Opera Scotland

Bohemian Girl The Bohemian Girl


Michael William Balfe (born Dublin, 15 May 1808; died Rowney Abbey, Herts., 20 October 1870).


Alfred Bunn


Ballet The Gypsy (1839) by Vernoy de St Georges and Mazillier, derived from Cervantes' novel La gitanilla (1614).



First performance: London (Drury Lane), 27 November 1843.

First performance in Scotland: To be confirmed.

Scottish Opera première: N/A.



The Bohemian Girl achieved immediate success and remained one of the most popular operas in the repertoire for nearly a century. With the exception of a series of performances conducted by Beecham at Covent Garden to mark the Festival of Britain in 1951, it has been neglected since the thirties. Balfe was a very successful baritone with a thriving career in major European opera houses, and while continuing to sing he began to concentrate on composing, The Siege of Rochelle having a great success in 1838. He now met with even greater success, with new operas opening at London, Milan and Paris. He was less successful as a manager, and periods working abroad sometimes followed the failure of commercial ventures at home. During his last years, he composed works on a grander scale


Main Characters

Arline, Count Arnheim’s daughter (soprano)

Thaddeus, a proscribed Pole (tenor)

Count Arnheim, Governor of Pressburg (baritone)

Queen of the Gipsies (mezzo-soprano)

Devilshoof, a gipsy chief (bass)

Florestein, nephew of the Count (tenor)


Plot Summary

Count Arnheim dotes on his six-year-old daughter, Arline. They leave his park to join in with the local hunt. Thaddeus, a Polish fugitive enters, seeking refuge. A group of gipsies, led by Devilshoof, disguises him and protects him from the pursuing Austrian troops. Florestein brings news that Arline has been attacked by a stag, and Thaddeus rushes to her rescue. The grateful Count invites him to join the feast, but when invited to toast the Emperor’s health, Thaddeus reveals his republican sympathies. While Arnheim continues to protect him, he has Devilshoof, another republican, arrested. Devilshoof escapes and in his flight succeeds in abducting Arline. Twelve years pass, which Arline has spent with the gipsies under the protection of Thaddeus. They now love one another. She only has vague memories of her early life, and thinks they are dreams. Florestein gets drunk and is robbed of a medallion by the gipsies. The queen, who also loves Thaddeus, and is therefore jealous of Arline, presents the medallion to her, so that when she is telling fortunes at a fair, Florestein sees it and has her arrested. At her trial, Arnheim condemns her to death, but by chance sees the scar on her arm, inflicted by the deer, and thus recognises his daughter. At the ensuing celebrations, Arline hides Thaddeus and Devilshoof in the castle. The queen reveals their hiding place to the Count, who is outraged. But Arline defends Thaddeus, who reveals that he is not a gipsy, but an officer and gentleman. The Count agrees to their marriage. The furious queen now attempts to kill Thaddeus, but Devilshoof deflects the bullet so the queen is herself killed.

The Cast

 Arnheim's daughter
 Arline's nurse
Count Arnheim
 Governor of Pressburg
 leader of the gypsies
 nephew of the Count
Queen of the Gypsies
 a proscribed Pole

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