Opera Scotland

Black Domino Le Domino Noir

Music

Daniel-François-Esprit Auber (born Caen, 29 January 1782; died Paris, 12 May 1871).

Text

Eugène Scribe.

Source

Original.

 

Premières

First Performance: Paris (Opéra-Comique), 2 December 1837.

First Performance in UK: London (Covent Garden), 16 February 1838.

First Performance in Scotland: Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 10 November 1891.

Scottish Opera première: N/A.

 

Background

With the exception of a few months in London, Auber spent his entire long life in Paris (only born in Normandy because his parents were travelling there at the time). He studied with Cherubini, and seems to have taken his work as a composer very seriously, though, unusually for the time, he never conducted performances. He was a creature of habit, composing often at night, after spending the evening at the theatre followed by dinner, and sleeping only briefly. In public he was urbane and witty, and his music is invariably beautifully crafted and immediately attractive, but does not plumb any great depth of emotion. The work of his usual librettist, Scribe, was similar in that respect. They collaborated on some fifty works over a forty year period.

 

Main Characters

Angèle d'Olivarès, a novice at the convent of the Annonciades (soprano)

Brigitte de San Lucar, her companion, also a novice (soprano)

Horace de Massarena, a young Spanish nobleman (tenor)

Count Juliano, his friend (tenor)

Jacinthe, Juliano's housekeeper (mezzo-soprano)

Gil Perez, porter at the convent (bass)

Ursule, a nun (mezzo-soprano)

 

Plot Summary

The most important element of the plot is that neither the audience, nor the other main characters, learn the true identity of Angèle and her companion until the last act. She is a cousin of the Queen of Spain, and a novice nun, who, on taking her final vows will immediately, as a result of this royal patronage, be appointed abbess. By contrast, her friend Brigitte is expecting to leave the order to get married. In the event, political machinations in the convent mean that another well-connected  sister, Ursule, is able to manipulate herself into prime place - at the end the Queen appoints her as abbess and instructs Angèle to leave the order and get married - a convenient outcome.

The plot starts at the Queen's masked ball in Madrid on Christmas Eve. Horace has come in the hope of meeting again a woman who came the previous year. He does not know her identity, but fell in love with her then, and is delighted when she arrives, clothed in the same black domino and mask. But Angèle and her companion Brigitte must leave the ball in time to be admitted at the convent before midnight, or their reputations will be in jeopardy. As a result of trickery by Horace's friend Juliano, the girls are separated and Brigitte panicked into thinking it is midnight (it is only eleven). She rushes off, and Angèle is left behind, not realising her mistake until after midnight.

She leaves when midnight strikes, and begs shelter for the night at a house nearby. The housekeeper, Jacinthe, takes her in, and disguises her as her niece Inésille, who is expected up from the country. The next problem is that the house is the home of Juliano, and he now brings his friends, including Horace, home for a late supper. When Inésille serves the food Horace recognises her as the girl from the ball and is mystified. Angèle is eventually able to escape to the convent because the porter is paying court to Jacinthe, and she is able to get keys from him

Safely back in the convent, Angèle is preparing to go to chapel to take her final vows when she receives a letter from the Queen instructing her to leave the convent and take a husband. Horace visits the convent to meet a young aristocratic lady to whom it has been suggested he should get married. He is reluctant, because of his existing love, but it turns out that his intended bride is Brigitte, who introduces him to Angèle in her genuine persona. He is delighted to be able to marry her, while Juliano pairs off with Brigitte.

The Cast

Angèle d'Olivarès
 a novice at the Convent of the Annonciades
Brigitte de San Lucar
 Angèle's companion, also a novice
Count Juliano
 Horace's friend
Gil Perez
 Porter at the Convent
Horace de Massarena
 a young Spanish nobleman
Jacinthe
 Count Juliano's housekeeper
Lord Elfort
 attaché at the British Embassy (Prince Grunhoff)
Melchior
 
Porteress
 at the Convent (Gertrude)
Ursule
 a nun

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