertainment, cajoles and threatens Masetto into leaving him alone
with Zerlina, and begins his courtship of her. (Duet: "Là ci darem
la mano.") He has about succeeded in his conquest, when Elvira
intervenes, warns the maiden, leads her away, and, returning, finds
Donna Anna and Don Ottavio in conversation with Don Giovanni,
whose help in the discovery of the Commandant's murderer they are
soliciting. Elvira breaks out with denunciations, and Don Giovanni,
in a whisper to his companions, proclaims her mad, and leads her
off. Departing, he says a word of farewell, and from the tone of
his voice Donna Anna recognizes her father's murderer. She tells
her lover how the assassin stole into her room at night, attempted
her dishonor, and slew her father. She demands his punishment at
Don Ottavio's hands, and he, though doubting that a nobleman and
a friend could be guilty of such crimes, yet resolves to find out
the truth and deliver the guilty man to justice.

The Don commands a grand entertainment for Zerlina's wedding party,
for, though temporarily foiled, he has not given up the chase.
Masetto comes with pretty Zerlina holding on to the sleeve of his
coat. The boor is jealous, and Zerlina knows well that he has cause.
She protests, she cajoles; he is no match for her. She confesses to
having been pleased at my lord's flattery, but he had not touched
"even the tips of her fingers." If her fault deserves it, he may
beat her if he wants to, but then let there be peace between them.
The artful minx! Her wheedling is irresistible. Listen to it:--

[Musical excerpt--"Batti, batti, o bel Masetto"]

The most insinuating of melodies floating over an obbligato of the
solo violoncello "like a love charm," as Gounod says. Then the
celebration of her victory when she captures one of his hands and
knows that he is yielding:--

[Musical excerpt--"Pace, pace o vita mia"]

A new melody, blither, happier, but always the violoncello murmuring
in blissful harmony with the seductive voice and rejoicing in the
cunning witcheries which lull Masetto's suspicions to sleep. Now all
go into Don Giovanni's palace, from which the sounds of dance music
and revelry are floating out. Donna Elvira, Donna Anna, and Don
Ottavio, who come to confront him who has wronged them all, are
specially bidden, as was the custom, because they appeared in masks.
Within gayety is supreme. A royal host, this Don Giovanni! Not only
are there refreshments for all, but he has humored both classes of
guests in the arrangement of the programme of dances. Let there be a
minuet, a country-dance, and an allemande, he had said to Leporello
in that dizzying song of instruction which whirls past our senses
like a mad wind: "Finch' han dal vino." No one so happy as Mozart
when it came to providing the music for these dances. Would you
connoisseurs in music like counterpoint? We shall give it you;--three
dances shall proceed at once and together, despite their warring
duple and triple rhythms:--

[Musical excerpts]

Louis Viardot, who wrote a little book describing the autograph of
"Don Giovanni," says that Mozart wrote in the score where the three
bands play thus simultaneously the word accordano as a direction
to the stage musicians to imitate the action of tuning their
instruments before falling in with their music. Of this fact the
reprint of the libretto as used at Prague and Vienna contains no
mention, but a foot-note gives other stage directions which indicate
how desirous Mozart was that his ingenious and humorous conceit
should not be overlooked. At the point where the minuet, which was
the dance of people of quality, is played, he remarked, "Don Ottavio
dances the minuet with Donna Anna"; at the contra-dance in 2-4 time,
"Don Giovanni begins to dance a contra-dance with Zerlina"; at the
entrance of the waltz, "Leporello dances a 'Teitsch' with Masetto."
The proper execution of Mozart's elaborate scheme puts the resources
of an opera-house to a pretty severe test, but there is ample reward
in the result. Pity that, as a rule, so little intelligence is shown
by the ballet master in arranging the dances! There is a special
significance in Mozart's direction that the cavalier humor the
peasant girl by stepping a country-dance with her, which is all lost
when he attempts to lead her into the aristocratic minuet, as is
usually done.

At the height of the festivities, Don Giovanni succeeds in leading
Zerlina into an inner room, from which comes a piercing shriek a
moment later. Anticipating trouble, Leporello hastens to his master
to warn him. Don Ottavio and his friends storm the door of the
anteroom, out of which now comes Don Giovanni dragging Leporello
and uttering threats of punishment against him. The trick does not
succeed. Don Ottavio removes his mask and draws his sword; Donna
Anna and Donna Elvira confront the villain. The musicians, servants,
and rustics run away in affright. For a moment Don Giovanni loses
presence of mind, but, his wits and courage returning, he beats down
the sword of Don Ottavio, and, with Leporello, makes good his escape.

The incidents of the second act move with less rapidity, and, until
the fateful dénouement is reached, on a lower plane of interest than
those of the first, which have been narrated. Don Giovanni turns his
attentions to the handsome waiting-maid of Donna Elvira. To get the
mistress out of the way he persuades Leporello to exchange cloaks
and hats with him and station himself before her balcony window,
while he utters words of tenderness and feigned repentance. The lady
listens and descends to the garden, where Leporello receives her
with effusive protestations; but Don Giovanni rudely disturbs them,
and they run away. Then the libertine, in the habit of his valet,
serenades his new charmer. The song, "Deh vieni alla finestra,"
is of melting tenderness and gallantry; words and music float
graciously on the evening air in company with a delightfully piquant
tune picked out on a mandolin. The maid is drawn to the window, and
Don Giovanni is in full expectation of another triumph, when Masetto
confronts him with a rabble of peasants, all armed. They are in
search of the miscreant who had attempted to outrage Zerlina. Don
Giovanni is protected by his disguise. He feigns willingness to help
in the hunt, and rids himself of Masetto's companions by sending
them on a fool's errand to distant parts of the garden. Then he
cunningly possesses himself of Masetto's weapons and belabors him
stoutly with his own cudgel. He makes off, and Zerlina, hearing
Masetto's cries, hurries in to heal his hurts with pretty endearments.
(Air: "Vedrai carino.") Most unaccountably, as it will seem to those
who seek for consistency and reason in all parts of the play, all
of its actors except Don Giovanni find themselves together in a
courtyard (or room, according to the notions of the stage manager).
Leporello is trying to escape from Elvira, who still thinks him Don
Giovanni, and is first confronted by Masetto and Zerlina and then by
Ottavio and Anna. He is still in his master's hat and cloak, and is
taken vigorously to task, but discloses his identity when it becomes
necessary in order to escape a beating. Convinced at last that Don
Giovanni is the murderer of the Commandant, Don Ottavio commends his
love to the care of her friends and goes to denounce the libertine
to the officers of the law.

The last scene is reached. Don Giovanni, seated at his table, eats,
drinks, indulges in badinage with his servant, and listens to the
music of his private band. The musicians play melodies from popular
operas of the period in which Mozart wrote--not Spanish melodies of
the unfixed time in which the veritable Don Juan may have lived:--

[Musical excerpts--From Martin's "Una cosa rara." From "Fra i due
litiganti" by Sarti. From "Nozze di Figaro."]

Mozart feared anachronisms as little as Shakespeare. His Don
Giovanni was contemporary with himself and familiar with the
repertory of the Vienna Opera. The autograph discloses that the
ingenious conceit was wholly Mozart's. It was he who wrote the words
with which Leporello greets the melodies from "Una cosa rara," "I
due Litiganti," and "Le Nozze di Figaro," and when Leporello hailed
the tune "Non piu andrai" from the last opera with words "Questo poi
la conosco pur troppo" ("This we know but too well"), he doubtless
scored a point with his first audience in Prague which the German
translator of the opera never dreamed of. Even the German critics
of to-day seem dense in their unwillingness to credit Mozart with a
purely amiable purpose in quoting the operas of his rivals, Martin
and Sarti. The latter showed himself ungrateful for kindnesses
received at Mozart's hands by publicly denouncing an harmonic
progression in one of the famous six quartets dedicated to Haydn as
a barbarism, but there was no ill-will in the use of the air from
"I due Litiganti" as supper music for the delectation of the Don.
Mozart liked the melody, and had written variations on it for the

The supper is interrupted by Donna Elvira, who comes to plead on her
knees with Don Giovanni to change his mode of life. He mocks at her
solicitude and invites her to sit with him at table. She leaves the
room in despair, but sends back a piercing shriek from the corridor.
Leporello is sent out to report on the cause of the cry, and returns
trembling as with an ague and mumbling that he has seen a ghost--a
ghost of stone, whose footsteps, "Ta, ta, ta," sounded like a mighty
hammer on the floor. Don Giovanni himself goes to learn the cause of
the disturbance, and Leporello hides under the table. The intrepid
Don opens the door. There is a clap of thunder, and there enters the
ghost of the Commandant in the form of his statue as seen in the
churchyard. The music which has been described in connection with
the overture accompanies the conversation of the spectre and his
amazed host. Don Giovanni's repeated offer of hospitality is
rejected, but in turn he is asked if he will return the visit. He
will. "Your hand as a pledge," says the spectre. All unabashed, the
doomed man places his hand in that of the statue, which closes upon
it like a vise. Then an awful fear shakes the body of Don Giovanni,
and a cry of horror is forced out of his lips. "Repent, while there
is yet time," admonishes the visitor again and again, and still
again. Don Giovanni remains unshaken in his wicked fortitude. At
length he wrests his hand out of the stony grasp and at the moment
hears his doom from the stony lips, "Ah! the time for you is past!"
Darkness enwraps him; the earth trembles; supernatural voices
proclaim his punishment in chorus; a pit opens before him, from
which demons emerge and drag him down to hell.

Here the opera ends for us; but originally, after the catastrophe
the persons of the play, all but the reprobate whom divine justice
has visited, returned to the scene to hear a description of the
awful happenings he had witnessed from the buffoon who had hidden
under the table, to dispose their plans for the future (for Ottavio
and Anna, marriage in a year; for Masetto and Zerlina, a wedding
instanter; for Elvira, a nunnery), and platitudinously to moralize
that, the perfidious wretch having been carried to the realm of
Pluto and Proserpine, naught remained to do save to sing the old
song, "Thus do the wicked find their end, dying as they had lived."


{1} See my preface to "Don Giovanni" in the Schirmer Collection of Operas.

{2} Gounod.

{3} "The Life of Mozart," by Otto Jahn, Vol. III, p. 169.

{4} "Mozart's Don Giovanni," by Charles Gounod, p. 3.



It was the scalawag Schikaneder who had put together the singular
dramatic phantasmagoria known as Mozart's "Magic Flute," and acted
the part of the buffoon in it, who, having donned the garb of
respectability, commissioned Beethoven to compose the only opera
which that supreme master gave to the world. The opera is "Fidelio,"
and it occupies a unique place in operatic history not only because
it is the only work of its kind by the greatest tone-poet that ever
lived, but also because of its subject. The lyric drama has dealt
with the universal passion ever since the art-form was invented, but
"Fidelio" is the only living opera which occurs to me now, except
Gluck's "Orfeo" and "Alceste," which hymns the pure love of married
lovers. The bond between the story of Alcestis, who goes down to
death to save the life of Admetus, and that of Leonore, who ventures
her life to save Florestan, is closer than that of the Orphic
myth, for though the alloy only serves to heighten the sheen of
Eurydice's virtue, there is yet a grossness in the story of
Aristaeus's unlicensed passion which led to her death, that strongly
differentiates it from the modern tale of wifely love and devotion.
Beethoven was no ascetic, but he was as sincere and severe a
moralist in life as he was in art. In that most melancholy of human
documents, written at Heiligenstadt in October, 1802, commonly known
as his will, he says to his brothers: "Recommend to your children
virtue; it alone can bring happiness, not money. I speak from
experience. It was virtue which bore me up in time of trouble; to
her, next to my art, I owe thanks for my not having laid violent
hands on myself."

That Mozart had been able to compose music to such libretti as those
of "Don Giovanni" and "Così fan tutte" filed him with pained wonder.
Moreover, he had serious views of the dignity of music and of the
uses to which it might be put in the drama, and more advanced
notions than he has generally been credited with as to how music and
the drama ought to be consorted. Like all composers, he longed to
write an opera, and it is not at all unlikely that, like Mendelssohn
after him, he was deterred by the general tendency of the opera
books of his day. Certain it is that though he received a commission
for an opera early in the year 1803, it was not until an opera on
the story which is also that of "Fidelio" had been brought out
at Dresden that he made a definitive choice of a subject. The
production which may have infuenced him was that of Ferdinando
Paër's" Leonora, ossia l'Amore conjugale," which was brought forward
at Dresden, where its composer was conductor of the opera, on
October 3, 1804. This opera was the immediate predecessor of
Beethoven's, but it also had a predecessor in a French opera,
"Léonore, ou l'Amour conjugal," of which the music was composed by
Pierre Gaveaux, a musician of small but graceful gifts, who had been
a tenor singer before he became a composer. This opera had its first
performance on February 19, 1798, and may also have been known to
Beethoven, or have been brought to his notice while he was casting
about for a subject. At any rate, though it was known as early as
June, 1803, that Beethoven intended to compose an opera for the
Theater an der Wien, and had taken lodgings with his brother Caspar
in the theatre building more than two months before, it was not
until the winter of 1804 that the libretto of "Fidelio" was placed
in his hands. It was a German version of the French book by Bouilly,
which had been made by Joseph Sonnleithner, an intimate friend of
Schubert, founder of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, who had
recently been appointed secretary of the Austrian court theatres as
successor of Kotzebue. Beethoven had gone to live in the theatre
building for the purpose of working on the opera for Schikaneder,
but early in 1804 the Theater an der Wien passed out of his hands
into those of Baron von Braun. The intervening summer had been
passed by the composer at Baden and Unter Döbling in work upon the
"Eroica" symphony. The check upon the operatic project was but
temporary. Baron von Braun took Schikaneder into his service and
renewed the contract with Beethoven. This accomplished, the composer
resumed his lodgings in the theatre and began energetically to
work upon the opera. Let two facts be instanced here to show how
energetically and how painstakingly he labored. When he went into
the country in the early summer, as was his custom, he carried with
him 346 pages of sketches for the opera, sixteen staves on a page;
and among these sketches were sixteen openings of Florestan's great
air, which may be said to mark the beginning of the dramatic action
in the opera.

For the rest of the history of the opera I shall draw upon the
preface to "Fidelio," which I wrote some years ago for the vocal
score in the Schirmer collection. The score was finished, including
the orchestration, in the summer of 1805, and on Beethoven's return
to Vienna, rehearsals were begun. It was the beginning of a series
of trials which made the opera a child of sorrow to the composer.
The style of the music was new to the singers, and they pronounced
it unsingable. They begged him to make changes, but Beethoven was
adamant. The rehearsals became a grievous labor to all concerned.
The production was set down for November 20, but when the momentous
day came, it found Vienna occupied by the French troops, Bonaparte
at Schönbrunn and the capital deserted by the Emperor, the nobility,
and most of the wealthy patrons of art. The performance was a
failure. Besides the French occupation, two things were recognized
as militating against the opera's success:--the music was not to
the taste of the people, and the work was too long. Repetitions
followed on November 21 and 22, but the first verdict was upheld.

Beethoven's distress over the failure was scarcely greater than that
of his friends, though he was, perhaps, less willing than they to
recognize the causes that lay in the work itself. A meeting was
promptly held in the house of Prince Lichnowsky and the opera
taken in hand for revision. Number by number it was played on the
pianoforte, sung, discussed. Beethoven opposed vehemently nearly
every suggestion made by his well-meaning friends to remedy the
defects of the book and score, but yielded at last and consented to
the sacrifice of some of the music and a remodelling of the book for
the sake of condensation, this part of the task being intrusted to
Stephan von Breuning, who undertook to reduce the original three
acts to two. {1} When once Beethoven had been brought to give his
consent to the proposed changes, he accepted the result with the
greatest good humor; it should be noted, however, that when the
opera was put upon the stage again, on March 29, 1806, he was so
dilatory with his musical corrections that there was time for only
one rehearsal with orchestra. In the curtailed form "Fidelio" (as
the opera was called, though Beethoven had fought strenuously from
the beginning for the retention of the original title, "Leonore")
made a distinctly better impression than it had four months before,
and this grew deeper with the subsequent repetitions; but Beethoven
quarrelled with Baron von Braun, and the opera was withdrawn. An
attempt was made to secure a production in Berlin, but it failed,
and the fate of "Fidelio" seemed to be sealed. It was left to
slumber for more than seven years; then, in the spring of 1814, it
was taken up again. Naturally, another revision was the first thing
thought of, but this time the work was intrusted to a more practised
writer than Beethoven's childhood friend. Georg Friedrich Treitschke
was manager and librettist for Baron von Braun, and he became
Beethoven's collaborator. The revision of the book was completed by
March, 1814, and Beethoven wrote to Treitschke: "I have read your
revision of the opera with great satisfaction. It has decided me
to rebuild the desolate ruins of an ancient fortress." Treitschke
rewrote much of the libretto, and Beethoven made considerable
changes in the music, restoring some of the pages that had been
elided at the first overhauling. In its new form "Fidelio" was
produced at the Theater am Kärnthnerthor on May 23, 1814. It was a
successful reawakening. On July 18 the opera had a performance for
Beethoven's benefit; Moscheles made a pianoforte score under the
direction of the composer, who dedicated it to his august pupil, the
Archduke Rudolph, and it was published in August by Artaria.

The history of "Fidelio," interesting as it is, need not be pursued
here further than to chronicle its first performances in the English
and American metropoles. London heard it first from Chelard's German
company at the King's Theatre on May 18, 1832. It was first given in
English at Covent Garden on June 12, 1835, with Malibran as Leonore,
and in Italian at Her Majesty's on May 20, 1851, when the dialogue
was sung in recitative written by Balfe. There has scarcely ever
been a German opera company in New York whose repertory did not
include "Fidelio," but the only performances for many years after it
came were in English. A company of singers brought from England by
Miss Inverarity to the Park Theatre produced it first on September
19, 1839. The parts were distributed as follows: Leonore, Mrs.
Martyn (Miss Inverarity); Marcellina, Miss Poole; Florestan, Mr.
Manvers; Pizarro, Mr. Giubilei; and Rocco, Mr. Martyn. The opera
was performed every night for a fortnight. Such a thing would be
impossible now, but lest some one be tempted to rail against the
decadent taste of to-day, let it quickly be recorded that somewhere
in the opera--I hope not in the dungeon scene--Mme. Giubilei danced
a pas de deux with Paul Taglioni.

Beethoven composed four overtures for "Fidelio," but a description
of them will best follow comment on the drama and its music. Some
two years before the incident which marks the beginning of the
action, Don Pizarro, governor of a state prison in Spain, not far
from Seville, has secretly seized Florestan, a political opponent,
whose fearless honesty threatened to frustrate his wicked designs,
and immured him in a subterranean cell in the prison. His presence
there is known only to Pizarro and the jailer Rocco, who, however,
knows neither the name nor the rank of the man whom, under strict
command, he keeps in fetters and chained to a stone in the dimly
lighted dungeon, which he alone is permitted to visit. Florestan's
wife, Leonore, suspecting the truth, has disguised herself in man's
attire and, under the name of Fidelio, secured employment in the
prison. To win the confidence of Rocco, she has displayed so much
zeal and industry in his interests that the old man, whose one
weakness is a too great love of money, gives the supposed youth
a full measure of admiration and affection. Fidelio's beauty and
gentleness have worked havoc with the heart of Marcellina, the
jailer's pretty daughter, who is disposed to cast off Jaquino, the
turnkey, upon whose suit she had smiled till her love for Fidelio
came between. Rocco looks with auspicious eye upon the prospect of
having so industrious and thrifty a son-in-law as Fidelio promises
to be to comfort his old age. The action now begins in the courtyard
of the prison, where, before the jailer's lodge, Marcellina is
performing her household duties--ironing the linen, to be specific.
Jaquino, who has been watching for an opportunity to speak to her
alone (no doubt alarmed at the new posture which his love affair is
assuming), resolves to ask her to marry him. The duet, quite in the
Mozartian vein, breathes simplicity throughout; plain people, with
plain manners, these, who express simple thoughts in simple
language. Jaquino begins eagerly:--

[Musical excerpt--"Jetzt, Schätzchen, jetzt sind wir allein, wir
könnon vertraulich nun plaudern."]

But Marcellina affects to be annoyed and urges him to come to the
point at once. Quite delicious is the manner in which Beethoven
delineates Jaquino's timid hesitation:--

[Musical excerpt--"Ich--ich habe"]

Jaquino's wooing is interrupted by a knocking at the door
(realistically reproduced in the music)

[Musical excerpt]

and when he goes to open the wicket, Marcellina expresses no
sympathy for his sufferings, but ecstatically proclaims her love for
Fidelio as the reason why she must needs say nay. And this she does,
not amiably or sympathetically, but pettishly and with an impatient
reiteration of "No, no, no, no!" in which the bassoon drolly
supports her. A second knocking at the door, then a third, and
finally she is relieved of her tormentor by Rocco, who calls him
out into the garden. Left alone, Marcellina sings her longing for
Fidelio and pictures the domestic bliss which shall follow her union
with him. Rocco and Jaquino enter, and close after them Leonore,
wearied by the weight of some chains which she had carried to the
smith for repairs. She renders an account for purchases of supplies,
and her thrift rejoices the heart of Rocco, who praises her zeal in
his behalf and promises her a reward. Her reply, that she does not
do her duty merely for the sake of wage, he interprets as an allusion
to love for his daughter. The four now give expression to their
thoughts and emotions. Marcellina indulges her day-dream of love;
Leonore reflects upon the dangerous position in which her disguise
has placed her; Jaquino observes with trepidation the disposition of
Rocco to bring about a marriage between his daughter and Fidelio.
Varied and contrasting emotions, these, yet Beethoven has cast their
expression in the mould of a canon built on the following melody,
which is sung in turn by each of the four personages:--

[Musical excerpt]

From a strictly musical point of view the fundamental mood of the
four personages has thus the same expression, and this Beethoven
justifies by making the original utterance profoundly contemplative,
not only by the beautiful subject of the canon, but by the exalted
instrumental introduction--one of those uplifting, spiritualized
slow movements which are typical of the composer. This feeling he
enhances by his orchestration--violas and violoncellos divided, and
basses--in a way copying the solemn color with more simple means
which Mozart uses in his invocation of the Egyptian deities in "The
Magic Flute." Having thus established this fundamental mood, he
gives liberty of individual utterance in the counterpoint melodies
with which each personage embroiders the original theme when sung
by the others. Neither Rocco nor Marcellina seems to think it
necessary to consult Leonore in the matter, taking her acquiescence
for granted. Between themselves they arrange that the wedding shall
take place when next Pizarro makes his monthly visit to Seville to
give an account of his stewardship, and the jailer admonishes the
youthful pair to put money in their purses in a song of little
distinction, but containing some delineative music in the orchestra
suggesting the rolling and jingling of coins. Having been made
seemingly to agree to the way of the maid and her father, Leonore
seeks now to turn it to the advantage of her mission. She asks and
obtains the jailer's permission to visit with him the cells in which
political prisoners are kept--all but one, in which is confined one
who is either a great criminal or a man with powerful enemies ("much
the same thing," comments Rocco). Of him even the jailer knows
nothing, having resolutely declined to hear his story. However, his
sufferings cannot last much longer, for by Pizarro's orders his
rations are being reduced daily; he has been all but deprived of
light, and even the straw which had served as a couch has been taken
from him. And how long has he been imprisoned? Over two years. "Two
years! "Leonore almost loses control of her feelings. Now she urges
that she must help the jailer wait upon him. "I have strength and
courage." The old man is won over. He will ask the governor for
permission to take Fidelio with him to the secret cells, for he
is growing old, and death will soon claim him. The dramatic nerve
has been touched with the first allusion to the mysterious the
matter, taking her acquiescence for granted. Between themselves they
arrange that the wedding shall take place when next Pizarro makes
his monthly visit to Seville to give an account of his stewardship,
and the jailer admonishes the youthful pair to put money in their
purses in a song of little distinction, but containing some
delineative music in the orchestra suggesting the rolling and
jingling of coins. Having been made seemingly to agree to the way
of the maid and her father, Leonore seeks now to turn it to the
advantage of her mission. She asks and obtains the jailer's
permission to visit with him the cells in which political prisoners
are kept--all but one, in which is confined one who is either
a great criminal or a man with powerful enemies ("much the same
thing," comments Rocco). Of him even the jailer knows nothing,
having resolutely declined to hear his story. However, his
sufferings cannot last much longer, for by Pizarro's orders his
rations are being reduced daily; he has been all but deprived of
light, and even the straw which had served as a couch has been taken
from him. And how long has he been imprisoned? Over two years. "Two
years!" Leonore almost loses control of her feelings. Now she urges
that she must help the jailer wait upon him. "I have strength and
courage." The old man is won over. He will ask the governor for
permission to take Fidelio with him to the secret cells, for he is
growing old, and death will soon claim him. The dramatic nerve has
been touched with the first allusion to the mysterious prisoner who
is being slowly tortured to death, and it is thrilling to note how
Beethoven's genius (so often said to be purely epical) responds. In
the trio which follows, the dialogue which has been outlined first
intones a motif which speaks merely of complacency:--

[Musical excerpt--"Gut, Söhnchen, gut hab' immer"]

No sooner does it reach the lips of Leonore, however, than it
becomes the utterance of proud resolve:--

[Musical excerpt--"Ich habe Muth!"]

and out of it grows a hymn of heroic daring. Marcellina's utterances
are all concerned with herself, with an admixture of solicitude for
her father, whose lugubrious reflections on his own impending
dissolution are gloomily echoed in the music:--

[Musical excerpt--"Ich bin ja bald des Grabes Beute"]

A march accompanies the entrance of Pizarro. {2} Pizarro receives
his despatches from Rocco, and from one of the letters learns that
the Minister of Justice, having been informed that several victims
of arbitrary power are confined in the prisons of which he is
governor, is about to set out upon a tour of inspection. Such a
visit might disclose the wrong done to Florestan, who is the
Minister's friend and believed by him to be dead, and Pizarro
resolves to shield himself against the consequences of such a
discovery by compassing his death. He publishes his resolution in
a furious air, "Ha! welch' ein Augenblick!" in which he gloats over
the culmination of his revenge upon his ancient enemy. It is a
terrible outpouring of bloodthirsty rage, and I have yet to hear
the singer who can cope with its awful accents. Here, surely,
Beethoven asks more of the human voice than it is capable of giving.
Quick action is necessary. The officer of the guard is ordered to
post a trumpeter in the watch-tower, with instructions to give a
signal the moment a carriage with outriders is seen approaching
from Seville. Rocco is summoned, and Pizarro, praising his courage
and fidelity to duty, gives him a purse as earnest of riches which
are to follow obedience. The old man is ready enough until he
learns that what is expected of him is

[Musical excerpt--"Morden!"]

whereupon he revolts, nor is he moved by Pizarro's argument that the
deed is demanded by the welfare of the state. Foiled in his plan of
hiring an assassin, Pizarro announces that he will deal the blow
himself, and commands that a disused cistern be opened to receive
the corpse of his victim. The duet which is concerned with these
transactions is full of striking effects. The orchestra accompanies
Rocco's description of the victim as "one who scarcely lives, but
seems to float like a shadow" with chords which spread a cold,
cadaverous sheen over the words, while the declamation of "A
blow!--and he is dumb," makes illustrative pantomime unnecessary.
Leonore has overheard all, and rushes forward on the departure of
the men to express her horror at the wicked plot, and proclaim her
trust in the guidance and help of love as well as her courageous
resolve to follow its impulses and achieve the rescue of the doomed
man. The scene and air in which she does this ("Abscheulicher! wo
eilst du hin?") is now a favorite concert-piece of all dramatic
singers; but when it was written its difficulties seemed appalling
to Fräulein Milder (afterward the famous Frau Milder-Hauptmann), who
was the original Leonore. A few years before Haydn had said to her,
"My dear child, you have a voice as big as a house," and a few years
later she made some of her finest successes with the part; but in
the rehearsals she quarrelled violently with Beethoven because of
the unsingableness of passages in the Adagio, of which, no doubt,
this was one:--

[Musical excerpt--"sie wird's erreichen"]

and when called upon, in 1814, to re-create the part which had been
written expressly for her, she refused until Beethoven had consented
to modify it. Everything is marvellous in the scena--the mild
glow of orchestral color delineating the bow of promise in the
recitative, the heart-searching, transfigurating, prayerful
loveliness of the slow melody, the obbligato horn parts, the sweep
of the final Allegro, all stand apart in operatic literature.

At Leonore's request, and presuming upon the request which Pizarro
had made of him, Rocco permits the prisoners whose cells are above
ground to enjoy the light and air of the garden, defending his
action later, when taken to task by Pizarro, on the plea that he
was obeying established custom in allowing the prisoners a bit of
liberty on the name-day of the king. In an undertone he begs his
master to save his anger for the man who is doomed to die. Meanwhile
Leonore convinces herself that her husband is not among the
prisoners who are enjoying the brief respite, and is overjoyed to
learn that she is to accompany Rocco that very day to the mysterious
subterranean dungeon. With the return of the prisoners to their
cells, the first act ends.

An instrumental introduction ushers in the second act. It is a
musical delineation of Florestan's surroundings, sufferings, and
mental anguish. The darkness is rent by shrieks of pain; harsh,
hollow, and threatening sound the throbs of the kettle-drums. The
parting of the curtain discloses the prisoner chained to his rocky
couch. He declaims against the gloom, the silence, the deathly void
surrounding him, but comforts himself with the thought that his
sufferings are but the undeserved punishment inflicted by an enemy
for righteous duty done. The melody of the slow part of his air,
which begins thus,

[Musical excerpt--"In des Lebens Frühlingstaten ist das Glück von
mir gefloh'n."]

will find mention again when the overtures come under discussion.
His sufferings have overheated his fancy, and, borne upon cool and
roseate breezes, he sees a vision of his wife, Leonore, come to
comfort and rescue him. His exaltation reaches a frenzy which
leaves him sunk in exhaustion on his couch. Rocco and Leonore come
to dig his grave. Melodramatic music accompanies their preparation,
and their conversation while at work forms a duet. Sustained
trombone tones spread a portentous atmosphere, and a contra-bassoon
adds weight and solemnity to the motif which describes the labor
of digging:--

[Musical excerpt]

They have stopped to rest and refresh themselves, when Florestan
becomes conscious and addresses Rocco. Leonore recognizes his
voice as that of her husband, and when he pleads for a drink of
water, she gives him, with Rocco's permission, the wine left in
her pitcher, then a bit of bread. A world of pathos informs his song
of gratitude. Pizarro comes to commit the murder, but first he
commands that the boy be sent away, and confesses his purpose to
make way with both Fidelio and Rocco when once the deed is done. He
cannot resist the temptation to disclose his identity to Florestan,
who, though released from the stone, is still fettered. The latter
confronts death calmly, but as Pizarro is about to plunge the dagger
into his breast, Leonore (who had concealed herself in the darkness)
throws herself as a protecting shield before him. Pizarro, taken
aback for a moment, now attempts to thrust Leonore aside, but is
again made to pause by her cry, "First kill his wife!" Consternation
and amazement seize all and speak out of their ejaculations.
Determined to kill both husband and wife, Pizarro rushes forward
again, only to see a pistol thrust into his face, hear a shriek,
"Another word, and you are dead!" and immediately after the trumpet
signal which, by his own command, announces the coming of the
Minister of Justice:--

[Musical excerpt]

Pizarro is escorted out of the dungeon by Rocco and attendants with
torches, and the reunited lovers are left to themselves and their
frenetic rejoicings. Surrounded by his guard, the populace attracted
by his coming, and the prisoners into whose condition he had come to
inquire, Don Fernando metes out punishment to the wicked Pizarro,
welcomes his old friend back to liberty and honor, and bids Leonore
remove his fetters as the only person worthy of such a task. The
populace hymn wifely love and fidelity.

Mention has been made of the fact that Beethoven wrote four
overtures for his opera. Three of these are known as Overtures
"Leonore No. 1," "Leonore No. 2," and "Leonore No. 3"--"Leonore"
being the title by which the opera was known at the unfortunate
first performance. The composer was never contented with the change
to "Fidelio" which was made, because of the identity of the story
with the "Leonore" operas, of Gaveaux and Paër. Much confusion has
existed in the books (and still exists, for that matter) touching
the order in which the four overtures were composed. The early
biographers were mistaken on that point, and the blunder was
perpetuated by the numbering when the scores were published. The
true "Leonore No. 1," is the overture known in the concert-room,
where it is occasionally heard, as "Leonore No. 2." This was the
original overture to the opera, and was performed at the three
representations in 1805. The overture called "Leonore No. 3" was the
result of the revision undertaken by Beethoven and his friends after
the failure. In May, 1807, the German opera at Prague was
established and "Fidelio" selected as one of the works to be given.
Evidently Beethoven was dissatisfied both with the original overture
and its revision, for he wrote a new one, in which he retained the
theme from Florestan's air, but none of the other themes used in
Nos. 2 and 3. The performances at Prague did not take place, and
nobody knows what became of the autograph score of the overture.
When Beethoven's effects were sold at auction after his death,
Tobias Haslinger bought a parcel of dances and other things in
manuscript. Among them were a score and parts of an overture in C,
not in Beethoven's handwriting, but containing corrections made by
him. It bore no date, and on a violin part Beethoven had written
first "Overtura, Violino Imo." Later he had added words in red
crayon to make it read, "Overtura in C, charakteristische Overture,
Violino Imo." On February 7, 1828, the composition was played at a
concert in Vienna, but notwithstanding the reminiscence of
Florestan's air, it does not seem to have been associated with the
opera, either by Haslinger or the critics. Before 1832, when
Haslinger published the overture as Op. 138, however, it had been
identified, and, not unnaturally, the conclusion was jumped at that
it was the original overture. That known as "Leonore No. 2" having
been withdrawn for revision by Beethoven himself, was not heard of
till 1840, when it was performed at a Gewandhaus concert in Leipsic.
For the revival of the opera in 1814 Beethoven composed the overture
in E major, now called the "Fidelio" overture, and generally played
as an introduction to the opera, the much greater "Leonore No. 3"
being played either between the acts, or, as by Mahler in New York
and Vienna, between the two scenes of the second act, where it may
be said it distinctly has the effect of an anticlimax. The thematic
material of the "Leonore" overtures Nos. 2 and 3 being practically
the same, careless listeners may easily confound one with the other.
Nevertheless, the differences between the two works are many and
great, and a deep insight into the workings of Beethoven's mind
would be vouchsafed students if they were brought into juxtaposition
in the concert-room. The reason commonly given for the revision of
No. 2 (the real No. 1) is that at the performance it was found that
some of the passages for wind instruments troubled the players; but
among the changes made by Beethoven, all of which tend to heighten
the intensity of the overture which presents the drama in nuce
may be mentioned the elision of a recurrence to material drawn
from his principal theme between the two trumpet-calls, and the
abridgment of the development or free fantasia portion. Finally, it
may be stated that though the "Fidelio" overture was written for the
revival of 1814, it was not heard at the first performance in that
year. It was not ready, and the overture to "The Ruins of Athens"
was played in its stead.


{1} As the opera is performed nowadays it is in three acts, but this
division is the work of stage managers or directors who treat each
of the three scenes as an act. At the Metropolitan Opera House, in
New York, Mr. Mahler introduced a division of the first scene into
two for what can be said to be merely picturesque effect, since the
division is not demanded by the dramatic situation.

{2} In Mr. Mahler's arrangement this march becomes entr'acte music
to permit of a change of scene from the interior of the jailer's
lodge to the courtyard of the prison prescribed in the book.



MM. Michel Carré and Jules Barbier, who made the book for Gounod's
opera "Faust," went for their subject to Goethe's dramatic poem. Out
of that great work, which had occupied the mind of the German poet
for an ordinary lifetime, the French librettists extracted the
romance which sufficed them--the story of Gretchen's love for the
rejuvenated philosopher, her seduction and death. This romance is
wholly the creation of Goethe; it has no place in any of the old
legends which are at the bottom of the history of Dr. Faust, or
Faustus. Those legends deal with the doings of a magician who has
sold his soul to the devil for the accomplishment of some end
on which his ambition is set. There are many such legends in
mediaeval literature, and their fundamental thought is older than
Christianity. In a sense, the idea is a product of ignorance
and superstition combined. In all ages men whose learning and
achievements were beyond the comprehension of simple folk were
thought to have derived their powers from the practice of
necromancy. The list is a long one, and includes some of the great
names of antiquity. The imagination of the Middle Ages made bondsmen
of the infernal powers out of such men as Zoroaster, Democritus,
Empedocles, Apollonius, Virgil, Albertus Magnus, Merlin, and
Paracelsus. In the sixth century Theophilus of Syracuse was said to
have sold himself to the devil and to have been saved from damnation
only by the miraculous intervention of the Virgin Mary, who visited
hell and bore away the damnable compact. So far as his bond was
concerned, Theophilus was said to have had eight successors among
the Popes of Rome.

Architects of cathedrals and engineers of bridges were wont, if we
believe popular tales, to barter their souls in order to realize
their great conceptions. How do such notions get into the minds
of the people? I attempted not an answer but an explanation in a
preface to Gounod's opera published by Schirmer some years ago,
which is serving me a good turn now. For the incomprehensible the
Supernatural is the only accounting. These things are products of
man's myth-making capacity and desire. With the advancement of
knowledge this capacity and desire become atrophied, but spring into
life again in the presence of a popular stimulant. The superstitious
peasantry of Bavaria beheld a man in league with the devil in the
engineer who ran the first locomotive engine through that country,
More recently, I am told, the same people conceived the notion that
the Prussian needle-gun, which had wrought destruction among their
soldiery a the war of 1866, was an infernal machine for which
Bismarck had given the immortal part of himself.

When printing was invented, it was looked upon in a double sense as
a black art, and it was long and widely believed that Johann Fust,
or Faust, of Mayence, the partner of Gutenberg, was the original
Dr. Johann Faustus (the prototype of Goethe's Faust), who practised
magic toward the end of the fifteenth and at the beginning of the
sixteenth century, made a compact with Mephistopheles, performed
many miraculous feats, and died horribly at the last. But Fust, or
Faust, was a rich and reputable merchant of Mayence who provided
capital to promote the art of Gutenberg and Schöffer, and Mr. H.
Sutherland Edwards, who gossips pleasantly and at great length about
the Faust legends in Volume I of his book, "The Lyrical Drama,"
indulges a rather wild fancy when he considers it probable that he
was the father of the real mediaeval in carnation of the ancient
superstition. The real Faust had been a poor lad, but money
inherited from a rich uncle enabled him to attend lectures at the
University of Cracow, where he seems to have devoted himself with
particular assiduity to the study of magic, which had at that period
a respectable place in the curriculum. Having obtained his doctorial
hat, he travelled through Europe practising necromancy and acquiring
a thoroughly bad reputation. To the fact that this man actually
lived, and lived such a life as has been described, we have the
testimony of a physician, Philip Begardi; a theologian, Johann Gast,
and no less a witness than Philip Melanchthon, the reformer. Martin
Luther refers to Faust in his "Table Talk" as a man lost beyond all
hope of redemption; Melanchthon, who says that he talked with him,
adds: "This sorcerer Faust, an abominable beast, a common sewer of
many devils (turpissima bestia et cloaca multorum diabolorum),
boasted that he had enabled the imperial armies to win their
victories in Italy."

The literary history of Faust is much too long to be even outlined
here; a few points must suffice us. In a book published in Frankfort
in 1587 by a German writer named Spiess, the legend received its
first printed form. An English ballad on the subject appeared within
a year. In 1590 there came a translation of the entire story, which
was the source from which Marlowe drew his "Tragical History of
the Life and Death of Dr. Faustus," brought forward on the stage
in 1593 and printed in 1604. New versions of the legend followed
each other rapidly, and Faust became a favorite character with
playwrights, romancers, and poets. Toward the end of the eighteenth
century, when Goethe conceived the idea of utilizing the subject for
publishing his comprehensive philosophy of human life, it seems to
have held possession of a large portion of literary Germany. All
together, it was in the mind of the great poet from his adolescence
till his death; but while he was working on his original plan,
literary versions of the legend were published by twenty-eight
German authors, including Lessing, whose manuscript, unhappily, was
lost. Goethe had known the legend from childhood, when he had seen
puppet-plays based on it--these plays being the vulgar progeny of
Marlowe's powerful tragedy, which is still an ornament of English
literature. Music was a part of these puppet-plays. In the first one
that fell into my hands I find the influence of opera manifest in
recitatives and airs put into the mouth of Mephistopheles, and comic
songs sung by Kasperle, the Punch of the German marionette

The love tale which furnished forth the entire opera book of MM.
Carré and Barbier is, as I have said, wholly the invention of
Goethe. There is the shadowy form of a maiden in some of the
versions of the legend, but not a hint of the romantic sentiment
so powerfully and pathetically set forth by the poet. Nor did the
passion either for good or evil play a part in the agreement between
Faust and the devil. That agreement covered five points only: Faust
pledged himself to deny God, hate the human race, despise the
clergy, never set foot in a church, and never get married. So
far from being a love episode in the story, when Faustus, in the
old book by Spiess, once expressed a wish to abrogate the last
condition, Mephistopheles refused him permission on the ground
that marriage is something pleasing to God, and for that reason in
contravention of the contract. "Hast thou," quoth Mephistopheles,
"sworn thyself an enemy to God and to all creatures? To this I
answer thee, thou canst not marry; thou canst not serve two masters,
God and thy prince. For wedlock is a chief institution ordained of
God, and that thou hast promised to defy as we do all, and that thou
hast not only done, but, moreover, thou hast confirmed it with thy
blood. Persuade thyself that what thou hast done in contempt of
wedlock, it is all to thine own delight. Therefore, Faustus, look
well about thee and bethink thyself better, and I wish thee to
change thy mind, for if thou keep not what thou hast promised in thy
writing, we will tear thee in pieces, like the dust under thy feet.
Therefore, sweet Faustus, think with what unquiet life, anger,
strife, and debate thou shalt live in when thou takest a wife.
Therefore, change thy mind." Faustus abandons his purpose for
the time being, but within two hours summons his spirit again
and demands his consent to marriage; whereupon up there comes a
whirlwind, which fills the house with fire and smoke and hurls
Faustus about until he is unable to stir hand or foot. Also there
appears an ugly devil, so dreadful and monstrous to behold that
Faustus dares not look upon him. This devil is in a mood for
jesting. "How likest thou thy wedding?" he asks of Faustus, who
promises not to mention marriage more, and is well content when
Mephistopheles engages to bring him any woman, dead or alive, whom
he may desire to possess. It is in obedience to this promise that
Helen of Troy is brought back from the world of shades to be
Faustus's paramour. By her he has a son, whom he calls Justus
Faustus, but in the end, when Faustus loses his life, mother and
child vanish. Goethe uses the scene of the amour between Faust and
the ancient beauty in the second part of his poem as does Boito in
his "Mefistofele," charging it with the beautiful symbolism which
was in the German poet's mind. In the Polish tale of Pan Twardowsky,
built on the lines of the old legend, there is a more amusing fling
at marriage. In return for the help which he is to receive, the
Polish wizard has the privilege of demanding three duties of the
devil. After enjoying to the full the benefits conferred by two, he
commands the devil to marry Mme. Twardowska. This is more than the
devil had bargained for, or is willing to perform. He refuses; the
contract is broken, and Twardowsky is saved. The story may have
inspired Thackeray's amusing tale in "The Paris Sketch-book,"
entitled "The Painter's Bargain."

For the facts in the story of the composition and production of
Gounod's opera, we have the authority of the composer in his
autobiography. In 1856 he made the acquaintance of Jules Barbier and
Michel Carré, and asked them to collaborate with him in an opera.
They assenting, he proposed Goethe's "Faust" as a subject, and it
met with their approval. Together they went to see M. Carvalho, who
was then director of the Théâtre Lyrique. He, too, liked the idea
of the opera, and the librettists went to work. The composer had
written nearly half of the score, when M. Carvaiho brought the
disconcerting intelligence that a grand melodrama treating the
subject was in preparation at the Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin.
Carvalho said that it would be impossible to get the opera ready
before the appearance of the melodrama, and unwise to enter into
competition with a theatre the luxury of whose stage mounting
would have attracted all Paris before the opera could be produced.
Carvalho therefore advised a change of subject, which was such a
blow to Gounod that he was incapable of applying himself to work
for a week. Finally, Carvalho came to the rescue with a request for
a lyric comedy based on one of Molière's plays. Gounod chose "Le
Médecin malgré lui," and the opera had its production at the Théâtre
Lyrique on the anniversary of Molière's birth, January 15, 1858. The
melodrama at the Porte Saint-Martin turned out to be a failure in
spite of its beautiful pictures, and Carvalho recurred to the opera,
which had been laid aside, and Gounod had it ready by July. He read
it to the director in the greenroom of the theatre in that month,
and Mme. Carvalho, wife of the director, who was present, was so
deeply impressed with the rôle of Marguerite that M. Carvalho asked
the composer's permission to assign it to her. "This was agreed
upon," says Gounod, "and the future proved the choice to be a
veritable inspiration."

Rehearsals began in September, 1858, and soon developed
difficulties. Gounod had set his heart upon a handsome young tenor
named Guardi for the titular rôle, but he was found to be unequal
to its demands. This caused such embarrassment that, it is said,
Gounod, who had a pretty voice and was rather fond of showing it,
seriously pondered the feasibility of singing it himself. He does
not tell us this in his autobiography, but neither does he tell us
that he had chosen Mme. Ugalde for the part of Marguerite, and
that he yielded to M. Carvalho in giving it to the director's wife
because Mme. Ugalde had quarrelled with him (as prima donnas will),
about Massé's opera, "La Fée Carabosse," which preceded "Faust" at
the Lyrique. The difficulty about the tenor rôle was overcome by
the enlistment of M. Barbot, an artist who had been a companion of
Carvalho's when he sang small parts at the Opéra Comique. He was now
far past his prime, and a pensioned teacher at the Conservatoire,
but Gounod bears witness that he "showed himself a great musician
in the part of Faust." Of Belanqué, who created the part of
Méphistophélès, Gounod says that "he was an intelligent comedian
whose play, physique, and voice lent themselves wonderfully to this
fantastic and Satanic personage." As for Mme. Carvalho, it was the
opinion of the composer that, though her masterly qualities of
execution and style had already placed her in the front rank of
contemporary singers, no rôle, till Marguerite fell to her lot, had
afforded her opportunity to show in such measure "the superior
phases of her talent, so sure, so refined, so steady, so
tranquil--its lyric and pathetic qualities."

It was a distinguished audience that listened to the first
performance of "Faust" on March 19, 1859. Auber, Berlioz, Reyer,
Jules Janin, Perrin, Émile Ollivier, and many other men who had made
their mark in literature, art, or politics sat in the boxes, and
full as many more of equal distinction in the stalls. Among these
latter were Delacroix, Vernet, Eugène Giraud, Pasdeloup, Scudo,
Heugel, and Jules Lévy. The criticism of the journals which followed
was, as usual, a blending of censure and praise. Berlioz was
favorably inclined toward the work, and, with real discrimination,
put his finger on the monologue at the close of the third act ("Il
m'aime! Quel trouble en mon coeur") as the best thing in the score.
Scudo gave expression to what was long the burden of the critical
song in Germany; namely, the failure of the authors to grasp
the large conception of Goethe's poem; but, with true Gallic
inconsistency, he set down the soldiers' chorus as a masterpiece.
The garden scene, with its sublimated mood, its ecstasy of feeling,
does not seem to have moved him; he thought the third act monotonous
and too long. There was no demand for the score on the part of the
French publishers, but at length Choudens was persuaded to adventure
10,000 francs, one-half of an inheritance, in it. He was at that
time an éditeur on a small scale, as well as a postal official,
and the venture put him on the road to fortune. For the English
rights Gounod is said to have received only forty pounds sterling,
and this only after the energetic championship of Chorley, who made
the English translation. The opera was given thirty-seven times at
the Théâtre Lyrique. Ten years after its first performance it was
revised to fit the schemes of the Grand Opéra, and brought forward
under the new auspices on March 3, 1869. Mlle. Christine Nilsson was
the new Marguerite. No opera has since equalled the popularity of
"Faust" in Paris. Twenty-eight years after its first performance,
Gounod was privileged to join his friends in a celebration of its
500th representation. That was in 1887. Eight years after, the 1000
mark was reached, and the 1250th Parisian representation took place
in 1902.

Two years before "Faust" reached London, it was given in Germany,
where it still enjoys great popularity, though it is called
"Margarethe," in deference to the manes of Goethe. Within a few
weeks in 1863 the opera had possession of two rival establishments
in London. At Her Majesty's Theatre it was given for the first time
on June 11, and at the Royal Italian Opera on July 2. On January 23,
1864, it was brought forward in Mr. Chorley's English version at
Her Majesty's. The first American representation took place at the
Academy of Music, New York, on November 25, 1863, the parts being
distributed as follows: Margherita, Miss Clara Louise Kellogg;
Siebel, Miss Henrietta Sulzer; Martha, Miss Fanny Stockton; Faust,
Francesco Mazzoleni; Mephistopheles, Hanibal Biachi; Valentine, G.
Yppolito; Wagner, D. Coletti. It was sung in Italian, won immediate
popularity, and made money for Max Maretzek, who was at once the
manager and the conductor of the company. Forty years before an
English version of Goethe's tragedy (the first part, of course) had
been produced at the Bowery Theatre, with the younger Wallack as
Faust and Charles Hill as Mephistopheles.

The opera begins, like Goethe's dramatic poem, after the prologue,
with the scene in Faust's study. The aged philosopher has grown
weary of fruitless inquiry into the mystery of nature and its
Creator, and longs for death. He has just passed a night in study,
and as the morning breaks he salutes it as his last on earth and
pledges it in a cup of poison. As he is about to put the cup to his
lips, the song of a company of maidens floats in at the window. It
tells of the joy of living and loving and the beauty of nature and
its inspirations. Faust's hand trembles, strangely, unaccountably;
again he lifts the cup, but only to pause again to listen to a song
sung by a company of reapers repairing to the fields, chanting their
gratitude to God for the loveliness surrounding them, and invoking
His blessing. The sounds madden the despairing philosopher. What
would prayer avail him? Would it bring back youth and love and
faith? No. Accursed, therefore, be all things good--earth's
pleasures, riches, allurements of every sort; the dreams of love;
the wild joy of combat; happiness itself; science, religion,
prayers, belief; above all, a curse upon the patience with which he
had so long endured! He summons Satan to his aid. Méphistophélès
answers the call, in the garb of a cavalier. His tone and bearing
irritate Faust, who bids him begone. The fiend would know his will,
his desires. Gold, glory, power?--all shall be his for the asking.
But these things are not the heart's desire of Faust. He craves
youthfulness, with its desires and delights, its passions and
puissance. Méphistophélès promises all, and, when he hesitates,
inflames his ardor with a vision of the lovely Marguerite seated at
her spinning-wheel. Eagerly Faust signs the compact--the devil will
serve Faust here, but below the relations shall be reversed. Faust
drinks a pledge to the vision, which fades away. In a twinkling the
life-weary sage is transformed into a young man, full of eager and
impatient strength.

Méphistophélès loses no time in launching Faust upon his career of
adventures. First, he leads him to a fair in a mediaeval town.
Students are there who sing the pleasures of drinking; soldiers,
too, bent on conquest--of maidens or fortresses, all's one to them;
old burghers, who find delight in creature comforts; maids and
matrons, flirtatious and envious. All join in the merriest of
musical hubbubs. Valentin, a soldier who is about to go to the
wars, commends his sister Marguerite to the care of Siebel,
a gentle youth who loves her. Wagner, a student, begins a song,
but is interrupted by Méphistophélès, who has entered the circle of
merry-makers with Faust, and who now volunteers to sing a better
song than the one just begun. He sings of the Calf of Gold ("Le veau
d'or est toujours debout"), and the crowd delightedly shouts the
refrain. The singer accepts a cup of wine, but, finding it not at
all to his taste, he causes vintages to the taste of every one to
flow from the cask which serves as a tavern sign. He offers the
company a toast, "To Marguerite!" and when Valentin attempts to
resent the insult to his sister with his sword, it breaks in his
hand as he tries to penetrate a magic circle which Méphistophélès
draws around himself. The men now suspect the true character of
their singular visitor, and turn the cruciform hilts of their swords
against him, to his intense discomfort. With the return of the
women the merrymaking is resumed. All join in a dance, tripping it
gayly to one waltz sung by the spectators and another which rises
simultaneously from the instruments. Marguerite crosses the
market-place on her way home from church. Faust offers her his arm,
but she declines his escort--not quite so rudely as Goethe's
Gretchen does in the corresponding situation. Faust becomes more
than ever enamoured of the maiden, whom he had seen in the vision
conjured up in the philosopher's study.

Méphistophélès is a bit amused at Faust's first attempt at wooing,
and undertakes to point the way for him. He leads him into the
garden surrounding the cottage in which Marguerite dwells. Siebel
had just been there and had plucked a nosegay for the maiden of his
heart, first dipping his fingers in holy water, to protect them
from the curse which Méphistophélès had pronounced against them
while parading as a fortune-teller at the fair. Faust is lost in
admiration at sight of the humble abode of loveliness and innocence,
and lauds it in a romance ("Salut! demeure chaste et pure"), but is
taken aside by Méphistophélès, who gives warning of the approach
of Marguerite, and places a casket of jewels beside the modest
bouquet left by Siebel. Marguerite, seated at her spinning-wheel,
alternately sings a stanza of a ballad ("Il était un Roi de Thule")
and speaks her amazed curiosity concerning the handsome stranger
who had addressed her in the marketplace. She finds the jewels,
ornaments herself with them, carolling her delight the while, and
admiring the regal appearance which the gems lend her.

Here I should like to be pardoned a brief digression. Years ago,
while the German critics were resenting the spoliation of the
masterpiece of their greatest poet by the French librettists, they
fell upon this so-called Jewel Song ("Air des bijoux," the French
call it), and condemned its brilliant and ingratiating waltz
measures as being out of keeping with the character of Gretchen. In
this they forgot that Marguerite and Gretchen are very different
characters indeed. There is much of the tender grace of the
unfortunate German maiden in the creation of the French authors, but
none of her simple, almost rude, rusticity. As created by, let me
say, Mme. Carvalho and perpetuated by Christine Nilsson and the
painter Ary Scheffer, Marguerite is a good deal of a grande dame,
and against the German critics it might appositely be pleaded that
there are more traces of childish ingenuousness in her rejoicing
over the casket of jewels than in any of her other utterances. The
episode is poetically justified, of course, by the eighth scene of
Goethe's drama, and there was not wanting one German writer who
boldly came to the defence of Marguerite on the ground that she
moved on a higher moral plane than Gretchen. The French librettists,
while they emptied the character of much of its poetical contents,
nevertheless made it in a sense more gentle, and Gounod refined it
still more by breathing an ecstasy into all of its music. Goethe's
Gretchen, though she rejects Faust's first advances curtly enough to
be called impolite, nevertheless ardently returns Faust's kiss on
her first meeting with him in the garden, and already at the second
(presumably) offers to leave her window open, and accepts the
sleeping potion for her mother. It is a sudden, uncontrollable rush
of passion to which Marguerite succumbs. Gretchen remains in simple
amaze that such a fine gentleman as Faust should find anything to
admire in her, even after she has received and returned his first
kiss; but Marguerite is exalted, transfigured by the new feelings
surging within her.

Il m'aime! quel trouble en mon coeur!
L'oiseau chante! Le vent murmure!
Toutes les voix de la nature
Semblent me répéter en choeur:
Il t'aime!

I resume the story. Martha, the neighborhood gossip, comes to
encourage Marguerite in a belief which she scarcely dares cherish,
that the jewels had been left for her by some noble admirer, and
her innocent pleasure is interrupted by the entrance of Faust and
Méphistophélès. The latter draws Martha away, and Faust wooes the
maiden with successful ardor. They have indulged in their first
embrace, and said their farewells till to-morrow: Faust is about
to depart, when Méphistophélès detains him and points to Marguerite,
who is burdening the perfumed air with her new ecstasy. He rushes to
her, and, with a cry of delight, she falls into his arms.

Goethe's scene at the fountain becomes, in the hands of the French
librettists, a scene in the chamber of Marguerite. The deceived
maiden is cast down by the jeers and mockings of her erstwhile
companions, and comforted by Siebel. It is now generally omitted.
Marguerite has become the talk of the town, and evil reports reach
the ear of her brother Valentin on his return from the wars with the
victorious soldiery. Valentin confronts Faust and Méphistophélès
while the latter is singing a ribald serenade at Marguerite's door.
The men fight, and, through the machinations of Méphistophélès,
Valentin is mortally wounded. He dies denouncing the conduct of
Marguerite, and cursing her for having brought death upon him.
Marguerite seeks consolation in religious worship; but the fiend is
at her elbow even in the holy fane, and his taunts and the accusing
chant of a choir of demons interrupt her prayers. The devil reveals
himself in his proper (or improper) person at the end, and
Marguerite falls in a swoon.

The Walpurgis night scene of Goethe furnished the suggestion for
the ballet which fills the first three scenes of the fifth act, and
which was added to the opera when it was remodelled for the Grand
Opéra in 1869. The scene holds its place in Paris, but is seldom
performed elsewhere. A wild scene in the Harz Mountains gives way
to an enchanted hail in which are seen the most famous courtesans
of ancient history--Phryne, Laïs, Aspasia, Cleopatra, and Helen of
Troy. The apparition of Marguerite appears to Faust, a red line
encircling her neck, like the mark of a headsman's axe. We reach
the end. The distraught maiden has slain her child, and now lies in
prison upon her pallet of straw, awaiting death. Faust enters and
tries to persuade her to fly with him. Her poor mind is all awry and
occupies itself only with the scenes of her first meeting and the
love-making in the garden. She turns with horror from her lover when
she sees his companion, and in an agony of supplication, which rises
higher and higher with each reiteration, she implores Heaven for
pardon. She sinks lifeless to the floor. Méphistophélès pronounces
her damned, but a voice from on high proclaims her saved. Celestial
voices chant the Easter hymn, "Christ is risen!" while a band of
angels bear her soul heavenward.



There is no reason to question Gounod's statement that it was he
who conceived the idea of writing a Faust opera in collaboration
with MM. Barbier and Carré. There was nothing novel in the notion.
Music was an integral part of the old puppet-plays which dealt with
the legend of Dr. Faustus, and Goethe's tragedy calls for musical
aid imperatively. A musical pantomime, "Harlequin Faustus," was
performed in London as early as 1715, and there were Faust operas
long before even the first part of Goethe's poem was printed, which
was a hundred and one years ago. A composer named Phanty brought out
an opera entitled "Dr. Faust's Zaubergürtel" in 1790; C. Hanke used
the same material and title at Flushing in 1794, and Ignaz Walter
produced a "Faust" in Hanover in 1797. Goethe's First Part had been
five years in print when Spohr composed his "Faust," but it is based
not on the great German poet's version of the legend, but on the old
sources. This opera has still life, though it is fitful and feeble,
in Germany, and was produced in London by a German company in 1840
and by an Italian in 1852, when the composer conducted it; but I
have never heard of a representation in America. Between Spohr's
"Faust," written in 1813 and performed in 1818, and Boito's
"Mefistofele," produced in 1868, many French, German, English,
Italian, Russian, and Polish Faust operas have come into existence,
lived their little lives, and died. Rietz produced a German "Faust,"
founded on Goethe, at Düsseldorf, in 1836; Lindpainter in Berlin, in
1854; Henry Rowley Bishop's English "Faustus" was heard in London,
in 1827; French versions were Mlle. Angélique Bertin's "Faust"
(Paris, 1831), and M. de Pellaert's (Brussels, 1834); Italian
versions were "Fausta," by Donizetti (Mme. Pasta and Signor Donzelli
sang in it in Naples in 1832), "Fausto," by Gordigiano (Florence,
1837), and "Il Fausto arrivo," by Raimondi (Naples, 1837); the
Polish Faust, Twardowsky, is the hero of a Russian opera by
Verstowsky (Moscow, 1831), and of a Polish opera by J. von Zaitz
(Agram, 1880). How often the subject has served for operettas,
cantatas, overtures, symphonies, etc., need not be discussed here.
Berlioz's "Dramatic Legend," entitled "La Damnation de Faust,"
tricked out with stage pictures by Raoul Gunsbourg, was performed as
an opera at Monte Carlo in 1903, and in New York at the Metropolitan
and Manhattan opera-houses in the seasons 1906-1907 and 1907-1908,
respectively; but the experiment was unsuccessful, both artistically
and financially.

I have said that there is no reason to question Gounod's statement
that it was he who conceived the idea of writing the opera whose
popularity is without parallel in the musical history of the Faust
legend; but, if I could do so without reflecting upon his character,
I should like to believe a story which says that it was Barbier who
proposed the subject to Gounod after Meyerbeer, to whom he first
suggested it, had declined the collaboration. I should like to
believe this, because it is highly honorable to Meyerbeer's artistic
character, which has been much maligned by critics and historians
of music since Wagner set an example in that direction. "'Faust,'"
Meyerbeer is reported to have replied to Barbier's invitation, "is
the ark of the covenant, a sanctuary not to be approached with
profane music." For the composer who did not hesitate to make an
opera out of the massacre of St. Bartholomew, this answer is more
than creditable. The Germans, who have either felt or affected great
indignation at the want of reverence for their great poet shown by
the authors of "Faust" and "Mignon," ought to admire Meyerbeer in
a special degree for the moral loftiness of his determination and
the dignified beauty of its expression. Composers like Kreutzer,
Reissiger, Pierson, Lassen, and Prince Radziwill have written
incidental music for Goethe's tragedy without reflecting that
possibly they were profaning the sanctuary; but Meyerbeer, compared
with whom they were pygmies, withheld his hand, and thereby brought
himself into sympathetic association with the only musician that
ever lived who was completely equipped for so magnificent a task.
That musician was Beethoven, to whom Rochlitz bore a commission for
music to "Faust" from Breitkopf and Härtel in 1822. The Titan read
the proposition and cried out: "Ha! that would be a piece of work!
Something might come of that!" but declined the task because he had
the choral symphony and other large plans on his mind.

Boito is not a Beethoven nor yet a Meyerbeer; but, though he did
what neither of them would venture upon when he wrote a Faust opera,
he did it with complete and lovely reverence for the creation of the
German poet. It is likely that had he had less reverence for his
model and more of the stagecraft of his French predecessors his
opera would have had a quicker and greater success than fell to
its lot. Of necessity it has suffered by comparison with the opera
of Barbier, Carré, and Gounod, though it was far from Boito's
intentions that it should ever be subjected to such a comparison.
Boito is rather more poet and dramatist than he is musician. He
made the book not only of "Mefistofele," but also of "Otello"
and "Falstaff," which Verdi composed, "La Gioconda," for which
Ponchielli wrote the music, and "Ero e Leandro," which he turned
over to Bottesini, who set it with no success, and to Mancinelli,
who set it with little. One of the musical pieces which the poet
composed for this last opera found its way into "Mefistofele," for
which work "Ero e Leandro" seems to have been abandoned. He also
translated Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde" into Italian. Being a
poet in the first instance, and having the blood of the Northern
barbarians as well as the Southern Romans in his veins, he was
unwilling to treat Goethe's tragedy as the Frenchman had treated it.
The tearful tale of the love of the rejuvenated philosopher, and the
village maiden, with its woful outcome, did not suffice him. Though
he called his opera "Mefistofele," not "Faust," he drew its scenes,
of which only two have to do with Marguerite (or Gretchen), from
both parts of Goethe's allegorical and philosophical phantasmagoria.
Because he did this, he failed from one point of view. Attempting
too much, he accomplished too little. His opera is not a well-knit
and consistently developed drama, but a series of episodes, which do
not hold together and have significance only for those who know
Goethe's dramatic poem in its entirety. It is very likely that, as
originally produced, "Mefistofele" was not such a thing of shreds
and patches as it now is. No doubt, it held together better in 1868,
when it was ridiculed, whistled, howled, and hissed off the stage
of the Teatro la Scala, than it did when it won the admiration of
the Italians in Bologna twelve years later. In the interval it had
been subjected to a revision, and, the first version never having
been printed, the critical fraternity became exceedingly voluble
after the success in Bologna, one of the debated questions being
whether Boito had bettered his work by his voluminous excisions,
interpolations, and changes (Faust, now a tenor, was originally a
barytone), or had weakly surrendered his better judgment to the
taste of the hoi polloi, for the sake of a popular success. It was
pretty fighting ground; it is yet, and will remain such so long as
the means of comparison remain hidden and sentimental hero-worship
is fed by the notion that Boito has refused to permit the opera
or operas which he has written since to be either published or
performed because the world once refused to recognize his genius.
This notion, equally convenient to an indolent man or a colossal
egoist--I do not believe that Boito is either--has been nurtured by
many pretty stories; but, unhappily, we have had nothing to help us
to form an opinion of Boito as a creative artist since "Mefistofele"
appeared, except the opera books written for Verdi and Ponchielli
and the libretto of "Ero e Leandro."

Boito's father was an Italian, his mother a Pole. From either one
or both he might have inherited the intensity of expression which
marks his works, both poetical and musical; but the tendency to
philosophical contemplation which characterizes "Mefistofele," even
in the stunted form in which it is now presented, is surely the
fruit of his maternal heritage and his studies in Germany. After
completing the routine of the conservatory in Milan, he spent a
great deal of time in Paris and the larger German cities, engrossed
quite as much in the study of literature as of music. Had he
followed his inclinations and the advice of Victor Hugo, who gave
him a letter of introduction to Émile de Girardin, he would have
become a journalist in Paris instead of the composer of "Mefistofele"
and the poet of "Otello," "Falstaff," "La Gioconda," and "Ero e
Leandro." But Girardin was too much occupied with his own affairs
to attend to him when Boito presented himself, and after waiting
wearily, vainly, and long, he went to Poland, where, for want of
something else to do, he sketched the opera "Mefistofele," which
made its memorable fiasco at Milan in March, 1868.

To show that it is impossible to think of "Mefistofele" except as a
series of disconnected episodes, it suffices to point out that its
prologue, epilogue, and four acts embrace a fantastic parody or
perversion of Goethe's Prologue in Heaven, a fragment of his Easter
scene, a smaller fragment of the scene in Faust's study, a bit
of the garden scene, the scene of the witches' gathering on the
Brocken, the prison scene, the classical Sabbath in which Faust
is discovered in an amour with Helen of Troy, and the death and
salvation of Faust as an old man. Can any one who knows that music,
even of the modern dramatic type, in which strictly musical forms
have given way to as persistent an onward flow as the text itself,
must of necessity act as a clog on dramatic action, imagine that
such a number and variety of scenes could be combined into a
logical, consistent whole, compassed by four hours in performance?
Certainly not. But Boito is not content to emulate Goethe in his
effort to carry his listeners "from heaven through the earth to
hell"; he must needs ask them to follow him in his exposition of
Goethe's philosophy and symbolism. Of course, that is impossible
during a stage representation, and therefore he exposes the workings
of his mind in an essay and notes to his score. From these we may
learn, among other things, that the poet-composer conceives Faust
as the type of man athirst for knowledge, of whom Solomon was
the Biblical prototype, Prometheus the mythological, Manfred and
Don Quixote the predecessors in modern literature. Also that
Mephistopheles is as inexhaustible as a type of evil as Faust is as
a type of virtue, and therefore that this picturesque stage devil,
with all his conventionality, is akin to the serpent which tempted
Eve, the Thersites of Homer, and--mirabile dictu!--the Falstaff of

The device with which Boito tried to link the scenes of his opera
together is musical as well as philosophical. In the book which
Barbier and Carré wrote for Gounod, Faust sells his soul to the
devil for a period of sensual pleasure of indefinite duration, and,
so far as the hero is concerned, the story is left unfinished. All
that has been accomplished is the physical ruin of Marguerite.
Méphistophélès exults for a moment in contemplation of the
destruction, also, of the immortal part of her, but the angelic
choir proclaims her salvation. Faust departs hurriedly with
Méphistophélès, but whether to his death or in search of new
adventures, we do not know. The Germans are, therefore, not so
wrong, after all, in calling the opera after the name of the heroine
instead of that of the hero. In Boito's book the love story is but
an incident. Faust's compact with Mefistofele, as in Goethe's
dramatic poem, is the outcome of a wager between Mefistofele and
God, under the terms of which the Spirit of Evil is to be permitted
to seduce Faust from righteousness, if he can. Faust's demand of
Mefistofele is rest from his unquiet, inquisitive mind; a solution
of the dark problem of his own existence and that of the world;
finally, one moment of which he can say, "Stay, for thou art lovely!
"The amour with Margherita does not accomplish this, and so Boito
follows Goethe into the conclusion of the second part of his drama,
and shows Faust, at the end, an old man about to die. He recalls the
loves of Margherita and Helen, but they were insufficient to give
him the desired moment of happiness. He sees a vision of a people
governed by him and made happy by wise laws of his creation. He
goes into an ecstasy. Mefistofele summons sirens to tempt him; and
spreads his cloak for another flight. But the chant of celestial
beings falls into Faust's ear, and he speaks the words which
terminate the compact. He dies. Mefistofele attempts to seize upon
him, but is driven back by a shower of roses dropped by cherubim.
The celestial choir chants redeeming love.

Thus much for the dramatic exposition. Boito's musical exposition
rests on the employment of typical phrases, not in the manner
of Wagner, indeed, but with the fundamental purpose of Wagner.
A theme:--

[Musical excerpt]

which begins the prologue, ends the epilogue. The reader may label
it as he pleases. Its significance is obvious from the circumstances
of its employment. It rings out fortissimo when the mystic chorus,
which stands for the Divine Voice, puts the question, "Knowest thou
Faust?" An angelic ascription of praise to the Creator of the
Universe and to Divine Love is the first vocal utterance and the
last. In his notes Boito observes: "Goethe was a great admirer of
form, and his poem ends as it begins,--the first and last words of
'Faust' are uttered in Heaven." Then he quotes a remark from Blaze
de Bury's essay on Goethe, which is apropos, though not strictly
accurate: "The glorious motive which the immortal phalanxes sing in
the introduction to the first part of 'Faust' recurs at the close,
garbed with harmonies and mystical clouds. In this Goethe has acted
like the musicians,--like Mozart, who recurs in the finale of 'Don
Giovanni' to the imposing phrase of the overture."

M. de Bury refers, of course, to the supernatural music, which
serves as an introduction to the overture to "Don Giovanni," and
accompanies the visitation of the ghostly statue and the death of
the libertine. But this is not the end of Mozart's opera as he
wrote it, as readers of this book have been told.

This prologue of "Mefistofele" plays in heaven. "In the heavens,"
says Theodore Marzials, the English translator of Boito's opera, out
of deference to the religious sensibilities of the English people,
to spare which he also changes "God" into "sprites," "spirits,"
"powers of good," and "angels." The effect is vastly diverting,
especially when Boito's paraphrase of Goethe's

Von Zeit zu Zeit seh' ich den Alten gern
Und hüte mich mit ihm zu brechen.
Es ist gar hübsch von einem grossen Herrn,
So menschlich mit dem Teufel selbst zu sprechen. {1}

is turned into: "Now and again 'tis really pleasant thus to chat
with the angels, and I'll take good care not to quarrel with them.
'Tis beautiful to hear Good and Evil speak together with such
humanity." The picture disclosed by the opening of the curtain is a
mass of clouds, with Mefistofele, like a dark blot, standing on a
corner of his cloak in the shadow. The denizens of the celestial
regions are heard but never seen. A trumpet sounds the fundamental
theme, which is repeated in full harmony after instruments of
gentler voice have sung a hymn-like phrase, as follows:--

[Musical excerpt]

It is the first period of the "Salve Regina" sung by Earthly
Penitents in the finale of the prologue. The canticle is chanted
through, its periods separated by reiterations of the fundamental
theme. A double chorus acclaims the Lord of Angels and Saints. A
plan, evidently derived from the symphonic form, underlies the
prologue as a whole. Prelude and chorus are rounded out by the
significant trumpet phrase. One movement is completed. There follows
a second movement, an Instrumental Scherzo, with a first section
beginning thus:--

[Musical excerpt]

and a trio. Over this music Mefistofele carries on converse with
God. He begs to disagree with the sentiments of the angelic hymn.
Wandering about the earth, he had observed man and found him in all
things contemptible, especially in his vanity begotten by what he
called "reason"; he, the miserable little cricket, vaingloriously
jumping out of the grass in an effort to poke his nose among the
stars, then falling back to chirp, had almost taken away from the
devil all desire to tempt him to evil doings. "Knowest thou Faust?"
asks the Divine Voice; and Mefistofele tells of the philosopher's
insatiable thirst for wisdom. Then he offers the wager. The scene,
though brief, follows Goethe as closely as Goethe follows the author
of the Book of Job:--

Now, there was a day when the sons of God came to present
themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.

And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan
answered the Lord and said, From going to and fro in the earth
and from walking up and down in it.

And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant
Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and
an upright man, one that feareth God and escheweth evil?

Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for
nought? . . .

And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in
thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So
Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.

Boito treats the interview in what he calls a Dramatic Interlude,
which gives way to the third movement, a Vocal Scherzo, starting off
with a chorus of Cherubim, who sing in fugacious thirds and droning

[Musical excerpt--"siam nimbi volanti dai limbi, nei santi"]

It is well to note particularly Boito's metrical device. He
seemingly counted much on the effect of incessantly reiterated
dactyls. Not only do his Cherubim adhere to the form without
deviation, but Helen and Pantalis use it also in the scene imitated
from Goethe's Classical Walpurgis Night,--use it for an especial
purpose, as we shall see presently. Rapid syllabication is also
a characteristic of the song of the witches in the scene on the
Brocken; but the witches sing in octaves and fifths except when
they kneel to do homage to Mefistofele; then their chant sounds like
the responses to John of Leyden's prayer by the mutinous soldiers
brought to their knees in "Le Prophète." Not at all ineptly,
Mefistofele, who does not admire the Cherubs, likens their monotonous
cantillation to the hum of bees. A fourth movement consists of a
concluding psalmody, in which the Cherubs twitter, Earthly Penitents
supplicate the Virgin, and the combined choirs, celestial and
terrestrial, hymn the Creator.

The tragedy now begins. Boito changes the order of the scenes which
he borrows from Goethe, presenting first the merrymaking of the
populace outside the walls of Frankfort-on-the-Main, and then the
interview between Faust and Mefistofele, in which, as in the opening
scene of Gounod's opera, the infernal compact is agreed upon. There
is some mediaeval pageantry in the first scene,--a cavalcade headed
by the Elector, and including dignitaries, pages, falconers, the
court fool, and ladies of the court. Students, townspeople,
huntsmen, lads, and lasses pursue their pleasures, and up and down,
through the motley groups, there wanders a gray friar, whose strange
conduct repels some of the people, and whose pious garb attracts
others. Faust and Wagner, his pupil, come upon the scene, conversing
seriously, and stop to comment on the actions of the friar, who is
approaching them, supposedly in narrowing circles. Wagner sees
nothing in him except a mendicant friar, but Faust calls attention
to the fact that to his eye, flames blaze up from his footprints.
This friar is the "poodle" of Goethe's poem, and Mefistofele in
disguise. It is thus that the devil presented himself to Faustus
in the old versions of the legend, and as a friar he is a more
practicable dramatic figure than he would have been as a dog; but
it cannot but provoke a smile from those familiar with Goethe's poem
to hear (as we do in the opera a few moments later) the familiar

Das also war des Pudels Kern!
Ein fahrender Scolast?

turned into: "This, then, was the kernel of the friar! A cavalier?"
The music of the score is characterized by frequent changes from
triple to double time, as illustrated in the opening measures:

[Musical excerpt]

The rhythmical energy and propulsiveness thus imparted to the music
of the merrymaking is heightened by the dance. Peasants rush upon
the scene with shouts of "Juhé!" and make preparations to trip it
while singing what, at first, promises to be a waltz-song:--

[Musical excerpt]

The dance, however, is not a waltz, but an obertass--the most
popular of the rustic dances of Poland. Why should Boito have made
his Rhinelanders dance a step which is characteristically that of
the Poles? Sticklers for historical verity could easily convict him
of a most unpardonable anachronism, if they were so disposed, by
pointing out that even if German peasants were in the habit of
dancing the obertass now (which they are not), they could not have
done it in the sixteenth century, which is the period of the drama,
for the sufficient reason that the Polish dance was not introduced
in North Germany till near the middle of the eighteenth century.
But we need not inquire too curiously into details like this when
it comes to so arbitrary an art-form as the opera. Yet Boito was
his own poet, master of the situation so far as all parts of his
work were concerned, and might have consulted historical accuracy
in a department in which Gluck once found that he was the slave
of his ballet master. Gluck refused to introduce a chaconne into
"Iphigénie en Aulide." "A chaconne?" cried the composer. "When did
the Greeks ever dance a chaconne?" "Didn't they?" replied Vestris;
"then so much the worse for the Greeks!" A quarrel ensued, and
Gluck, becoming incensed, withdrew his opera and would have left
Paris had not Marie Antoinette come to the rescue. But Vestris
got his chaconne. In all likelihood Boito put the obertass into
"Mefistofele" because he knew that musically and as a spectacle
the Polish dance would be particularly effective in the joyous
hurly-burly of the scene. A secondary meaning of the Polish word is
said to be "confusion," and Boito doubtless had this in mind when
he made his peasants sing with an orderly disorder which is

Tutti vanno alla rinfusa
Sulla musica confusa,

or, as one English translation has it:--

All is going to dire confusion
With the music in collusion.

[Musical excerpt--"Juhé, Juhé! Tutti vanno alla rinfusa"]

Perhaps, too, Boito had inherited a love for the vigorous dance from
his Polish mother.

Night falls, and Faust is returned to his laboratory. The gray friar
has followed him (like Goethe's poodle) and slips into an alcove
unobserved. The philosopher turns to the Bible, which lies upon a
lectern, and falls into a meditation, which is interrupted by a
shriek. He turns and sees the friar standing motionless and wordless
before him. He conjures the apparition with the seal of Solomon, and
the friar, doffing cowl and gown, steps forward as a cavalier (an
itinerant scholar in Goethe). He introduces himself as a part of
the power that, always thinking evil, as persistently accomplishes
good--the spirit of negation. The speech ("Son lo Spirito che nega
sempre") is one of the striking numbers of Boito's score, and the
grim humor of its "No! "seems to have inspired the similar effect
in Falstaff's discourse on honor in Verdi's opera. The pair quickly
come to an understanding on the terms already set forth.

Act II carries us first into the garden of Dame Martha, where we
find Margherita strolling arm in arm with Faust, and Martha with
Mefistofele. The gossip is trying to seduce the devil into an avowal
of love; Margherita and Faust are discussing their first meeting
and the passion which they already feel for each other. Boito's
Margherita has more of Goethe's Gretchen than Gounod's Marguerite.
Like the former, she wonders what a cavalier can find to admire
in her simple self, and protests in embarrassment when Faust (or
Enrico, as he calls himself) kisses her rough hand. Like Goethe's
maiden, too, she is concerned about the religious beliefs of
her lover, and Boito's Faust answers, like Goethe's Faust, that
a sincere man dares protest neither belief nor unbelief in
God. Nature, Love, Mystery, Life, God--all are one, all to be
experienced, not labelled with a name. Then he turns the talk on
herself and her domestic surroundings, and presses the sleeping
potion for her mother upon her. The scene ends with the four people
scurrying about in a double chase among the flowers, for which
Boito found exquisitely dainty music.

There is a change from the pretty garden of the first scene, with
its idyllic music, to the gathering place of witches and warlocks,
high up in the Brocken, in the second. We witness the vile orgies of
the bestial crew into whose circles Faust is introduced, and see how
Mefistofele is acclaimed king and receives the homage. Here Boito
borrows a poetical conceit from Goethe's scene in the witches'
kitchen, and makes it a vehicle for a further exposition of the
character and philosophy of the devil. Mefistofele has seated
himself upon a rocky throne and been vested with the robe and
symbols of state by the witches. Now they bring to him a crystal
globe, which he takes and discourses upon to the following effect
(the translation is Theodore T. Barker's):--

Lo, here is the world!
A bright sphere rising,
Setting, whirling, glancing,
Round the sun in circles dancing;
Trembling, toiling,
Yielding, spoiling,
Want and plenty by turn enfold it--
This world, behold it!
On its surface, by time abraded,
Dwelleth a vile race, defiled, degraded;
Abject, haughty,
Cunning, naughty,
Carrying war and desolation
From the top to the foundation
Of creation.
For them Satan has no being;
They scorn with laughter
A hell hereafter,
And heavenly glory
As idle story.
Powers eternal! I'll join their laugh infernal
Thinking o'er their deeds diurnal. Ha! Ha!
Behold the world!

He dashes the globe to pieces on the ground and thereby sets the
witches to dancing. To the antics of the vile crew Faust gives no
heed; his eyes are fixed upon a vision of Margherita, her feet in
fetters, her body emaciated, and a crimson line encircling her
throat. His love has come under the headsman's axe! In the Ride to
Hell, which concludes Berlioz's "Damnation de Faust," the infernal
horsemen are greeted with shouts in a language which the mystical
Swedenborg says is the speech of the lower regions. Boito also uses
an infernal vocabulary. His witches screech "Saboé har Sabbah!" on
the authority of Le Loyer's "Les Spectres."

From the bestiality of the Brocken we are plunged at the beginning
of the third act into the pathos of Margherita's death. The episode
follows the lines laid down by Barbier and Carré in their paraphrase
of Goethe, except that for the sake of the beautiful music of the
duet (which Boito borrowed from his unfinished "Ero e Leandro"), we
learn that Margherita had drowned her child. Faust urges her to fly,
but her poor mind is all awry. She recalls the scene of their first
meeting and of the love-making in Dame Martha's garden, and the
earlier music returns, as it does in Gounod's score, and as it was
bound to do. At the end she draws back in horror from Faust, after
uttering a prayer above the music of the celestial choir, just as
the executioner appears. Mefistofele pronounces her damned, but
voices from on high proclaim her salvation.

The story of Faust and Margherita is ended, but, in pursuance of his
larger plan, already outlined here, Boito makes use of two scenes
from the second part of Goethe's drama to fill a fourth act and
epilogue. They tell of the adventure of Faust with Helen of Troy,
and of his death and the demon's defeat. The "Night of the Classical
Sabbath" serves a dramatic purpose even less than the scene on the
Brocken, but as an intermezzo it has many elements of beauty, and
its scheme is profoundly poetical. Unfortunately we can only attain
to a knowledge of the mission of the scene in the study with
Goethe's poem in hand and commentaries and Boito's prefatory notes
within reach. The picture is full of serene loveliness. We are on
the shore of Peneus, in the Vale of Tempe. The moon at its zenith
sheds its light over the thicket of laurel and oleanders, and floods
a Doric temple on the left. Helen of Troy and Pantalis, surrounded
by a group of sirens, praise the beauty of nature in an exquisite
duet, which flows on as placidly as the burnished stream. Faust
lies sleeping upon a flowery bank, and in his dreams calls upon
Helen in the intervals of her song. Helen and Pantalis depart, and
Faust is ushered in by Mefistofele. He is clad in his proper
mediaeval garb, in strong contrast to the classic robes of the
denizens of the valley in Thessaly. Mefistofele suggests to Faust
that they now separate; the land of antique fable has no charm for
him. Faust is breathing in the idiom of Helen's song like a delicate
perfume which inspires him with love; Mefistofele longs for the
strong, resinous odors of the Harz Mountains, where dominion over
the Northern hags belongs to him. Faust is already gone, and he is
about to depart when there approaches a band of Choretids. With
gentle grace they move through a Grecian dance, and Mefistofele
retires in disgust. Helen returns profoundly disquieted by a
vision of the destruction of Troy, of which she was the cause. The
Choretids seek to calm her in vain, but the tortures of conscience
cease when she sees Faust before her. He kneels and praises her
beauty, and she confesses herself enamoured of his speech, in which
sound answers sound like a soft echo. "What," she asks, "must I do
to learn so sweet and gentle an idiom?" "Love me, as I love you,"
replies Faust, in effect, as they disappear through the bowers. Now
let us turn to Goethe, his commentators, and Boito's explanatory
notes to learn the deeper significance of the episode, which, with
all its gracious charm, must still appear dramatically impertinent
and disturbing. Rhyme was unknown to the Greeks, the music of whose
verse came from syllabic quantity. Helen and her companions sing in
classic strain, as witness the opening duet:--

La luna immobile innonda l'etere d'un raggio pallido.
Callido balsamo stillan le ramora dai cespi roridi;
Doridi e silfidi, cigni e nereidi vagan sul l'alighi.

Faust addresses Helen in rhyme, the discovery of the Romantic

Forma ideal purissima
Della bellezza eterna!
Un uom ti si prosterna
Innamorato al suolo
Volgi ver me la cruna
Di tua pupilla bruna,
Vaga come la luna,
Ardente come il sole.

"Here," says Boito, "is a myth both beautiful and deep. Helen and
Faust represent Classic and Romantic art gloriously wedded, Greek
beauty and Germanic beauty gleaming under the same aureole,
glorified in one embrace, and generating an ideal poesy, eclectic,
new, and powerful."

The contents of the last act, which shows us Faust's death and
salvation, have been set forth in the explanation of Boito's
philosophical purpose. An expository note may, however, profitably
be added in the poet-composer's own words: "Goethe places around
Faust at the beginning of the scene four ghostly figures, who utter
strange and obscure words. What Goethe has placed on the stage we
place in the orchestra, submitting sounds instead of words, in order
to render more incorporeal and impalpable the hallucinations that
trouble Faust on the brink of death." The ghostly figures referred
to by Boito are the four "Gray Women" of Goethe--Want, Guilt, Care,
and Necessity. Boito thinks like a symphonist, and his purpose is
profoundly poetical, but its appreciation asks more than the
ordinary opera-goer is willing or able to give. {2}


{1} I like, at times, to hear the Ancient's word,
And have a care to be most civil:
It's really kind of such a noble Lord
So humnanly to gossip with the Devil.
--Bayard Taylor's Translation.

{2} "Mefistofele" had its first performance in New York at the
Academy of Music on November 24, 1880. Mlle. Valleria was the
Margherita and Elena, Miss Annie Louise Cary the Marta and Pantalis,
Signor Campanini Faust, and Signor Novara Mefistofele. Signor Arditi
conducted. The first representation of the opera at the Metropolitan
Opera-house took place on December 5, 1883, when, with one exception,
the cast was the same as at the first performance in London, at Her
Majesty's Theatre, on July 6, 1880--namely, Nilsson as Margherita
and Elena, Trebelli as Marta and Pantalis, Campanini as Faust and
Mirabella as Mefistofele. (In London Nannetti enacted the demon.)
Cleofonte Campanini, then maestro di cembalo at the Metropolitan
Opera-house, conducted the performance.



In an operatic form Berlioz's "Damnation de Faust" had its first
representation in New York at the Metropolitan Opera-house on
December 7, 1906. Despite its high imagination, its melodic charm,
its vivid and varied colors, its frequent flights toward ideal
realms, its accents of passion, its splendid picturesqueness, it
presented itself as a "thing of shreds and patches." It was, indeed,
conceived as such, and though Berlioz tried by various devices to
give it entity, he failed. When he gave it to the world, he called
it a "Dramatic Legend," a term which may mean much or little as
one chooses to consider it; but I can recall no word of his which
indicates that he ever thought that it was fit for the stage. It was
Raoul Gunsbourg, director of the opera at Monte Carlo, who, in 1903,
conceived the notion of a theatrical representation of the legend
and tricked it out with pictures and a few attempts at action. Most
of these attempts are futile and work injury to the music, as will
presently appear, but in a few instances they were successful,
indeed very successful. Of course, if Berlioz had wanted to make an
opera out of Goethe's drama, he could have done so. He would then
have anticipated Gounod and Boito and, possibly, have achieved one
of those popular successes for which he hungered. But he was in his
soul a poet, in his heart a symphonist, and intellectually (as many
futile efforts proved) incapable of producing a piece for the
boards. When the Faust subject first seized upon his imagination, he
knew it only in a prose translation of Goethe's poem made by Gerald
de Nerval. In his "Memoirs" he tells us how it fascinated him. He
carried it about with him, reading it incessantly and eagerly at
dinner, in the streets, in the theatre. In the prose translation
there were a few fragments of songs. These he set to music and
published under the title "Huit Scènes de Faust," at his own expense.
Marx, the Berlin critic, saw the music and wrote the composer a
letter full of encouragement. But Berlioz soon saw grave defects in
his work and withdrew it from circulation, destroying all the copies
which he could lay hands on. What was good in it, however, he laid
away for future use. The opportunity came twenty years later, when
he was fired anew with a desire to write music for Goethe's poem.

Though he had planned the work before starting out on his memorable
artistic travels, he seems to have found inspiration in the
circumstance that he was amongst a people who were more
appreciative of his genius than his own countrymen, and whose
language was that employed by the poet. Not more than one-sixth of
his "Eight Scenes" had consisted of settings of the translations of
M. de Nerval. A few scenes had been prepared by M. Gaudonnière from
notes provided by the composer. The rest of the book Berlioz wrote
himself, now paraphrasing the original poet, now going to him only
for a suggestion. As was the case with Wagner, words and music
frequently presented themselves to him simultaneously. Travelling
from town to town, conducting rehearsals and concerts, he wrote
whenever and wherever he could--one number in an inn at Passau, the
Elbe scene and the Dance of the Sylphs at Vienna, the peasants' song
by gaslight in a shop one night when he had lost his way in Pesth,
the angels' chorus in Marguerite's apotheosis at Prague (getting
up in the middle of the night to write it down), the song of the
students, "Jam nox stellata velamina pandit" (of which the words
are also Berlioz's), at Breslau. He finished the work in Rouen and
Paris, at home, at his café, in the gardens of the Tuilleries, even
on a stone in the Boulevard du Temple. While in Vienna he made an
orchestral transcription of the famous Rakoczy march (in one night,
he says, though this is scarcely credible, since the time would
hardly suffice to write down the notes alone). The march made an
extraordinary stir at the concert in Pesth when he produced it,
and this led him to incorporate it, with an introduction, into his
Legend--a proceeding which he justified as a piece of poetical
license; he thought that he was entitled to put his hero in any part
of the world and in any situation that he pleased.

This incident serves to indicate how lightly all dramatic fetters
sat upon Berlioz while "La Damnation" was in his mind, and how
little it occurred to him that any one would ever make the attempt
to place his scenes upon the stage. In the case of the Hungarian
march, this has been done only at the sacrifice of Berlioz's
poetical conceit to which the introductory text and music were
fitted; but of this more presently. As Berlioz constructed the
"Dramatic Legend," it belonged to no musical category. It was
neither a symphony with vocal parts like his "Roméo et Juliette"
(which has symphonic elements in some of its sections), nor a
cantata, nor an oratorio. It is possible that this fact was long
an obstacle to its production. Even in New York where, on its
introduction, it created the profoundest sensation ever witnessed
in a local concert-room, it was performed fourteen times with the
choral parts sung by the Oratorio Society before that organization
admitted it into its lists.

And now to tell how the work was fitted to the uses of the lyric
theatre. Nothing can be plainer to persons familiar with the work in
its original form than that no amount of ingenuity can ever give the
scenes of the "Dramatic Legend" continuity or coherency. Boito, in
his opera, was unwilling to content himself with the episode of the
amour between Faust and Marguerite; he wanted to bring out the
fundamental ethical idea of the poet, and he went so far as to
attempt the Prologue in Heaven, the Classical Sabbath, and the death
of Faust with the contest for his soul. Berlioz had no scruples of
any kind. He chose his scenes from Goethe's poem, changed them at
will, and interpolated an incident simply to account for the
Hungarian march. Connection with each other the scenes have not, and
some of the best music belongs wholly in the realm of the ideal. At
the outset Berlioz conceived Faust alone on a vast field in Hungary
in spring. He comments on the beauties of nature and praises the
benison of solitude. His ruminations are interrupted by a dance of
peasants and the passage of an army to the music of the Rakoczy
march. This scene M. Gunsbourg changes to a picture of a mediaeval
interior in which Faust soliloquizes, and a view through the window
of a castle with a sally-port. Under the windows the peasants dance,
and out of the huge gateway come the soldiery and march off to
battle. At the climax of the music which drove the people of Pesth
wild at its first performance, so that Berlioz confessed that he
himself shuddered and felt the hair bristling on his head--when in a
long crescendo fugued fragments of the march theme keep reappearing,
interrupted by drum-beats like distant cannonading, Gunsbourg's
battalions halt, and there is a solemn benediction of the standards.
Then, to the peroration, the soldiers run, not as if eager to get
into battle, but as if in inglorious retreat.

The second scene reproduces the corresponding incident in Gounod's
opera--Faust in his study, life-weary and despondent. He is about
to drink a cup of poison when the rear wall of the study rolls up
and discloses the interior of a church with a kneeling congregation
which chants the Easter canticle, "Christ is risen!" Here is one of
the fine choral numbers of the work for which concert, not operatic,
conditions are essential. The next scene, however, is of the opera
operatic, and from that point of view the most perfect in the work.
It discloses the revel of students, citizens, and soldiers in
Auerbach's cellar. Brander sings the song of the rat which by good
living had developed a paunch "like Dr. Luther's," but died of
poison laid by the cook. The drinkers shout a boisterous refrain
after each stanza, and supplement the last with a mock-solemn
"Requiescat in pace, Amen." The phrase suggests new merriment to
Brander, who calls for a fugue on the "Amen," and the roisterers
improvise one on the theme of the rat song, which calls out hearty
commendation from Méphistophélès, and a reward in the shape of
the song of the flea--a delightful piece of grotesquerie with its
accompaniment suggestive of the skipping of the pestiferous little
insect which is the subject of the song.

The next scene is the triumph of M. Gunsbourg, though for it he is
indebted to Miss Loie Fuller and the inventor of the aerial ballet.
In the conceit of Berlioz, Faust lies asleep on the bushy banks of
the Elbe. Méphistophélès summons gnomes and sylphs to fill his mind
with lovely fancies. They do their work so well as to entrance,
not only Faust, but all who hear their strains, The instrumental


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