In three acts by AUBER.
Text by SCRIBE.
This nice little opera, though not equal in beauty and perfection to
the "Muette de Portici" by the same author, is notwithstanding, a happy
invention of Auber's, particularly because the local tints are so
well caught. The banditti are painted with bright and glowing colors,
and the part of the heroine, Zerline is the most grateful ever written
for a soubrelte. The text by Scribe abounds in happy sallies and
lively details. It is laid at Terracina in Italy. Fra Diavolo is a
celebrated and much feared chief of brigands. The Roman court of
justice has set a price of 10,000 piastres on his head. In the first
act we meet with the Roman soldiers who undertake to win the money.
Their captain Lorenzo has a double aim in trying to catch the brigand.
He is Zerline's lover, but having no money, Zerline's father Matteo,
the owner of a hotel, threatens to give her to a rich farmer's son.
Meanwhile Fra Diavolo has forced his society on a rich English lord,
Cookburn by name, who is on his wedding-tour with his fair young wife
Pamella. Lord Cookburn looks jealously at Fra Diavolo, though he does
not recognize in him a brigand. The English are robbed by Diavolo's
band. Disgusted with the insecurity of "la bella Italia" they reach
the inn at Terracina, where the dragoons, hearing the account of this
new robbery, believe that it was Fra Diavolo with his band, and at once
decide to pursue him.
Shortly afterwards Fra Diavolo arrives at the inn, disguised as the
Marquis of San Marco, under which name the English lord has already
made his acquaintance. He is not enchanted by the arrival of this
Marquis; he fears a new flirtation with his own fair wife.
Pamella wears most valuable diamonds, and these strike the eye of Fra
He sees that the English have been clever enough to conceal the greater
part of their wealth and resolves to put himself speedily into
possession of it.
He is flirting desperately with Pamella and looking tenderly at the
pretty Zerline, when the soldiers return, having captured twenty of the
brigands and retaken the greater part of Lord Cookburn's money and
jewels. Lorenzo, the captain of dragoons is rewarded by the
magnanimous Lord with 10,000 Lire, and may now hope to win Zerline's
hand. But Fra Diavolo vows to avenge the death of his comrades on
In the second act he conceals himself behind the curtains in Zerline's
sleeping-room, and during the night he admits his two companions Beppo
and Giacomo. Zerline enters and is about to retire to rest, after
praying to the Holy Virgin for protection.--During her sleep Giacomo is
to stab her, while the two others are to rob the English Milord.
But Zerline's prayer, and her innocence touch even the robbers, the
deed is delayed, and this delay brings Lorenzo upon them. Fra
Diavolo's two companions hide themselves, and the false Marquis alone
is found in Zerline's room. He assures Lorenzo, that he had a
rendez-vous with his bride, and at the same time whispers into Milord's
ear, that he came by appointment with Milady, showing her
portrait, of which he had robbed her the day before, as proof. The
consequence of these lies is a challenge from Lorenzo, and a meeting
with Diavolo is fixed. The latter is full of triumphant glee; he has
arranged a deep-laid plan with the surviving members of his band and
hopes to ensnare not only Lorenzo but his whole company. Ordinarily
Diavolo is a noble brigand; he never troubles women, and he loads poor
people with gifts, taking the gold out of rich men's purses only, but
now he is full of ire and his one thought is of vengeance.
Finally he is betrayed by the carelessness of his own helpmates. Beppo
and Giacomo, seeing Zerline, recognize in her their fair prey of the
evening before and betray themselves by repeating some of the words
which she had given utterance to. Zerline, hearing them, is now able
to comprehend the wicked plot, which was woven to destroy her
happiness. The two banditta are captured and compelled to lure their
captain into a trap. Diavolo appears, not in his disguise as a
Marquis, but in his own well-known dress, with the red plume waving
from his bonnet, and being assured by Beppo, that all is secure, is
easily captured. Now all the false imputations are cleared up. Milord
is reconciled to his wife and Lorenzo obtains the hand of the lovely
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