Opera Scotland

Maritana

Music

William Vincent Wallace (born Waterford, 11 March 1812; died Vieuzos, Haute-Pyrenées, 12 October 1865)

Text

Edward Fitzball (1792-1873)

Source

Play Don César de Bazan (1844) by Adolphe-Philippe d'Ennery and Philippe Dumanoir

 

Premieres

First performance: London (Drury Lane), 15 November 1845.

First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (), 15 December 1847.

Scottish Opera premiere: N/A.

 

Background

Maritana was second only to The Bohemian Girl in popularity among the range of "ballad operas" composed for British opera houses in the mid-nineteenth century. Like that work, it survived in professional performance until the Second World War. The music is tuneful and dramatically effective, but the libretto is of doubtful merit. The main plot device, whereby the hero wishes to marry on the eve of his execution, and is unconcerned as to the identity of the bride, was parodied by Gilbert in his plot for Sullivan's The Yeomen of the Guard.

 

Main Characters

Maritana, a young gypsy girl (soprano)

Don Caesar de Bazan (tenor)

Don José de Santarem (baritone)

Lazarillo, a young apprentice (mezzo-soprano)

Marchioness of Montefiore (mezzo-soprano)

Marquis of Montefiore (bass)

King of Spain (bass)

 

Plot Summary

Crowds gather in a Madrid square to listen to the singing of Maritana. The King, disguised, is lurking in the crowd, and gives the girl a gold coin as reward for her singing. He is seen by Don José, who has been looking for an opportunity to seduce the Queen, to which end evidence of the King's laxity should prove useful. To bring Maritana within range of the King again, he decides to promote her cause. Don Caesar, a feckless but good-natured aristocrat arrives and Don José decides to involve him in his plans. When Lazarillo runs in, having fled from his master, and pursued by the guards, Don Caesar allows him to escape by duelling with the Guard Captain and wounding him. Sadly, he has forgotten that in Holy Week duelling is banned, and the penalty is hanging. He is dragged off to prison, to the horror of all except Don José. In prison, Don Caesar and Lazarillo share a cell, and the boy laments his rescuer's fate, only a few hours away. Don Caesar comforts him, since only his creditors will lament his passing. When Don José visits them, he offers a solution to Don Caesar's dislike of being hanged instead of shot. The solution is for Don Caesar to marry an anonymous veiled lady. That done, Don José will ensure the execution is by firing squad. Don José's plans are working. He has persuaded Maritana to be the anonymous bride, and she will soon be a newly-ennobled widow, far more alluring to the King's roving eye. He also conceals the fact that he has intercepted a royal pardon issued by the King in favour of Don Caesar. While the firing squad are having a pre-execution drink with their victim and his bride, Lazarillo quietly substitutes blanks for the rifle bullets. Later on, in the Montefiore palace, the King, disguised again, attempts his wooing of Maritana, now a widowed Countess. Don José interrupts, promising the King a better opportunity later on. Left alone, he is horrified when a monk enters through the window, even more so when the spectral figure turns out to be a ghost he recognizes, Don Caesar, who, having survived his execution, is now seeking his wife. He recognizes the voice of the lady singing next door and now meets her. Maritana is completely confused, and as Don Caesar is taken back to prison, she is led off to meet the King. Maritana laments the separation from her new husband. The King now meets Don Caesar, who discovers that he had been pardoned. When Maritana comes in the couple have a touching reunion. In a final burst of activity Don Caesar foils further plotting by Don José and kills him. After the king cheerfully issues a second pardon for this new offence, he gives Don Caesar a new government appointment, and all ends happily. 

The Cast

Alcade
 
Captain
 of the Guard
Charles II
 King of Spain
Don Caesar de Bazan
 
Don José de Santarem
 
Lazarillo
 a poor apprentice
Marchioness
 of Montefiore
Maritana
 a gitana
Marquis
 of Montefiore
Old Man
 
Soldier
 

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