In one act by WEBER.
Text by HIEMER.
This little opera, composed by Weber in his early youth and first
represented at Dresden under the composer's own direction, for a time
fell into utter oblivion, but has lately been reproduced.
Though short and unpretending it really deserves to be heard, the music
is so full of sweetness, so fresh and pretty.
The text is taken from a tale of the Arabian Thousand and One Nights,
and though full of nonsense, it amuses by its lightheartedness and
gaiety of spirit.
Abu Hassan, favorite of the Calif of Bagdad, has lived above his means,
and is now regaled with bread and water by his wife Fatima, whose only
fault is, that she sings better than she cooks. In order to better his
fortunes Abu Hassan hits upon a strange plan. He sends his wife to the
Calif's wife, Zobeide, to announce his (Hassan's) death, for which she
will obtain 50 gold pieces and a piece of brocade. Fatima departs and
in the meantime enter Abu Hassan's creditors with the appeal for money.
Unable to satisfy them the debtor approaches the eldest and richest
among them, and so pacifies him with sweet words which he is given to
understand Fatima has sent him, that old Omar consents to pay all the
When they are gone, Fatima returns with Zobeide's presents, and Abu
Hassan prepares to go in his turn to the Calif, in order to repeat a
similar death-story about his wife and get a like sum. While he is
away Omar reappears. He has bought all Hassan's accounts from his
numerous creditors and offers them to Fatima for a kiss. At this
moment the husband returns. Omar is shut into the adjoining cabinet,
and the wife secretly points out the caged bird to her spouse who
begins to storm at finding the door of the next room closed, greatly to
the anguish of the old sinner Omar,--anguish, which is enjoyed by his
tormentors to the full. In the midst of this scene Mesrur, messenger
of the Calif, appears, to find out whether Fatima is really dead. The
Calif and his wife having each received news of the death of the
other's favorite, want to know, who it was, that died, and--if both are
dead--who died first. The Calif affirms, that it is Fatima--his wife,
that it is Abu Hassan. They have made a bet, and Mesrur, seeing Fatima
lying motionless on the divan, covered with the brocade, and her
husband in evident distress beside her, runs away to convey the tidings
to the Calif. He is hardly gone, when Zobeide's nurse, Zemrud comes on
a similar errand from her mistress. Fatima, who has just covered her
husband with the brocade, receives her with tears and laments, and
the nurse departs triumphantly.
Hassan presently comes to life again but he and Fatima are not long
permitted to congratulate one another on the success of their scheme,
for the arrival of the Calif with his wife is pompously announced.
Both throw themselves on the divans, covering themselves, and so the
august couple finds them dead. The Calif, much afflicted by the sight,
offers 1000 gold pieces to anyone, who can tell him, which of the two
died first. No sooner does Hassan hear this than tearing aside his
cover, he throws himself at the Calif's feet, crying out: "It was I,
who died first!" at the same time craving the Calif's pardon together
with the gold pieces. Fatima is also speedily resuscitated and the
Calif pardons his favorites, Hassan meanwhile asserting, that he only
died badly, in order to live better. Omar, who has paid their bills in
the hope of winning Fatima's love, is driven away in disgrace.