Obvious printer's errors have been corrected.
OPERAS EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW
Descriptions of the Text and Music of Some of the Most Famous Masterpieces
New York Grosset & Dunlap Publishers
All Rights Reserved
Copyright, 1911, by Doubleday, Page & Company
Printed in the United States at the Country Life Press, Garden City, N.Y.
In selecting a few of the operas every child should know, the editor's greatest difficulty is in determining what to leave out. The wish to include "L'Africaine," "Othello," "Lucia," "Don Pasquale," "Mignon," "Nozze di Figaro," "Don Giovanni," "Rienzi," "Tannhaeuser," "Romeo and Juliet," "Parsifal," "Freischuetz," and a hundred others makes one impatient of limitations.
The operas described here are not all great compositions: Some of them are hopelessly poor. Those of Balfe and Flotow are included because they were expressions of popular taste when our grandfathers enjoyed going to the opera.
The Nibelung Ring is used in preference to several other compositions of Wagner because the four operas included in it are the fullest both of musical and story wonders, and are at the same time the least understood.
"Aida" and "Carmen" belong here—as do many which are left out—because of their beauty and musical splendour. Few, instead of many, operas have been written about in this book, because it seemed better to give a complete idea of several than a superficial sketch of many.
The beginnings of opera—music-drama—are unknown; but Sulpitius, an Italian, declared that opera was heard in Italy as early as 1490. The Greeks, of course, accompanied their tragedies with music long before that time, but that would not imply "opera" as we understand it. However, modern opera is doubtless merely the development of that manner of presenting drama.
After the opera, came the ballet, and that belonged distinctively to France. Before 1681 there were no women dancers in the ballet—only males. All ballets of shepherdesses and nymphs and dryads were represented by men and boys; but at last, the ladies of the court of France took to the ballet for their own amusement, and thus women dancers became the fashion.
Even the most heroic or touching stories must lose much of their dignity when made into opera, since in that case the "music's the thing," and not the "play." For this reason it has seemed necessary to tell the stories of such operas as "Il Trovatore," with all their bombastic trimmings complete, in order to be faithful in showing them as they really are. On the other hand, it has been necessary to try to treat "Pinafore" in Gilbert's rollicking fashion.
Opera is the most superficial thing in the world, even if it appears the most beautiful to the senses, if not to the intelligence. We go to opera not specially to understand the story, but to hear music and to see beautiful scenic effects. It is necessary, however, to know enough of the story to appreciate the cause of the movement upon the stage, and without some acquaintance of it beforehand one gets but a very imperfect knowledge of an opera story from hearing it once.
A very great deal is said of music-motif and music-illustration, and it has been demonstrated again and again that this is largely the effort of the ultra-artistic to discover what is not there. At best, music is a "concord of sweet sounds"—heroic, tender, exciting, etc.; but the elemental passions and emotions are almost all it can define, or even suggest. Certain music is called "characteristic"—anvil choruses, for example, where hammers or triangles or tin whistles are used, but that is not music in its best estate, and musical purpose is best understood after a composer has labelled it, whether the ultra-artistic are ready to admit it or not.
The opera is never more enjoyed than by a music lover who is incapable of criticism from lack of musical knowledge: music being first and last an emotional art; and as our emotions are refined it requires compositions of a more and more elevated character to appeal to them. Thus, we range from the bathos and vulgarity of the music hall to the glories of grand opera!
The history of opera should be known and composers classified, just as it is desirable to know and to classify authors, painters, sculptors, and actors.
Music is first of all something to be felt, and it is one of the arts which does not always explain itself.
I. BALFE: THE BOHEMIAN GIRL 3
II. BEETHOVEN: FIDELIO 35
III. BERLIOZ: THE DAMNATION OF FAUST 51
IV. BIZET: CARMEN 69
V. DEKOVEN: ROBIN HOOD 95
VI. FLOTOW: MARTHA 105
VII. HUMPERDINCK: HAENSEL AND GRETEL 135
VIII. MASCAGNI: CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA 152
IX. MEYERBEER: THE PROPHET 163
X. MOZART: THE MAGIC FLUTE 191
XI. SULLIVAN: PINAFORE 218
XII. VERDI: RIGOLETTO, IL TROVATORE, AIDA 238
XIII. WAGNER: THE NIBELUNG RING, THE MASTERSINGERS OF NUREMBERG, LOHENGRIN 306
OPERAS EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW
OPERAS EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW
The story of The Bohemian Girl is supposed to have been taken from a French ballet entitled The Gipsy, which was produced in Paris in 1839. Again, it is said to have been stolen from a play written by the Marquis de Saint-Georges, which was named La Bohemienne. However that may be, it would at first sight hardly seem worth stealing, but it has nevertheless been popular for many decades. Balfe, the composer, had no sense of dramatic composition and was not much of a musician, but he had a talent for writing that which could be sung. It was not always beautiful, but it was always practicable.
The original title of La Bohemienne has in its meaning nothing to do with Bohemia, and therefore a literal translation does not seem to have been especially applicable to the opera as Bunn made it. The story is placed in Hungary and not in Bohemia, and the hero came from Warsaw, hence the title is a misnomer all the way around. It was Balfe who tried to establish English opera in London, and to that purpose he wrote an opera or two in which his wife sang the principal roles; but in the midst of that enterprise he received favourable propositions from Paris, and therefore abandoned the London engagement. When he went to Paris, The Bohemian Girl was only partly written, and he took from its score several of its arias for use in a new opera. When he returned to London he wrote new music for the old opera, and thus The Bohemian Girl knew many vicissitudes off, as well as on, the stage.
The first city to hear this opera, outside of London, was New York. It was produced in America at the Park Theatre, November 25, 1844. The most remarkable thing about that performance was that the part of Arline was sung in the same cast by two women, Miss Dyott and Mrs. Seguin: the former singing it in the first act, the latter in the second and third. When it was produced in London, Piccolomini (a most famous singer) sang Arline and it was written that "applause from the many loud enough to rend the heavens" followed.
Because of this inconsequent opera, Balfe was given the cross of the Legion of Honour from Napoleon III., and was made Commander of the Order of Carlos III. by the regent of Spain. This seems incredible, for good music was perfectly well known from bad, but the undefined element of popularity was there, and thus the opera became a living thing.
A story is told of Balfe while he belonged to the Drury Lane orchestra. "Vauxhall Gardens" were then in vogue, and there was a call for the Drury Lane musicians to go there to play. The "Gardens" were a long way off, and there was no tram-car or other means of transportation for their patrons. Those who hadn't a coach had no way of getting there, and it must have cost Balfe considerable to go and come each day. He decided to find lodgings near the Gardens to save himself expense. He looked and looked, on the day he first went out. Others wanted the same thing, and it was not easy to place himself. However, by evening, he had decided to take anything he could find; so he engaged a room at an unpromising looking house. He was kept waiting by the landlady for a long time in the passageway, but at last he was escorted up to his room, and, being tired out, he immediately went to bed and to sleep. In the morning he began to look about, and to his horror and amazement he found a corpse stowed away in a cupboard. Some member of his landlady's family who occupied the bed had died. When he applied for the room, he had been made to wait while the previous occupant was hastily tucked out of sight. After that, he never hired lodgings without first looking into the cupboards and under the bed.
Balfe was a good deal of a wag, and his waggishness was not always in good taste, as shown by an incident at carnival time in Rome. His resemblance to a great patroness of his, the Countess Mazzaras, a well-known woman of much dignity, induced him upon that occasion to dress himself in women's clothes, stand in a window conspicuously, and make the most extraordinary and hideous faces at the monks and other churchmen who passed. Every one gave the credit of this remarkable conduct to the Countess Mazzaras. Balfe had pianos carried up to the sleeping rooms of great singers before they got out of bed, and thus made them listen to his newly composed tunes. He sometimes announced himself by the titles of his famous tunes, as, "We May Be Happy Yet," and was admitted, and received as readily as if he had resorted to pasteboard politeness.
In short, Balfe was never a great musician, yet he had all the eccentricities that one might expect a great musician to have, and he succeeded quite as well as if he had had genius.
Balfe was born May 15, 1808, and died October 20, 1870.
THE BOHEMIAN GIRL
CHARACTERS OF THE OPERA WITH THE ORIGINAL CAST
Arline Miss Romer. Gipsy Queen Miss Betts. Thaddeus Mr. Harrison. Devilshoof Mr. Stretton. Count Arnheim Mr. Borrani. Florestein Mr. Durnset.
Scene laid in Hungary.
Composer: Michael Balfe. Author: Alfred Bunn.
First sung at London, England, Her Majesty's Theatre, Drury Lane, Nov. 27, 1843.
Many years ago, when noblemen, warriors, gipsies, lovers, enemies and all sorts and conditions of men fraternized without drawing very fine distinctions except when it came to levying taxes, a company of rich nobles met in the gardens of the Count Arnheim to go hunting together. The Count was the Governor of Presburg, and a very popular man, except with his inferiors.
They began their day's sport with a rather highfalutin song sung by the Count's retainers:
"Up with the banner and down with the slave, Who shall dare dispute the right, Wherever its folds in their glory wave, Of the Austrian eagle's flight?"
The verses were rather more emotional than intelligent, but the singers were all in good spirits and prepared for a fine day's sport.
After this preliminary all the party—among whom was the young daughter of the Count, whose name was Arline, and a girlie sort of chap, Florestein, who was the Count's nephew—came from the castle, with huntsmen and pages in their train; and what with pages running about, and the huntsmen's bright colours, and the horns echoing, and the horses that one must feel were just without, stamping with impatience to be off, it was a gay scene. The old Count was in such high feather that he, too, broke into song and, while singing that
"Bugles shake the air,"
he caught up his little daughter in his arms and told how dear she was to him. It was not a proper thing for so young a girl to go on a hunt, but Arline was a spoiled young countess. When a huntsman handed a rifle to Florestein, that young man shuddered and rejected it—which left one to wonder just what he was going to do at a hunt without a rifle, but the others were less timid, and all separated to go to their various posts, Arline going by a foot-path in charge of a retainer.
These gay people had no sooner disappeared than a handsome young fellow, dishevelled, pursued, rushed into the garden. He looked fearfully behind him, and stopped to get his breath.
"I can run no farther," he gasped, looking back upon the road he had come; and then suddenly at his side, he saw a statue of the Austrian Emperor. He was even leaning against it.
"Here I am, in the very midst of my foes!—a statue of the Emperor himself adorning these grounds!" and he became even more alarmed. While he stood thus, hesitating what to do next, a dozen dusky forms leaped the wall of the garden and stood looking at him. Thaddeus was in a soldier's dress and looked like a soldier. Foremost among the newcomers, who huddled together in brilliant rags, was a great brigand-looking fellow, who seemed to lead the band.
"Hold on! before we undertake to rob this chap, let us make sure of what we are doing," he cautioned the others. "If he is a soldier, we are likely to get the worst of it"—showing that he had as much wisdom as bravado. After a moment's hesitation they decided that caution was the better part of valour, and since it was no harm to be a gipsy, and there was a penalty attached to being a robber, they nonchalantly turned suspicion from themselves by beginning to sing gaily of their gipsy life. Frequently when they had done this, they had received money for it. If they mayn't rob this soldier chap, at least he might be generous and toss them a coin. During this time, Thaddeus was not napping. The Austrian soldiery were after him, and at best he could not expect to be safe long. The sight of the vagabonds inspired him with hope, although to most folks they would have seemed to be a rather uninspiring and hopeless lot. He went up to the leader, Devilshoof:
"My friend, I have something to say to you. I am in danger. You seem to be a decent sort—gay and friendly enough. The Austrian soldiers are after me. I am an exile from Poland. If I am caught, my life will be forfeited. I am young and you may count upon my good will. If you will take me along with you as one of you, I may stand a chance of escaping with my life—what do you say?"
The gipsies stared at him; and Devilshoof did so in no unfriendly manner. The leader was a good-natured wanderer, whose main fault was stealing—but that was a fault he shared in common with all gipsies. He was quite capable of being a good friend.
"Just who are you?" he asked, wanting a little more information.
"A man without country, friends, hope—or money."
"Well, you seem able to qualify as a gipsy pretty well. So come along." Just as he spoke, another gipsy, who was reconnoitering, said softly:
"Soldiers are coming——"
"Good—we'll give them something to do. Here, friend, we'll get ready for them," he cried, delighted with the new adventure.
At that the gipsies fell to stripping off Thaddeus's soldier clothes, and exchanging them for a gipsy's smock; but as this was taking place, a roll of parchment fell at Devilshoof's feet.
"What's this?" he asked, taking it up.
"It is my commission as a soldier of Poland—the only thing I have of value in the world. I shall never part with it," and Thaddeus snatched it and hid it in his dress and then mixed with the gipsies just as the Emperor's soldiers came up.
"Ho, there! You vagabonds—have you seen anything of a stranger who has passed this way?"
"What—a Polish soldier?"
"That's our man."
"Yes, yes—where did he go?"
"A handsome fellow?"
"Have done there, and answer—where did he go?"
"I guess that may be the one?" Devilshoof reflected, consulting his comrades with a deliberation which made the officer wish to run his sword through him.
"Yes, yes—that's right—we have the right man! Up those rocks there," pointing. "That is the way he went. I shouldn't wonder if you might catch him."
The officer didn't wait to hear any more of this elaborate instruction, but rushed away with his men.
"Now, comrade," Devilshoof said to Thaddeus: "It is time for us to be off, while our soldier friends are enjoying the hunt. Only you lie around here while we explore a little; this gipsy life means a deal of wear and tear, if a fellow would live. There is likely to be something worth picking up about the castle, and after we have done the picking, we'll all be off."
As the gipsies and Thaddeus went away, the huntsmen rushed on, shouting to each other, and sounding their horns. Florestein came along in their wake. He was about the last man on earth to go on a hunt. He made this known without any help, by singing:
Is no succour near at hand? For my intellect so reels, I am doubtful if I stand On my head or on my heels. No gentleman, it's very clear, Such a shock should ever know, And when once I become a peer, They shall not treat me so——
That seemed to suggest that something serious had happened, but no one knew what till Thaddeus and a crowd of peasants rushed wildly in.
"The Count's child, Arline, is attacked by an infuriated animal, and we fear she is killed,"—that is what Florestein had been bemoaning, instead of hurrying to the rescue! The Count Arnheim ran in then, distraught with horror. But Thaddeus had not remained idle; he had rushed after the huntsmen. Presently he hurried back, bearing the child in his arms. The retainer whose business it was to care for Arline fell at the Count's feet.
"Oh, great sir, just as we were entering the forest a wild deer rushed at us, and only for the bravery of this young gipsy,"—indicating Thaddeus—"the child would have been torn in pieces. As it is, she is wounded in the arm."
The Count took his beloved daughter in his arms.
"Her life is safe and the wound is not serious, thank God. Take her within and give her every care. And you, young man—you will remain with us and share our festivities—and ask of me anything that you will: I can never repay this service."
"Humph! Thaddeus is a fool," Devilshoof muttered. "First he served his enemy and now has to stand his enemy's thanks."
Thaddeus refused at first to remain, but when his refusal seemed to draw too much attention to the gipsy band, he consented, as a matter of discretion. So they all seated themselves at the table which had been laid in the garden, and while they were banqueting, the gipsies and peasants danced to add to the sport; and little Arline could be seen in the nurse's arms, at a window of the castle, watching the fun, her arm bound up.
"Now," cried the old Count, when the banquet was over, "I ask one favour of all—and that is that you drink to the health of our great Emperor." He rose and lifted his glass, assuming that all would drink. But that was a bit too much for Thaddeus! The Emperor was the enemy of Poland. Most certainly he would not drink—not even to save his life.
Florestein, who was always doing everything but what he ought, walked up to Thaddeus and pointed out his glass to him.
"Your fine acquaintance, uncle, is not overburdened with politeness, it seems to me. He does not respond to your wishes."
"What—does he not drink to the Emperor? My friend, I challenge you to drink this health." The old Count filled Thaddeus's glass and handed it to him.
"And thus I accept the challenge," Thaddeus cried; and before Devilshoof or any one else could stop him, the reckless chap went up to the statue of the Emperor and dashed the wine in its face.
This was the signal for a great uproar. The man who has dared insult the Emperor must be punished. The nobles made a dash for him, but the old Count was under an obligation too great to abandon Thaddeus yet. He tried to silence the enraged guests for a moment, and then said aside to Thaddeus:
"Go, I beg of you, your life is not worth a breath if you remain here. I cannot protect you—and indeed I ought not. Go at once," and he threw Thaddeus a purse of gold, meaning thus to reward him, and get him away quickly. Thaddeus immediately threw the purse amidst the nobles who were threatening him, and shouted:
"I am one whom gold cannot reward!" At that the angry men rushed upon him, but Devilshoof stood shoulder to shoulder with Thaddeus.
"Now, then, good folks, come on! I guess together we can give you a pretty interesting fight, if it's fighting you are after!" A scrimmage was just in Devilshoof's line, and once and forever he declared himself the champion of his new comrade.
"Really, this is too bad," Florestein whimpered, standing at the table with the bone of a pheasant in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. "Just as a man is enjoying his dinner, a boor like this comes along and interrupts him." But by that time the fight was on, and Thaddeus and Devilshoof were against the lot. The old Count ordered his retainers to separate the nobles and the gipsies, and then had Devilshoof bound and carried into the castle. Thaddeus was escorted off by another path.
The row was over and the nobles seated themselves again at the table. The nurse, who had Arline at the window, now left her nursling and came down to speak with the Count.
Immediately after she left the castle chamber, Devilshoof could be seen scrambling over the castle roof, having escaped from the room in which he was confined. Reaching the window where Arline was left, he closed it. The nurse had been gone only a moment, when she reentered the room. Whatever had taken place in her absence caused her to scream frightfully. The whole company started up again, while the nurse threw open the window and leaned out, crying:
"Arline is gone—stolen—help, help!" All dashed into the castle. Presently some of the nobles came to the window and motioned to those left outside. It was quite true. Arline was gone. Out they all rushed again. Every one in the place had gone distracted. The poor old Count's grief was pitiable. At that moment Devilshoof could be seen triumphantly mounting the rocks, with Arline in his arms. He had avenged his comrade Thaddeus.
All at once the crowd saw the great gipsy leaping from rock to rock with the little child in his arms, and with a roar they started after him. Then Devilshoof seemed fairly to fly over the rocks, but the crowd gained upon him, till they reached a bridge which spanned a deep chasm; there Devilshoof paused; he was over, and with one tremendous effort he knocked from under the structure the trunk of a tree which supported the far end of the bridge, and down it went! The fall of timbers echoed back with Devilshoof's shout of laughter as he sped up the mountain with Arline.
The old Count ran to the chasm to throw himself headlong into it, but his friends held him back.
Twelve years after that day of the hunt in Count Arnheim's forests, the gipsies were encamped in Presburg. In those strange times gipsies roved about in the cities as well as in the fields and forests, and it was not at all strange to find the same old band encamped thus in the public street of a city. There, the gipsy queen had pitched her tent, and through its open curtains Arline could be seen lying upon a tiger's skin, while Thaddeus, who had never left the band, watched over her. There were houses on the opposite side of the street, and the gipsy queen's tent was lighted only dimly with a lamp that swung at the back, just before some curtains that formed a partition in the tent.
It was all quiet when the city patrol went by, and they had no sooner passed than Devilshoof entered the street, followed by others of the gipsy band, all wrapped in their dark cloaks.
"The moon is the only one awake now," they sang. "There is some fine business on foot, when the moon herself goes to bed," and they all drew their daggers. But Devilshoof, who was a pretty decent fellow, and who didn't believe in killing, whispered:
"Fie! Fie! When you are going to rob a gentleman, you shouldn't draw a knife on him. He will be too polite to refuse anything you may ask, if you ask politely"—which was Devilshoof's idea of wit. There was a hotel across the street, and one of the gipsies pointed to a light in its windows.
"It will be easy when our fine gentlemen have been drinking long enough. They won't know their heads from their heels." They stole off chuckling, to wait till they imagined every one to be asleep, but they were no sooner gone than Florestein, that funny little fop who never had thought of anything more serious than his appearance, reeled out of the hotel. He was dressed all in his good clothes, and wore golden chains about his neck—to one of which was attached a fine medallion. Rings glittered on his fingers, and altogether, with his plumes and furbelows, he was precisely the sort of thing Devilshoof and his companions were looking for. He was so very drunk that he could not imagine what a fool he was making of himself, and so he began to sing:
Wine, wine, if I am heir, To the count, my uncle's line; Wine, wine, wine, Where's the fellow will dare To refuse his nephew wine?
This excellent song was punctuated by hiccoughs. There was another stanza which rebuked the boldness of the moon—in short, mentioned the shortcomings of most people compared to this elegant fellow's. Altogether, he was a very funny joke to the gipsies who were waiting for him and peering and laughing from round a corner as he sang. Then Devilshoof went up to him with mock politeness. He bowed very seriously.
My ear caught not the clock's last chime, And might I beg to ask the time?
Florestein, even though he was drunk, was half alive to his danger. He hadn't enough courage to survive a sudden sneeze. So he braced up a little and eyed Devilshoof:
If the bottle has prevailed, Yet whenever I'm assailed, Though there may be nothing in it, I am sobered in a minute.
One could see that this was quite true. Florestein was a good deal worried. He took out his watch, and assured Devilshoof that it was quite late.
I am really grieved to see Any one in such a state, And gladly will take the greatest care Of the rings and chains you chance to wear,
Devilshoof said still more politely; and bowing all of the time he removed the ornaments from Florestein's person.
What I thought was politeness, is downright theft, And at this rate I soon shall have nothing left,
the unfortunate dandy moaned, clutching his gewgaws hopelessly, while all the gipsies beset him, each taking all he could for himself. But Devilshoof having secured the medallion, made off with it. He was no sooner gone than a dark woman wrapped in a cloak came into the street and, when she was right in the midst of the squabble, she dropped her cloak and revealed herself as Queen of the band. All the gipsies were amazed and not very comfortable either!—because, strange to say, this gipsy queen did not approve of the maraudings of her band; and when she caught them at thievery she punished them.
"Return those things you have stolen," she commanded, and they made haste to do so, while the trembling Florestein took a hurried inventory of his property. But among the things returned, he didn't find the medallion.
"I'm much obliged to you, Madame, whoever you are, but I'd like a medallion that they have taken, returned."
"That belongs to the chief—Devilshoof," they cried.
"I'll answer for your safety," the Queen said to Florestein, who was not overmuch reassured by this, but still tried to make the best of things. "Now follow me," she called the band, and went, holding Florestein and dragging him with her.
They had no sooner gone than Arline, who had been awakened by the noise outside the tent, came out into the street. Thaddeus followed her. She was greatly disturbed.
"Thaddeus," she said, "I have had a strange dream":
I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls, With vassals and serfs at my side, And of all who assembled within those walls, That I was the joy and the pride.]
I had riches too great to count;—could boast Of a high ancestral name; But I also dreamt (which pleased me most) That you loved me still the same.
I dreamt that suitors sought my hand, That knights upon bended knee And with vows no maiden heart could withstand They pledged their faith to me.
And I dreamt that one of that noble host Came forth my hand to claim, But I also dreamt (which pleased me most) That you loved me still the same.
When she had ceased to sing, Thaddeus embraced her tenderly and assured her that he should love her always, "still the same."
Arline had often been troubled because of some difference between herself and the gipsies, and she had also been curious about a scar which was upon her arm. So upon that night she questioned Thaddeus about this, and he told her of the accident in the forest twelve years before, when she got the wound upon her arm. However, he did not reveal to her that she was the daughter of a noble.
"Thou wert but six years old when this accident befell thee," Thaddeus told her. But Arline was not yet satisfied.
"There is more to tell! I know that I am not of this gipsy band—nor art thou!—I feel that this is true, Thaddeus. Wilt thou not tell me the secret if there is one?" and Thaddeus had decided that he would do this, when the curtains at the back of the Queen's tent were parted and the gipsy Queen herself appeared.
"Do you dare throw yourself into the arms of this man, when I love him?" the Queen demanded angrily, at which Arline and Thaddeus were thrown into consternation. But Arline had plenty of courage, especially after what had just happened; hence she appealed to Thaddeus himself. He declared his love for her, and the two called for their comrades. All ran in and asked what the excitement was about.
Arline declared to them that she and Thaddeus loved each other and wished to be married—which pleased Devilshoof mightily. All life was a joke to him, and he knew perfectly that the Queen was in love with Thaddeus.
"Ho, ho," he laughed. "Now we shall have everybody by the ears. Come!" he cried to the Queen. "As queen of the gipsies, it is your business to unite this handsome pair. We are ready for the ceremony," and they all laughed and became uproarious. The Queen's pride would not let her ignore the challenge, so she advanced haughtily and took the hands of the lovers.
"Hand to hand and heart to heart, Who shall those I've united part?"
she chanted; and with this gipsy rite, they were united.
Then the band sat down in groups and made merry; but the Queen began to plot revenge against Arline.
While they lounged about, prolonging the revel, a gipsy entered and told them that day was dawning, and that already the people of the city were awake and wending their way to a fair which the gipsies were bound for; and if they were to make anything by their dances and tricks they had better be up and doing.
"Up, all of you!" cried the moody Queen, "and meet me in the public square; while you, Devilshoof, stay behind for further orders." Whereupon all went down the street, Thaddeus and Arline hand in hand.
As soon as the last gipsy had disappeared, the Queen turned on Devilshoof. "Now, then—that thing you are wearing about your neck—that medallion you stole! hand it over; and as for what has just happened, I shall not forget the part you had in it—it was you who urged the marriage and compelled me to perform it or else betray myself! You shall pay for this. Meantime, see that you take nothing more that doesn't belong to you," and she snatched the medallion from him. This did not endear her to Devilshoof, and he determined to have his revenge.
"Now be off and join the rest!" she cried; and while she left the square by one route Devilshoof departed by another.
After going a little way, Devilshoof was certain to come up with those who had gone before and who were dancing along, in front of Arline and Thaddeus, singing gaily about the wedding.
Come with the gipsy bride, And repair To the fair. Where the mazy dance Will the hours entrance. Come with the gipsy bride, Where souls as light preside.
Thus they pranced along having a fine gipsy time of it till they arrived at the fair, which was held in a great public square in the midst of the city. The courthouse was on one side, and over the door there was a sign which read "The Hall of Justice." Everybody seemed to be at the fair: peasants, nobles, soldiers, and citizens; rope-dancers, quack doctors, waxworks, showmen of all sorts, and bells rang and flags flew, and altogether it was just the thing for a gipsy's wedding day.
The quack doctor blew his horn, and everybody surged about him, and while all that movement and fun were taking place, Devilshoof and Thaddeus formed a sort of flying wedge on the outskirts of the crowd and forced a passage for the gipsy band. At that moment Florestein came along, taking part in the day as all the rest of Presburg were doing, and the first man his eye lighted upon was that miscreant, Devilshoof. There stood the man who had stolen his medallion! There were several gentlemen with Florestein, and he called their attention to the gipsy group. Meantime Arline, like any gipsy, had been going about selling flowers and telling fortunes, and while those things were taking place the old Count Arnheim and some officers of the city entered and tried to pass through the group to the courthouse, where the old Count presided as judge. Florestein stopped him.
"Uncle, just stop a bit and look at those gipsies! Do you see that pretty girl? I am delighted with her. Even an old gentleman like you should have an eye to a girl as pretty as that," he laughed. This was not in very good taste, but then, nobody ever accused the little idiot of having either good taste or good courage.
"I have no eyes for beauty since my Arline was lost to me, nephew," the old man returned sadly, and passed to his courtroom. But Florestein pressed through the crowd till he reached Arline's side.
"You are a pretty girl," he said boldly, ogling her. "Come! you are teaching others" (Arline had been telling a fortune), "teach me."
"A lesson in politeness, sir?—you need it," and Arline slapped his face; not at all the sort of thing a countess would do, but then she had been brought up a gipsy, and couldn't be expected to have all the graces of her ancestors. The Queen, who had been watching, ready to make trouble, called Thaddeus's attention to the incident, and Thaddeus shouldered his way through the crowd just in time to slap Florestein's face from the other side, as he turned about. The fop was somewhat disturbed, while Arline and Thaddeus burst out laughing at him. The Queen, watching this episode, recognized in Florestein the chap to whom she had restored the trinkets. She herself had the medallion, and instantly a malicious thought occurred to her: it was her opportunity to revenge herself on Arline for loving Thaddeus. She approached Arline, and held out the medallion.
"You should be rewarded, my girl, for giving this presumptuous fellow a lesson. Take this from me, and think of it as my wedding gift," and she left the medallion with Arline. The girl was very grateful and kissed the Queen's hand.
"Now we must go! call the band together," she commanded, leading the way; and slowly they all assembled and prepared to go. Thaddeus hung the medallion on Arline's neck and, with her, came last of the band. Now Florestein, smarting under their blows, saw the medallion on Arline's neck and at once drew the attention of his friends to it. They recognized it as his. He then went up to Thaddeus and Arline and pointed to the trinket.
"You may stay awhile, my girl. How about that medallion of mine which you have on your neck? My friends here recognize it!"
"The Queen has given it to me—only now," she replied in amazement; but as she looked about she saw that the Queen was gone, and Devilshoof, who had witnessed all, was then sneaking off.
"That is a good story. We have all heard that sort of thing before. Come along," and he would have arrested her instantly, but Thaddeus sprang forward and took a hand in the matter. When Florestein saw the affair had grown serious he ran into the Hall of Justice, and returned with a guard who arrested the girl. Arline, in tears, declared her innocence, but everything appeared against her. She had only Thaddeus to stand by her, but at this crisis the other gipsies ran back, hearing of the row, and tried to rescue her. There Thaddeus, too, was seized, and a free fight took place in which the gipsies were driven off; finally, Arline, left alone, was marched into the Hall of Justice. The Queen then returned, and stood unseen, enjoying the young girl's peril, while Thaddeus threatened everybody concerned.
Now before the guards reached the Count Arnheim's apartment where Arline was to be tried, the Count had been sitting before a portrait of his lost daughter, which pictured her as she was twelve years before. He had never known a happy hour since her loss. As he looked at her portrait he sang:
The heart bow'd down by weight of woe, To weakest hope will cling, To tho't and impulse while they flow, That can no comfort bring, that can, that can no comfort bring, With those exciting scenes will blend, O'er pleasure's pathway thrown; But mem'ry is the only friend, That grief can call its own, That grief can call its own, That grief can call its own.]
The mind will in its worst despair, Still ponder o'er the past, On moments of delight that were Too beautiful to last. To long departed years extend Its visions with them flown; For mem'ry is the only friend That grief can call its own.
Thus, while the old Count's mind was lingering sadly over the past, calling up visions of the hopes that had fled with his daughter, she was being brought to him charged with a crime of which she was innocent. Soon the Count heard a noise near his apartment, and the captain of the guard burst in to tell him a robbery had been committed in the square. No sooner had Arnheim seated himself in his official place than the people hustled in Arline. Florestein was in the midst of the mob; going at once to his uncle he cried:
"Your lordship, it is I who have been robbed!"
"Ah! some more of your trouble-making. Why are you forever bringing the family name into some ill-sounding affair?"
"But, uncle, it is true that I am a victim. There is the very girl who robbed me!" he cried, pointing to Arline. The Count looked pityingly at her.
"What—the pretty girl I saw in the square? So young and innocent a face!"
"However that may be, she has stolen my medallion: we found it upon her!"
"Can this be true, my child?" the Count asked gently.
"No, your lordship. I have done nothing wrong; but alas! there is no one to help me."
At that the Count became more distressed. The thought of his own child returned to him. She might be somewhere as hardly pressed and as helpless as this young gipsy girl.
"We can prove her guilty," Florestein persisted.
"Tell me your story, my child. I shall try to do you justice," the Count urged, looking kindly at Arline.
"The Queen of our tribe gave me that medallion. I do not know how she possessed herself of it, unless——" Arline suddenly remembered the scene at her wedding, and half guessed the truth. "Your lordship, I cannot prove it, but I believe she gave me a medallion which she knew to be stolen, in order to revenge herself upon me for giving her displeasure last night!" The old Count gazed thoughtfully at her. He believed her story: she looked truthful, and her tone was honest.
"I believe you," he answered, at last, "yet since you cannot prove this, I have no alternative but to hand you over to justice."
"Then, sir, I can deliver myself!" she cried, drawing a dagger, and was about to plunge it into her heart when the horrified Count sprung forward and stopped her. As he seized her arm, he glanced at the scar upon it: then started and looked closely at her face. Again the face of his lost daughter was before him. He looked at the painting of the little girl upon the wall, and again at Arline. They were so like that he could doubt no longer.
"Tell me—how did you come by that scar upon your arm—speak the truth, because my very life hangs upon it, my child." By this time the whole mob had gathered excitedly about the girl and the old judge.
"When I was six years old a wild deer wounded me—" the Count nearly fainted with hope—"I was saved and—" at this moment, Thaddeus, having shaken off his guard, rushed in to help Arline. She cried out happily and pointed to him. "It was he who saved my life," she said. "It was Thaddeus!" The Count recognized the man who had refused to drink the health of the Emperor at the banquet years before! Clearly it was his own child who had been brought before him!
With a joyous cry he clasped her in his arms, but she did not know the meaning of his joy or of the excitement, and, frightened and bewildered, she ran to Thaddeus. Thaddeus pointed sadly to the Count:
"It is thy father, Arline. It is true," and he buried his face in his hands. He must now give her up. Since she had found a noble father he could not hope to be near her again, and while he stood with his face in his hands, and Arline was again in the arms of the Count, Devilshoof made his way in through the crowd, and tried to drag Thaddeus away. He loved his comrade of twelve years, and he saw that harm might come to him in the new situation.
After leaving the Hall of Justice, Arline returned with her father to the home of her childhood, for her dream had come true: she "dwelt in marble halls, with vassals and serfs at her side." Yet she was far from happy: Thaddeus had left the hall with Devilshoof on the day of Arline's arrest, and she had not seen him since. Gorgeously dressed in a ball gown, she was in a beautiful room in her father's house. Her father entered with Florestein and begged her to think kindly of her silly foppish cousin.
"You have every reason to be resentful toward Florestein," he said, "but if you can think kindly of him for my sake it would make me very happy. I have always intended you to marry each other."
At that Arline was very wretched; and after a moment she said: "Father, I should like to please you, but I cannot think affectionately of my cousin," and before the argument could be carried further, a servant entered to tell them that the palace was filling with guests, and that the Count was needed. Florestein and the Count then went to meet the company, leaving Arline alone to recover her self-possession. She became very sad for she was thinking of Thaddeus and of the days she had spent wandering over the world with him and the gipsies. Suddenly she went to a cabinet, took her gipsy dress from it, and looked at it, the tears streaming from her eyes. While she was lost in the memories of other days, Devilshoof jumped in at the window and Arline nearly screamed upon seeing him so suddenly.
"Don't scream! Don't be frightened," he said quickly. "I have come to say how we all miss you, and to beg you to come back to the tribe. I have brought with me one whose powers of persuasion are greater than mine," he added, and instantly Thaddeus appeared at the window, while Arline, unable to restrain herself, rushed into his arms.
"Ah, I feared you would forget me in the midst of so much luxury and wealth," he said happily.
"Oh, Thaddeus, did I not also dream—which pleased me most—that you loved me still the same?" she reminded him.
"I came only to entreat you sometimes to think of me," he now said with a lighter heart, "and also I came to tell you—" he paused, kissed her, and then sang:
When other lips and other hearts Their tales of love shall tell, In language whose excess imparts The pow'r they feel so well: There may, perhaps, in such a scene, Some recollection be Of days that have as happy been, And you'll remember me, and you'll remember, You'll remember me.]
When coldness or deceit shall slight The beauty now they prize, And deem it but a faded light Which beams within your eyes; When hollow hearts shall wear a mask 'Twill break your own to see: In such a moment I but ask That you'll remember me.
The song only added to Arline's distress. She could not let Thaddeus go.
"You must never leave me, Thaddeus," she cried.
"Then will you fly with me?" he begged.
"It would kill my poor father; he has only now found me. I would go if it were not for love of him, but how can I leave him?" And while the lovers were in this unhappy coil Devilshoof, who had been watching at the window to warn them if any one was coming, called out:
"Your doom is sealed in another moment! You must decide: people are coming. There is no escape for you, Thaddeus."
"Come into this cabinet," Arline cried in alarm. "No one can find you there! and you, Devilshoof, jump out of the window." No sooner said than done! Out Devilshoof jumped, while Thaddeus got into the cabinet. The great doors were thrown open and the company streamed in to congratulate Arline on being restored to her father. The old Count then took Arline by the hand and presented her to the company, while Florestein, as the suitor who expected to be given her hand in marriage, stood beside her, smiling and looking the coxcomb. Everybody then sang a gay welcome, and Florestein, who seemed born only to do that which was annoying to other people, picked up the forgotten gipsy dress, declaring that it was not suitable to such a moment, and that he would place it in the cabinet.
That was the worst possible thing he could do, and Arline watched him with horror. If he should go to the cabinet, as she was now certain he would, he could not possibly help finding Thaddeus. She watched with excitement every moment; but in the midst of her fears there was a great noise without, and the gipsy Queen forced her way in, to the amazement of the company. She went at once to the old Count, who it seemed was never to have done with surprises.
"Who art thou, intruder?" he asked angrily. Upon this the Queen lifted her veil, which till then had concealed her face.
"Behold me!" she cried, very dramatically, "heed my warning voice! Wail and not rejoice!" A nice sort of caution to be injected into a merrymaking. "The foe to thy rest, is the one you love best. Think not my warning wild, 'tis thy refound child. She loves a youth of the tribe I sway, and braves the world's reproof. List to the words I say, he is now beneath thy roof!" This was quite enough to drive the entire company into hysterics.
"Base wretch," the Count cried, "thou liest!"
"Thy faith I begrudge, open that door and thyself be the judge," she screamed, quite beside herself with anger. Of course everybody looked toward the door of the cabinet, and finally the Count opened it, and there stood Thaddeus.
He staggered back, the Queen was delighted, but everybody else was frightened half to death.
Everybody concerned seemed then to be in the worst possible way. Arline determined to stand by Thaddeus, and she was quite appalled at the wickedness of the Queen.
"Leave the place instantly," the Count roared to Thaddeus.
"I go, Arline," Thaddeus answered sorrowfully.
"Never!—unless I go with thee," she declared, quite overcome by the situation. "Father, I love thee, but I cannot give up Thaddeus," she protested sorrowfully to the Count. Then the Count drew his sword and rushed between them.
"Go!" he cried again to Thaddeus, and at the same time the Queen urged him to go with her. Then Arline begged to be left alone with her father that she might have a private word with him. Everybody withdrew except Thaddeus, wondering what next, and how it would all turn out.
"Father," Arline pleaded when they were alone, "I am at your feet. If you love me you will listen. It was Thaddeus who restored me to you; who has guarded me from harm for twelve years. I cannot give him up, and to send him away is unworthy of you." The Count made a despairing gesture of dismissal to Thaddeus.
"But, father, we are already united," she urged, referring to the gipsy marriage. At that the Count was quite horrified.
"United?—to a strolling fellow like this?" This was more than Thaddeus could stand, knowing as he did that he was every bit as good as the Count—being a Polish noble. True, if he revealed himself, he might have to pay for it with his life, because he was still reckoned at large as the enemy of the Emperor, but even so, he decided to tell the truth about himself for Arline's sake.
"Listen," he cried, stepping nearer to the Count. "I am not what you think me. Let this prove to you my birth," and he took the old commission from his pocket where he had carried it for years, and handed it to the Count. "This will prove to thee, though I am an exile, that I am a noble like thyself; and my birth does not separate me from thy daughter." The Count read the paper tremblingly and then looked long at Thaddeus. Tears came to his eyes.
"The storms of a nation's strife should never part true lovers," he said softly, at last: "Thy hand!"—and taking Thaddeus's hand he placed it tenderly in that of Arline. As they stood thus united and happy, the Queen appeared at the window, pointing him out to a gipsy beside her. The gipsy was about to fire upon Thaddeus at the Queen's command, when Devilshoof knocked up the gipsy's arm, and the bullet meant for the lover killed the revengeful Queen.
"Guard every portal—summon all the guests!" the Count cried. "Suspend all festivities," at which the music which had been heard in the distant salon ceased, and the guests began to assemble. Arline rushed to the arms of Thaddeus. The Count explained all that had occurred, the danger Thaddeus had just been in, that he had been given the Count's daughter, and that congratulations were in order.
As you may believe, after so much fright and danger, everybody was overjoyed to find that all was well—everybody but Florestein, and he was certain to be satisfied presently when the banquet began, and he got some especially fine tit-bit on his own plate!
The most complete, at the same time picturesque, story of Beethoven and his "Fidelio" is told in "Musical Sketches," by Elise Polko, with all the sentimentality that a German writer can command. Whole paragraphs might be lifted from that book and included in this sketch, but the substance of the story shall be told in a somewhat inferior way.
"Leonora" (Fidelio) was composed some time before it was produced. Ludwig van Beethoven had been urged again and again by his friends to put the opera before the public, but he always refused.
"It shall never be produced till I find the woman in whose powers I have absolute confidence to sing 'Leonora.' She need not be beautiful, change her costume ten times, nor break her throat with roulades: but she must have one thing besides her voice." He would not disclose what special quality he demanded; and when his friends persisted in urging the production of his first, last, and only opera, Beethoven went into a great rage and declared if the subject were ever mentioned again, he would burn the manuscript. At one time friends begged him to hear a new prima donna, Wilhelmina Schroeder, the daughter of a great actress, believing that in her he would find his "Leonora."
This enraged him still more. The idea of entrusting his beloved composition to a girl no more than sixteen years old!
His appearance at that time is thus described:
"At the same hour every afternoon a tall man walked alone on the so-called Wasserglacis (Vienna). Every one reverentially avoided him. Neither heat nor cold made him hasten his steps; no passer-by arrested his eye; he strode slowly, firmly and proudly along, with glance bent downward, and with hands clasped behind his back. You felt that he was some extraordinary being, and that the might of genius encircled this majestic head with its glory. Gray hair grew thickly around his magnificent brow, but he noticed not the spring breeze that played sportively among it and pushed it in his eyes. Every child knew: 'that is Ludwig van Beethoven, who has composed such wondrously beautiful music.'"
One day, during one of these outings a fearful storm arose, and he noticed a beautiful young woman, whom he had frequently seen in his walks, frightened but standing still without protection from the weather. She stared at him with such peculiar devotion and entreaty that he stopped and asked her what she did there in the storm.
She had the appearance of a child, and great simplicity of manner. She told him she waited to see him. He, being surprised at this, questioned her, and she declared she was Wilhelmina Schroeder, who longed for nothing but to sing his Leonora, of which all Vienna had heard. He took her to his home, she sang the part for him, and at once he accepted her.
It was she who first sang "Fidelio," and she who had the "quality" that Beethoven demanded: the quality of kindness. It is said that her face was instinct with gentleness and her voice exquisitely beautiful. It was almost the last thing that Beethoven heard. His deafness was already upon him, but he heard her voice; heard his beloved opera sung, and was so much overcome by the beauty of the young girl's art that during the performance he fainted.
Of all temperamental men, Beethoven was doubtless the most so, and the anecdotes written of him are many. He was especially irascible. His domestic annoyances are revealed freely in his diary: "Nancy is too uneducated for a housekeeper—indeed, quite a beast." "My precious servants were occupied from seven o'clock till ten, trying to light a fire." "The cook's off again—I shied half a dozen books at her head." "No soup to-day, no beef, no eggs. Got something from the inn at last." These situations are amusing to read about, decades later, but doubtless tragic enough at the time to the great composer!
That in financial matters Beethoven was quite practical was illustrated by his answer to the Prussian Ambassador at Vienna, who offered to the musician the choice of the glory of having some order bestowed upon him or fifty ducats. Beethoven took the ducats.
Beautiful as the production of "Fidelio" was, it did not escape criticism from an eminent source. Cherubini was present at the first performance at the Karnthnerthor Theatre in Vienna, and when asked how he liked the overture (Leonora in C) he replied:
"To be honest, I must confess that I could not tell what key it was in from beginning to end."
CHARACTERS OF THE OPERA
Marcelline (jailer's daughter). Leonora (under name of Fidelio). Florestan (her husband and a state prisoner). Jaquino (porter of the prison). Pizarro (governor of the prison). Hernando (the minister). Rocco (the jailer). Chorus of soldiers, prisoners and people.
Scene is laid in Spain.
Marcelline, the jailer's daughter, had been tormented to death for months by the love-making of her father's porter, Jaquino. In short, he had stopped her on her way to church, to work, to rest, at all times, and every time, to make love to her, and finally she was on the point of consenting to marry him, if only to get rid of him.
"Marcelline, only name the day, and I vow I'll never make love to you again," said the soft Jaquino. This was so funny that Marcelline thought he was worth marrying for his drollery; but just as she was about to make him a happy man by saying "yes," some one knocked upon the door, and with a laugh she drew away from him:
Oh, joy! once again I am free; How weary, how weary his love makes me.
Quite disheartened, Jaquino went to open the door.
There had been a time—before a certain stranger named Fidelio had come to the prison—when Jaquino's absurd love-making pleased Marcelline, but since the coming of that fine youth Fidelio, she had thought of little but him. Now, while Jaquino was opening the door, and she watched his figure (which was not at all fascinating), she murmured to herself:
"After all, how perfectly absurd to think of it! I shall never marry anybody but Fidelio. He is quite the most enchanting fellow I know." At that moment Jaquino returned.
"What, not a word for me?" he asked, noting her change of mood.
"Well, yes, and that word is no, no, no! So go away and let me alone," she answered petulantly.
Now Fidelio was certainly a most beautiful youth, but quite different from any Marcelline had ever seen. Fidelio observed, with a good deal of anxiety, that the jailer's daughter was much in love with him, and there were reasons why that should be inconvenient.
Fidelio, instead of being a fine youth, was a most adoring wife, and her husband, Florestan, was shut up in that prison for an offence against its wicked governor, Pizarro. He had been placed there to starve; and indeed his wife Leonora (Fidelio) had been told that he was already dead. She had applied, as a youth, for work in the prison, in order to spy out the truth; to learn if her dear husband were dead or alive.
There was both good and bad luck in the devotion of the jailer's daughter. The favourable part of the affair was that Leonora was able, because of her favouritism, to find out much about the prisoners; but on the other hand, she was in danger of discovery. Although the situation was tragic, there was considerable of a joke in Marcelline's devotion to the youth Fidelio, and in the consequent jealousy of Jaquino.
Love of money was Rocco's (the jailer) besetting sin. He sang of his love with great feeling:
Life is nothing without money, Anxious cares beset it round; Sad, when all around is sunny, Feels the man whom none hath found.
But when to thy keeping the treasure hath rolled, Blind fortune thou mayest defy, then; Both love and power their secrets unfold, And will to thy wishes comply, then.
Rocco was also a man of heart; and since hiring Fidelio (Leonora) he had really become very fond of the young man. When he observed the attachment between Fidelio and Marcelline, he was inclined to favour it.
Don Pizarro had long been the bitterest enemy of Don Florestan, Leonora's husband, because that noble had learned of his atrocities and had determined to depose him as governor of the fortress prison.
Hence, when Pizarro got Florestan in his clutches, he treated him with unimaginable cruelties, and falsely reported that he was dead.
Now in the prison there had lately been much hope and rejoicing because it was rumoured that Fernando, the great Minister of State, was about to pay a visit of investigation. This promised a change for the better in the condition of the prisoners. But no one knew better than Don Pizarro that it would mean ruin to himself if Fernando found Don Florestan in a dungeon. The two men were dear friends, and so cruelly treated had Florestan been that Pizarro could never hope for clemency. Hence, he called Rocco, and told him that Florestan must be killed at once, before the arrival of Fernando.
Rocco refused point blank to do the horrid deed; but as a dependent he could not control matters, and hence he had to consent to dig the grave, with the understanding that Pizarro, himself, should do the killing.
Thus far, Fidelio had been able to find out nothing about her beloved husband, but she had become more and more of a favourite with the unfortunate old jailer, and was permitted to go about with a certain amount of freedom.
Upon the day when Pizarro had directed Rocco to kill a prisoner in a certain dungeon, she overheard a good deal of the plot, and she began to fear it might be her husband.
She went at once to Rocco:
"Rocco, I have seen very little of the prison. May I not go into the dungeon and look about?"
"Oh, it would never be allowed," Rocco declared. "Pizarro is a stern and cruel governor, and if I should do the least thing he did not command, it would go hard with me. I should not dare let you do that," he said, much troubled with the deed that was in hand.
"But wilt thou not ask him, Rocco?" Fidelio entreated so determinedly that Rocco half promised.
"Fidelio, I will tell thee. I have a bad job to do. It is to dig a grave in one of the dungeons." Fidelio could hardly conceal her horror and despair. Her suspicions were confirmed. "There is an old well, covered by a stone, down there, far underground, and if I lift the stone that covers it, that will do for the grave. I will ask Pizarro if I may have thee to help me. If he consents, it will be thy chance to see the dungeons, but if not, I shall have done all I can about it." So he went away to discuss the matter with Pizarro, while Fidelio waited between hope and despair.
Meantime, Pizarro was gloating over his triumph. Soon his revenge would be complete, and he sang of the matter in a most savage fashion:
Ha! what a day is this, My vengeance shall be sated. Thou treadest on an abyss! For now thy doom is fated.
The words mean little, but Beethoven's music to them means much:
Remember, that once in the dust I trembled, 'Mid mocking fiends assembled; Beneath thy conquering steel, But Fortune's wheel is turning, In torments thou art burning, The victim of my hate.
The guards told one another that they had better be about their business, as some great affair seemed afoot.
Rocco entered again.
"I do not see the need for this killing," he urged. "The man is nearly dead as it is. He cannot last long; but at least, if I must dig the grave, I shall need help. I have a youth in my service who is to marry my daughter—thus I can count upon his faithfulness; and I had better be permitted to take him into the dungeon with me, if I am to do the work. I am an old man, and not so strong as I used to be."
"Very well, very well," Pizarro replied. "But see to the business. There is no time to lose." And going back to Fidelio, Rocco told her the good news: that Pizarro had consented. Then she sang joyfully of it:
Oh Hope, thou wilt not let the star of sorrowing love be dimm'd for ever! Oh come, sweet Hope, show me the goal, However, however far forsake it will I never, forsake it will I never, forsake it I will never, etc.]
"But, Rocco, instead of digging a grave for the poor man, to whom we go, couldst thou not set him free?" she begged.
"Not I, my boy. It would be as much as my life was worth. I have not been permitted even to give him food. He is nearly dead from starvation already. Try to think as little as you can of the horrors of this place. It is a welcome release for the poor fellow."
"But to have a father-in-law who has committed a murder," Fidelio shuddered, trying to prevail upon Rocco by this appeal. But he sang:
My good lad, thou need'st not fear, Of killing, of killing him I shall be clear, Yes, yes, I shall be clear, My lord himself, my lord himself will do the deed.]
"Nay, do not worry—you'll have no murderer for a father-in-law. Our only business is to dig the man's grave."
In spite of herself Leonora wept.
"Come, come. This is too hard for thee, gentle boy. I'll manage the business alone."
"Oh, no! No! I must go. Indeed I am not afraid. I must go with thee," she cried. While she was thus distracted, in rushed Marcelline and Jaquino.
"Oh, father! Don Pizarro is frantic with rage. You have given the prisoners a little light and air, and he is raging about the prison because of this. What shall we do?" Rocco thought a moment.
"Do nothing! He is a hard man, I—" At that moment Pizarro came in.
"What do you mean by this? Am I governing this prison or are you?"
"Don Pizarro," Rocco spoke calmly. "It is the King's birthday, and I thought it might be politic for you to give the prisoners a little liberty, especially as the Minister was coming. It will look well to him." At that Pizarro was somewhat appeased, but nevertheless he ordered the men back to their cells. It was a mournful procession, back to dungeon darkness. As they went they sang:
Farewell, thou warm and sunny beam, How soon thy joys have faded, How soon thy joys have faded!]
While they were singing, Rocco once more tried to soften Pizarro's heart.
"Wilt thou not let the condemned prisoner live another day, your highness?" The request enraged Pizarro still more.
"Enough! Now have done with your whimpering. Take that youth of thine who is to help, and be about the job. Go! and let me hear no more." With that awful voice of revenge and cruelty in her ears, the unhappy Leonora followed Rocco to the dungeons, to dig her husband's grave.
Down in the very bowels of the earth, as it seemed to Leonora, was Florestan's dungeon. There he sat, manacled, despairing, with no ray of light to cheer him, and his thoughts occupied only with his visions of the beautiful home he had known, and of his wife, Leonora. When Leonora and Rocco entered the dungeon, Florestan had fallen, half sleeping, half dreaming upon the floor of his cell, and Leonora groped her way fearfully toward him, believing him to be dead.
"Oh, the awful chill of this vault," she sobbed. "Look! Is the man dead, already, Rocco?" Rocco went to look at the prisoner.
"No, he only sleeps. Come, that sunken well is near, and we have only to uncover it to have the job done. It is a hard thing for a youth like thee. Let us hurry." Rocco began searching for the disused well, into which he meant the body of Florestan to be dumped after the governor had killed him.
"Reach me that pickaxe," he directed Fidelio. "Are you afraid?"
"No, no, I feel chilled only."
"Well, make haste with the work, my boy, and it will warm you," Rocco urged. Then while he worked and urged Fidelio to do the same, she furtively watched the prisoner whose features she could not see in the gloom of the cell.
"If we do not hurry, the governor will be here. Haste, haste!" Rocco cried.
"Yes, yes," she answered, nearly fainting with grief and horror.
"Come, come, my boy. Help me lift this great stone which closes the mouth of the well." The despairing Fidelio lifted with all her poor strength.
"I'm lifting, I'm lifting," she sobbed, and she tugged and tugged, because she dared not shirk the work. Then the stone slowly rolled away. She was still uncertain as to the identity of the poor wretch who was so soon to be put out of existence. She peered at him continually.
"Oh, whoever thou art, I will save thee. I will save thee," she thought. "I cannot have so great a horror take place. I must save him." Still she peered through the darkness at the hopeless prisoner. At the same time her grief overwhelmed her, and she began to weep. The prisoner was roused, and plaintively thanked the strange youth for his kindly tears.
"Oh, whoever this poor man may be, let me give him this piece of bread," Fidelio begged, turning to Rocco. (She had put bread into her doublet, thinking to succour some half-starved wretch.)
"It is my business, my boy, to be severe," he said, frowning. He was sorely tried, for his heart was kind and yet he dared not show pity. But she pleaded and pleaded, and finally Rocco nervously agreed.
"Well, well, give it, boy. Give it. He will never taste food again," and again the prisoner thanked Fidelio through the darkness of his cell. When he spoke she felt a strange presentiment. Suppose this should be the beloved husband whom she sought!
"Oh, gentle youth! That I might repay this humane deed!" the prisoner murmured, too weak to speak loudly.
"That voice—it is strange to me, yet—it is like some remembered voice," Fidelio said to herself, and she clasped her hands upon her heart, because it seemed to beat so loudly that Rocco might hear it. While she wavered between hope and fear, Don Pizarro entered the dungeon. He had come at last for his revenge.
"Now, thou dog," he said to the prisoner, "prepare to die. But before you die, you are to know to whom you owe the deed." At that he threw off his cloak and showed himself to be Pizarro.
"It is Pizarro whom thou hast insulted. It is he who shall kill thee."
"Do not think I fear a murderer," Florestan replied, with what heroism his weakness would permit. At that Pizarro made a lunge at him with the knife, but Fidelio threw herself in front of him, suddenly recognizing him as he spoke to Pizarro.
"Thou shalt not kill him, unless thou kill his wife as well," she screamed. Rocco, Florestan and Pizarro all cried out in amazement.
"Wife!" Florestan clasped her weakly to his heart. Pizarro rushed at Fidelio, becoming frantic with rage. He hurled her away and shouted:
"No woman shall frighten me! Away with ye! The man shall die." Instantly, Fidelio drew a pistol and pointed it at the murderer.
"If he is to die, you shall die also," she cried, whereupon Rocco shouted in fright, since it was a dreadful thing to try conclusions with the governor of the prison. Pizarro himself drew back with fear.
Then a fanfare of trumpets was heard, announcing the arrival of Fernando, the Minister.
"Hark!" Pizarro cried. "I am undone! It is Fernando!" The assassin began to tremble. But Florestan and Fidelio knew that liberty was near. One word of the truth to the Minister, one word that should tell him of the governor's awful cruelty for a personal revenge, would set Florestan free and bring punishment to Pizarro. Then Jaquino hurried in:
"Come, come, quick! The Minister and his suite are at the gates."
"Thank God," said the kind-hearted jailer, under his breath. "The man is surely saved now. We're coming, my lad, we're coming," he answered. "Let the men come down and bear torches before Don Pizarro. He cannot find his way out." Rocco's voice was trembling with gladness, Florestan was almost fainting with weakness because of the sudden joy that had come to him. Fidelio was praying to heaven in gratitude, while Don Pizarro was horrified at the thought of what his punishment would be.
The jailer and Don Pizarro ascended, and soon Fernando ordered all the prisoners of the fortress brought before him. He had come to investigate the doings of the governor who had long been known as a great tyrant. When the unhappy men, who had been abused by starving and confinement in underground cells, stood before him, the Minister's heart was sorely touched, and Don Pizarro was more and more afraid. Presently, Rocco fearlessly brought Fidelio and Don Florestan in front of Fernando.
"Oh, great Minister, I beg you to give ear to the wrongs of this sad pair," he cried, and as Fernando looked at Florestan his eyes filled with tears.
"What, you? Florestan? My friend, whom I have so long believed was dead? Thou who wert the friend of the oppressed, who tried to bring to punishment this very wretch?" he said, looking at Pizarro; and his speech revealed why Pizarro had wanted to revenge himself upon the unhappy noble.
"Yes, yes, it is Don Florestan, my beloved husband," Fidelio answered, while the good Rocco pushed her ahead of him, closer to Fernando's side.
"She is no youth, but the noblest woman in the world, Don Fernando," Rocco cried, almost weeping in his agitation and relief at the turn things were taking for those with whom he sympathized.
"Just let me be heard," Pizarro called, becoming more and more frightened each moment.
"Enough of thee," Fernando answered, bitterly, in a tone that boded no good to the wretch. Then Rocco told the whole truth about the governor: how he, himself, had had to lend a hand to his wicked schemes, because as a dependent he could not control matters; and then all the prisoners cried out for Pizarro's punishment.
Fernando commanded Pizarro to give Fidelio the key of the prison, that she, the faithful wife, should have the joy of unlocking the doors and giving her husband his freedom. All the other prisoners and Fernando's suite, the jailer, his daughter, Marcelline, and Jaquino rejoiced and sang rapturously of Fernando's goodness. Pizarro was left, still uncertain of his punishment, but all hoped that he would be made to take Florestan's place in the dungeon and meet the fate he had prepared for the much abused noble.
"The Damnation of Faust" was first produced as an opera, by Raoul Gunsburg, in Monte Carlo, about 1903. Before that time it had been conducted only as a concerted piece. Later it was produced in Paris, Calve and Alvarez singing the great roles. That was in the late spring of 1903.
In Europe the opera was produced with the dream scene (the dream-Marguerite) as in the original plan of Berlioz, but in this country this dream-Marguerite was omitted, also the rain in the ride to Hell; otherwise the European and the New York production were much the same. At the Metropolitan Opera House, in New York, there were three hundred people upon the stage in the first act, and every attention was given to scenic detail. This piece is meant for the concert room, and in no sense for the operatic stage, but great care and much money have been spent in trying to realize its scenic demands. As a dramatic production, it cannot compare with the "Faust" of Gounod, but it has certain qualities of a greater sort, which have made impresarios desire to shape it for the stage.
Berlioz was probably one of the least attractive of musicians. As a man, he was entirely detestable. He despised (from jealous rather than critical motives) all music that was not his own; or if he chose to applaud, his applause was certain to be for some obscure person without ability, in order that there might be no unfavourable comparisons drawn between his own work and that which he was praising. Beyond doubt he was the greatest instrumentalist of Europe, but he was bizarre, and none too lucid.
His method of showing his contempt for other great composers like Beethoven, Mozart, and the like, was to conduct their music upon important occasions, without having given himself or any one else a rehearsal. He called Haydn a "pedantic old baby," and refused as long as he lived to hear Elijah (Mendelssohn). In short, he was one of the vastly disagreeable people of the earth, who believe that their own genius excuses everything.
The story of his behaviour at a performance of Cherubini's Ali Baba will serve as an illustration of his bad taste.
Cherubini had become old, and was even more anxious about the fate of his compositions than he had been in his youth, having less confidence in himself as he declined in years, and on the occasion of Ali Baba he was especially overwrought. Berlioz got a seat in the house, and made his disapproval of the performance very marked by his manner. Finally he cried out toward the end of the first act, "Twenty francs for an idea!" During the second act he called, "Forty francs for an idea!" and at the finale he screeched, "Eighty francs for an idea!" When all was over, he rose wearily and said, loud enough to be heard all over the place, "I give it up—I'm not rich enough!" and went out.
There is hardly an anecdote of Berlioz extant that does not deal with his cynicism or displeasing qualities, therefore we may more or less assume that they pretty correctly reflect the man. One of the stories which well illustrates his love of "showing up" his fellows, concerns his Fuite en Egypte. When it was produced he had put upon the programme as the composer one Pierre Ducre "of the seventeenth century." The critics, one and all, wrote of the old and worthless score that Berlioz had unearthed and foisted upon the suffering public. Some of them wrote voluminously and knowingly of the life of Pierre Ducre, and hinted at other productions of his, which they said demonstrated his puerility. Then when he had roused all the discussion he pleased, Berlioz came forward and announced that there never had been any such personage as Ducre, and that it was himself who had written Fuite en Egypte. He had made everybody appear as absurd as possible, and there is no sign that he ever did that sort of thing for the pure love of a joke. He was malicious, born so, lived so, and died so. However great his music, he was unworthy of it.
DAMNATION OF FAUST
CHARACTERS OF THE OPERA
Faust. Mephistopheles. Brander. Marguerite. Sylphs, students, soldiers, angels.
Composer: Hector Berlioz.
One lovely morning, in a Hungarian meadow, a scholar went to walk before he should begin his day's task of study and of teaching. He was an old man, who had thought of little in life, so far as his associates knew, besides his books; but secretly he had longed for the bright joys of the world most ardently.
While he lingered in the meadow, possessed with its morning brightness, and its summer dress he heard some person singing not far away:
The shepherd donned his best array, Wreath and jacket and ribbons gay, Oh, but he, but he was smart to see, The circle closed round the linden tree, All danced and sprang, All danced and sprang, all danced and sprang; like madmen danced away. Hurrah, hurrah, huzza Tra la, la, la, la.]
At first a single voice was singing, but soon the song was taken up by a joyous chorus, and Faust, the scholar, stopped to listen.
Alas! It spoke of that gaiety he had so longed to enjoy. A group of peasants were out for a holiday, and their sport was beginning early. While he meditated on all that he had lost, the merrymakers drew near, and he watched them dance, listened to them laugh and sing, and became more and more heartsick. It was the youth of the revellers that entered into his heart. There was he, so old, and nearly done with life; done with its possibilities for joy and with its hardships!
Then, in the very midst of these thoughts the sound of martial music was heard. Faust shaded his eyes with his trembling old hand:
"Ha! A splendour of weapons is brightly gleaming afar: the sons of the Danube apparelled for war! They gallop so proudly along: how sparkle their eyes, how flash their shields. All hearts are thrilled, they chant their battle's story! While my heart is cold, all unmoved by glory." He sang this in recitative, while the music drew nearer and nearer, and as the army passed by, it marched to one of the famous compositions of history:
Then the scene changed, and Faust was once more alone in his study. He was melancholy.
"I left the meadow without regret, and now, without delight, I greet our haughty mountains. What is the use of such as I continuing to live? There is no use! I may as well kill myself and have done it." And after thinking this over a moment in silence he prepared himself a cup of poison, and lifted it to his lips. As he was about to drink and end his woes, the choir from the chapel began to sing an Easter hymn.
"Ah!" he cried, "the memories that overwhelm me! Oh, my weak and trembling spirit, wilt thou surely ascend to heaven, borne upward by this holy song!" He began to think of his happy boyhood, of his early home; then as the glorious music of the choir swelled higher and higher, he became gentler and thought more tolerantly of life.
"Those soft melodious strains bring peace to my soul; songs more sweet than morning, I hear again! My tears spring forth, the earth has won me back." He dropped his head upon his breast and wept. As he sat thus, in tender mood, a strange happening took place. A queer, explosive sound, and a jet of flame, and—there stood the devil, all in red, forked tail, horns, and cloven hoof! He stood smiling wickedly at the softened old man, while Faust stared at him wildly.
"A most pious frame of mind, my friend. Give me your hand, dear Doctor Faust. The glad Easter ringing of bells and singing of peans have certainly charmed you back to earth!"
"Who art thou, whose glances are so fierce? They burn my very soul. Speak, thou spectre, and tell me thy name." From his very appearance, one could hardly doubt he was the Devil.
"Why! so learned a man as you should know me. I am thy friend and comfort. Come, ye are so melancholy, Doctor Faust, let me be thy friend—I'll tell thee a secret: if you but say the word, I'll give ye your dearest wish. It shall be whatever you wish. Eh? Shall it be wealth, or fame?—what shall it be? Come! Let us talk it over."
"That is well, wretched demon! I think I know ye now. I am interested in ye. Sit, and we shall talk," the poor old Doctor replied, despising that which nevertheless aroused his curiosity. He, like everybody else, had heard of the Devil, but he doubted if any other had had the fortune actually to see him.
"Very well; I will be thine eye, thine ear. I will give thee the world; thou shalt leave thy den, thy hateful study. Come! to satisfy thy curiosity, follow me."
The old man regarded him thoughtfully for a moment, and then rose:
"Let us go," he said, and in the twinkle of an eye they disappeared into the air.
They were transported over hill and dale, village and fine city, till the Devil paused at Leipzig.
"Here is the place for us," he said; and instantly they descended to the drinking cellar of Auerbach, a man who kept fine Rhenish wine for jolly fellows.
They entered and sat at a table. By this time the Devil had changed Faust the scholar, into a young and handsome man, youth being one of Faust's dearest wishes.
All about them were coarse youths, soldiers, students, men off the street, all drinking and singing gaily. Faust and the Devil ordered wine and became a part of the company. They were all singing together at that moment:
Oh, what delight when storm is crashing, To sit all the night round the bowl; High in the glass the liquor flashing, While thick clouds of smoke float around.
The rest of the words were not very dignified nor fascinating, and Faust looked on with some disgust. Presently some one cried out to a half-drunken fellow named Brander to give them one of his famous songs, and he got unsteadily upon his feet and began:
There was a rat in the cellar-nest Whom fat and butter made smoother; He had a paunch beneath his vest Like that of Doctor Luther; The cook laid poison cunningly, And then as sore oppressed was he, As if he had love in his bosom.
He ran around, he ran about, His thirst in puddles laving; He gnawed and scratched the house throughout, But nothing cured his raving; He whirled and jumped with torment mad, And soon enough the poor beast had, As if he had love in his bosom.
And driven at last, in open day, He ran at last into the kitchen, Fell on the hearth and squirming lay In the last convulsion twitching; Then laughed the murd'ress in her glee, "Ha, ha! He's at his last gasp," said she, As if he had love in his bosom.
"Requiescat in pace, amen!" the Devil sang, and all joined on the "amen." "Now then, permit me to sing you a ballad," the Devil cried, gaily, and he jumped upon his feet.
"What, you pretend that you can do better than Brander?" they demanded, a little piqued.
"Well, you see, I am expert at anything nasty and bad; so let us see:
There was a king once reigning, Who had a big black flea, And loved him past explaining, As his own son were he. He called his man of stitches, The tailor came straightway, 'Here, measure the lad for breeches, And measure his coat, I say.'
In silk and velvet gleaming, He now was wholly drest, Had a coat with ribbons streaming, A cross upon his breast. He had the first of stations, A minister's star and name, And also his relations, Great lords at court became.
And lords and dames of honour Were plagued awake and in bed. The Queen, she got them upon her, The maids were bitten and bled. And they did not dare to brush them, Or scratch them day or night. We crack them and we crush them, At once whene'er they bite."
"Enough!" said Faust; "I want to leave this brutal company. There can be no joys found where there is so much that is low and degrading. I wish to go." And turning angrily to the Devil, he signified that he would leave instantly.
"Very well," said the Prince of Darkness, smiling his satirical smile. "Away we go—and better success with thee, next time." At which he placed his mantle upon the ground, they stood upon it, and away they flew into the air and disappeared.
When next they stopped, it was upon a grassy bank of the Elbe River.
"Now, my friend; let us rest. Lie thou down upon the grassy bank and close thine eyes, and dream of joys to come. When we awake we shall wish again and see what new experience the world holds for us. Thus far you do not seem too well satisfied."
"I will sleep," Faust answered, reclining upon the bank. "I should be glad to forget some things that we have seen." So saying he slept. No sooner had he done so, that the Devil summoned the most beautiful sylphs to dance before him, and thus to influence Faust's dreams. They began by softly calling his name. Then they lulled him to deeper sleep, and his dream was of fair women. In his dream he saw the lovely dance, the gracious forms, the heavenly voices of youthful women. The Devil directed his dream-laden eyes toward a loving pair who walked and spoke and loved apart. Then immediately behind those lovers walked, meditatively, a beautiful maiden.
"Behold," the Black Prince murmured to Faust; "that maiden there who follows: she shall be thy Marguerite. Shall it not be so?" And Faust sank back in his sleep, overcome with the lovely vision. Then the Devil motioned the sylphs away.
"Away, ye dainty elves, ye have served my turn to-day, and I shall not forget." They danced to exquisite waltz music, hovering above Faust, and gradually disappeared in the mists of the air.
Slowly Faust awakened; His first word was "Marguerite!" Then he looked about him in a daze.
"What a dream! What a dream!" he murmured. "I saw an angel in human form."
"Nay, she was a woman," said the Devil. "Rise and follow me, and I will show her to thee in her home. Hello! Here comes along a party of jolly students and soldiers. They will pass her home. We'll move along with them, join their shouts and songs, and presently we shall arrive at her house." Faust, all trembling with the thought that at last he had found that which was to make his life worth living, joined the crowd and followed. The soldiers boisterously sang a fine chorus as they went. No sooner had they finished than the students began their song. It was all in Latin and seemed to Faust to echo that life which had once been his. Then the soldiers and students joined in the jollity and sang together.
This fun lasted what to Faust seemed too long a time. He was impatient to see and speak with the dear maiden Marguerite; and at last, his wish was to be granted. The Devil set him down without ceremony in the young girl's house. There, where she lived, where her meagre belongings were about, he sang rapturously of her. He went about the room, looking at her chair, her basket of work, the place where she should sleep, examining all with rapture. Then the Devil said in an undertone:
"She is coming! hide thyself, and frighten her not." Then he hid Faust behind some curtains and took himself off with the parting advice:
"Have a care not to frighten her, or thou wilt lose her. Now make the most of thy time." Faust's heart beat so with love that he feared to betray himself.
Then Marguerite entered. She was as lovely as a dream. She was simple and gentle, and very young and innocent. She had never seen any one outside her little village. She was so good that she could fairly tell by instinct if evil influences were about her. She no sooner entered the chamber than she was aware of something wrong. She felt the presence of the evil one who had but just gone. She paused and murmured to herself:
"The air is very sultry," and she felt stifled. "I am trembling like a little child. I think it is the dream I had last night" (for the Devil had given her a dream as he had given Faust, and in it she had seen her future husband). "I think it is because I expect every moment since my dream, to see the one who is to love and cherish me the rest of my life." The simple folk of Marguerite's time believed in dreams and portents of all kinds.
There she sat in her chair and recalled how handsome the lover of her dream was, and how truly she already loved him. Then she decided to go to bed, and while she was folding her few things, putting her apron away, combing out her long and beautiful hair, she sang an old Gothic song, of the King of Thule:
There was a king in Thule Was faithful till the grave To whom his mistress, dying, A golden goblet gave. Naught was to him more precious, He drained it at ev'ry bout. His eyes with tears ran over As oft as he drank thereout.]
When came his time of dying, The towns in his land he told; Naught else to his heir denying Except the goblet of gold. He sat at the royal banquet, With his knights of high degree, In the lofty hall of his fathers, In the castle by the sea.
There stood the old carouser, And drank the last life-glow, And hurled the hallow'd goblet Into the tide below. He saw it plunging and filling, And sinking deep in the sea, Then his eyelids fell forever, And never more drank he.
There was a King once in Thule, Faithful was he—to the grave.
Then the Devil, who was watching all, summoned his imps. This time they took the form of Will-o'-the-wisps.
"Come! dance and confuse this maiden, and see what we can do to help this lovesick Faust," he cried to them, and at once they began a wonderful dance. Marguerite watched them entranced, and by the time Faust appeared from the folds of the curtains she was half dazed and confused by the unreal spectacle she had seen. Then she recognized the handsome fellow as the one she had seen in her dream.