The Barber Of Bagdad
In two acts by PETER CORNELIUS.
It took a long time, before this charming little Opera took its place
amongst so many fellow operas much less entitled to notice. The
composer had died 15 years previously, without having gained the
success he so fully deserved, as poet as well as composer.
Liszt, the great redeemer of many a tried genius brought the opera upon
the stage on the 15th of December 1858 in Weimar.
But the Intendant Dingelstedt was against him, the opera proved an
entire failure, though it was meant more as demonstration against Liszt
than against the opera. Liszt, tired of these disgraceful intrigues,
quitted Weimar, only to return there from time to time in private.
With his abdication Weimar's glorious time was passed. In 1889 at
last the Barber of Bagdad took its rightful place after many years of
Munich, Mannheim and Vienna came first and the music having been
enthusiastically applauded, Dresden followed the good example in
October 1890. The music is full of sweet melody, the composition
masterfully set. Its comic parts are not quite natural, but the lyric
is almost classical and the text, written by the composer himself,
though lacking in action, shows, that Cornelius was a true poet as well
as a true musician.
The scene takes place in Bagdad, in the house of a wealthy young
Mussulman, called Nurredin. He is lying on a couch, surrounded by his
servants, who think him dying. But it is only the flame of love which
devours his strength and deprives him of all energy.--As soon as
Bostana, an old relative and companion of his ladylove, appears, in
order to tell him that Margiana, his adored, is willing to receive him,
Nurredin forgets his illness and only longs for the promised interview.
The ensuing duet between him and Bostana, wherein she gives instruction
about time and hour of the rendez-vous, is delightfully fresh and
As Nurredin has neglected his personal appearance during his malady,
his first wish is for a barber, who is speedily sent to him by
Bostana.--This old worthy Abul Hassan Ali Ebe Bekar the barber makes
him desperate by his vain prattle. Having solemnly saluted to
Nurredin, he warns him not to leave the house to-day, as his
horoscope tells him that his life is in danger. The young man not
heeding him, Abul Hassan begins to enumerate all his talents as
astrologer, philologer, philosopher, &c., in short he is everything and
knows everything. When Nurredin orders him to begin his shaving he
relates the fate of his six brothers, who all died before him and
always of love. At last Nurredin's patience giving way, he calls his
servants in to throw the old dotard out of doors. But Abul drives them
all back and Nurredin tries to pacify him with flattery and finally
Now Abul is curious as all barbers are, and having heard Nurredin's
sighs, he determines to find out all about the young man's love. This
scene is most ludicrous, when Abul sings his air "Margiana", which name
he has heard from Nurredin's lips, and the latter is in despair at
being left with only one side of his head shaved. This great work done
at last, Abul wants to accompany the young lover to the house of the
Cadi Baba Mustapha, Margiana's father. Nurredin again summons his
servants, who begin to surround Abul, pretending to doctor him.
Nurredin escapes, but Abul after having shaken off the servants, runs
The second act takes place in the Cadi's house.
Margiana is full of sweet anticipation, while her father, who has
already chosen a husband for his daughter in the person of an old
friend of his youth, shows her a large trunk full of gifts from the old
bridegroom. Margiana admires them obediently. A musical scene of
surpassing beauty follows, where we hear the call of the Muezzin
summoning the faithful to prayer. It is also the sign for Nurredin to
appear. The Cadi hurries to the Mosque and Bostana introduces the
lover. Here ensues a charming love-duet, accompanied, originally
enough, by a song from the old barber, who watches before the house.
Suddenly they are interrupted by cries of alarm, and with dismay they
learn from Bostana, that the Cadi has returned to punish a slave, who
has broken a precious vase.
Nurredin, unable to escape unobserved, is hidden in the big trunk.
Meanwhile Abul, having heard the slave's cries and mistaking them for
Nurredin's, summons the latter's servants and breaks into the Cadi's
house to avenge his young friend, whom he believes to be murdered.
Bostana angrily bids him carry away the trunk signifying to him whom
she has hidden in it, but the Cadi intervenes, believing the servants
to be thieves who want to rob his daughter's treasure. The rumor of
the murder gradually penetrates the whole town; its inhabitants gather
before the house, and the appointed wailing-women mingle their doleful
lamentations with the general uproar. At last the Calif himself
appears in order to settle the quarrel.
The Cadi accuses the barber of theft, while Abul calls the Cadi a
murderer.--To throw light upon the matter, the Calif orders the trunk
to be opened, which is done with great hesitation by Margiana.
When the lid gives way Nurredin is lying in it in a deep swoon. All
are terrified believing him to be murdered, but Abul, caressing him,
declares that his heart still throbs. The Calif bids the barber show
his art, and Abul wakens Nurredin by the love-song to Margiana. The
young man revives and the truth dawns upon the deceived father's mind.
The Calif, a very humane and clement prince, feels great sympathy with
the beautiful young couple, and advises the Cadi to let his daughter
have her treasure, because he had told them himself, that it was
Margiana's treasure, kept hidden in the trunk.
The Cadi consents, while the Calif bids the funny barber come to his
palace to entertain him with his stories, and invites all present to
the wedding of the betrothed pair, to the great satisfaction of the
people, who sing their Salam Aleikum in praise of their Prince,--a
brilliant finale, full of energy and melody.--
Next: Il Barbiere Di Seviglia
Previous: Gustavus The Third