La Dame Blanche
In three acts by BOIELDIEU.
Text by SCRIBE.
Boieldieu is for the French almost what Mozart was for the German.
This opera especially may be called classic, so deliberate and careful
is its execution.
The "Lady in white" is the chef-d'oeuvre of all comic operas in French,
as Mozart's Figaro is in German. The success of this opera, whose
composer and whose poet were equally liked and esteemed in Paris was
enormous, and since then it has never lost its attraction.
The scene is laid in Scotland, the subject being taken from Walter
Scott's romance: "Guy Mannering".
George Brown, the hero of the opera, a young lieutenant in English
service, visits Scotland. He is hospitably received by a tenant of the
late Count Avenel, who has been dead for some years. When he
arrives, the baptism of the tenant's youngest child is just being
celebrated, and seeing that they lack a godfather, he good-naturedly
consents to take the vacant place.
Seeing the old castle of the Avenels, he asks for its history, and the
young wife Jenny tells him that according to the traditions of the
place it is haunted by a ghost, as is the case in almost every old
castle. This apparition is called the "White Lady", but unlike other
ghosts she is good, protecting her sex against fickle men. All the
people around believe firmly in her and pretend to have seen her
themselves. In the castle there exists a statue which bears the name
of this benevolent genius, and in it the old Lord has hidden treasures.
His steward Gaveston, a rogue, who has taken away the only son of the
Count in the child's earliest days, brings the castle with all its
acres to public sale, hoping to gain it for himself.
He has a charming ward, named Anna. It is she, who sometimes plays the
part of the white Lady. She has summoned the young tenant Dickson, who
is sincerely devoted to her, into the castle, and the young man though
full of fear, yet dare not disobey the ghostly commands.
George Brown, thirsting for a good adventure, and disbelieving in the
ghost-story, declares that he will go in Dickson's place.
In the second act George, who has found entrance into the castle, calls
for the white Lady, who appears in the shape of Anna. She believes
that Dickson is before her and she reveals her secret to him,
imploring his help against her false guardian Gaveston, who means to
rob the true and only heir of his property. She knows that the missing
son of the Avenels is living, and she has given a promise to the dying
Countess, to defend his rights against the rapacious Gaveston. George
gives his hand to the pretended ghost in token of fidelity, and the
warm and soft hand which clasps his, awakes tender feelings in him. On
the following morning Dickson and his wife Jenny are full of curiosity
about George's visit, but he does not breathe a word of his secret.
The sale of the castle as previously announced is to begin, and Dickson
has been empowered beforehand by all the neighboring farmers, to bid
the highest price, in order not to let it fall into the hands of the
hateful Gaveston. They bid higher and higher, but at length Dickson
stops, unable to go farther. Gaveston feels assured of his triumph,
when George Brown, recalling his vow to the white Lady, advances
boldly, bidding one thousand pounds more. Anna is beside him, in the
shape of the spectre, and George obediently bids on, till the castle is
his for the price of three hundred thousand pounds. Gaveston in a
perfect fury, swears avenge himself on the adventurer, who is to pay
the sum in the afternoon. Should he prove unable to do so, he shall be
put into prison. George, who firmly believes in the help of his
genius, is quietly confident, and meanwhile makes an inspection of the
castle. Wandering through the vast rooms, dim recollections arise
in him, and hearing the minstrel's song of the Avenels, he all at once
remembers and finishes the romance, which he heard in his childhood.
The afternoon comes and with it Mac-Irton, the justice of peace. He
wants the money, and George begs to await the white Lady, who promised
her help. Anna appears, bringing the treasure of the Avenels hidden in
the statue, and with them some documents, which prove the just claims
of Edwin Count Avenel. This long lost Count she recognizes in George
Brown, whose identity with the playmate of her youth she had found out
the night before. Gaveston approaches full of wrath to tear aside the
ghost's white veil, and sees his own ward, Anna.
The happy owner of castle and country holds firm to the promise which
he gave the white Lady, and offers hand and heart to the faithful Anna,
who has loved him from her childhood.
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