The Beauties Of Fogaras
DIE SCHOeNEN VON FOGARAS.
In three acts by ALFRED GRUeNFELD.
Words by VICTOR LEON, founded on the Hungarian novel of MIKSZATH,
"Szehistye, the village without Men".
This opera was first performed in Dresden on September 7th, 1907.
Victor Leon's great talent to amuse his public shows itself as clearly
here as it did in "Barfuessele". The libretto is a lively picture of
the time of the Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus.
Gruenfeld's music is not deep, but delightfully fresh and naive. He is
master in the instrumentation of miniature art. His vivid rythms
display a grace, an "entrain" and a piquancy, which remind one of
Delibes and Massenet, without being imitations of these great masters.
The dances are perfectly original, full of life and fire, and the
ballet in the second act is in itself a masterpiece, that will hold its
Besides this there are a roguish song by a goose-girl, a very pretty
valse rondo, and last but not least many fine Hungarian songs.
The scene is laid in Transylvania in the year 1459.
The first act takes place in the Transylvanian village of Fogaras.
A long war has deprived the village of all its men, and the women of
Fogaras are wildly lamenting their absence.
They have charged the governor ("Gespann") Paul Rosto to petition the
King, to restore their husbands, and when the young schoolmaster,
Augustin Paradiser, the only man in the village besides Rosto appears
on the scene, they bitterly complain to him of the governor's
Augustin tries to appease them, by assuring them, that the petition was
duly sent, and soon Rosto himself comes to his assistance by presenting
them with the King's answer to their appeal.
His Majesty graciously agrees to the right of the women of Fogaras to
claim their respective husbands, fathers and sons, the King having only
borrowed them for a time.
But as unfortunately most of them were slain in battle or taken
captive, he is unable to return them all, and therefore he
declares himself ready to supply other men in their stead.
To this end it seems necessary to him, to see some of the Fogaras
beauties, and therefore he decrees, that the town is to send him three
specimen of the handsomest amongst them, a black haired, a brown haired
and a fair haired beauty.
Should the women not be willing to comply with the King's command, they
should be severely punished for having troubled his Majesty about
The women of Fogaras being all the reverse of pretty the governor finds
himself in an awkward dilemma.
Fortunately for him the Countess Magdalen Honey has just returned home
with her maid Marjunka.
The latter is at once surrounded by her old companions, and begins to
tell them of their travels and adventures.--She relates how being at
Buda ("Ofen") two years ago during the great coronation festival, King
Matthias only danced with the Countess, and even kissed her before the
whole assembly, and that Marjunka herself had also found a sweetheart
in a first-rate violinist, and that everything had seemed to be turning
out for the best, when they were suddenly summoned home to the old
When, the year of mourning being passed, they returned to Buda, they
found the doors of the Kingly palace closed to them; and now they
have come home to their native village full of grief and sorrow.
Rosto, after having greeted the Countess, tells her of his difficulties
about the three beautiful women, whom he cannot find; but the Countess
smilingly points to her jet black hair and then to the pretty brunette
Marjunka; and offers to drive with him to castle Varpalota, where the
Rosto is considerably relieved, as there is only the fair haired beauty
still to be found.
At this moment the goose-girl Verona passes with her geese.
She is the sweetheart of the schoolmaster, who now comes to meet her,
after having had a rehearsal with the school children for the reception
of Countess Magdalen.
Their charming love duet is interrupted by Rosto.--While the Countess
is greeted by the singing children, Rosto no sooner perceives the
flaxen haired Verona, than he rushes up to her crying: "I have her,
thank God!--the fairest of the fair!"
Augustin interposes, but when Magdalen promises, not only to take care
of the young maiden, but also to give the sweethearts a cottage, two
pigs, a cow and some geese after their return from Varpalota, he is
satisfied, and offers himself a coachman for the journey and they all
drive away in high glee.--
The second act takes place at the King's hunting palace Varpalota. A
band of Bohemian musicians is playing to the people assembled, and
their leader ("Primas") Czobor plays an exquisite solo to the
royal cook Mujko, a most important person at court.
King Matthias tries to kill the time with all kinds of tricks and
frolics,--he vainly strives to forget the sweet lady he saw but once,
and whom he has sought for two years in vain.
He is on the eve of his twenty-fifth birthday, before which date he is
either to choose a bride or to lose his crown.
When the Paladin comes up to remind him of the fact, the King answers:
"Give me Magdalena Honey and I will marry her at once!" But the
Paladin, who wants him to marry his niece Ilona Orszagh answers, that
the Countess could not be found anywhere.
Meanwhile General Hunyadi sends a number of prisoners to the King, and
the women of Fogaras being announced at the same time, Matthias orders
all to be brought before him.
The wild idea has come into his head of turning his cook into the King,
while he himself is to play the part of the cook.
The change is soon effected and a ludicrous scene ensues; the big cook
appearing in comic majesty before his subjects. Then the whole court
groups around the mock King, to receive the women of Fogaras, who drive
up, clad in the rich costume of the Szekle peasants.
Mujko, the sham King, expresses his perfect satisfaction with the three
beauties and begins to flirt with them. Magdalen, perceiving at
once that they are being deceived, recognises the true King in the
disguise of the cook, while he is haunted by a dim recollection,
without being able to recognise the Countess in her disguise.
The scene ends with a charming ballet.--
In the third act Augustin has a stormy interview with Verona, whom he
saw with a jealous eye flirting with the pretended cook.
Magdalen, who has also perceived Verona's wiles and graces, believes
herself to be forgotten by the King, but Marjunka advises her, to
revive his memory by a song, which he once composed for his lady love.
Meanwhile Augustin, goaded to fury by his provoking little bride,
threatens to denounce the cook's love making to the King, and when he
finds himself alone with the man, whom he takes for the cook, he tells
him, that the King is being deceived, for the three beauties do not
come from Fogaras.
On hearing this, the King decides to punish them for their
treachery.--The prisoners being brought into the courtyard he tells
Mujko to choose every tenth man of them as husbands for the three
beauties of Fogaras.
Mujko announcing their fate to the ladies frightens them to death, the
prisoners presenting a most repulsive aspect of misery and neglect.
The lot of the brunette is the first cast, but Czobor, the Bohemian
leader intervenes, having recognised in Marjunka the girl he saw and
loved two years ago.
After a sign from the King Mujko consents to give the brunette to
Then comes Verona's turn and Augustin claims her as his already
The black haired lady being the last one left, Mujko begins to count,
when Magdalen slowly approaches the King, singing softly: "Take my
life, take my all, I will greet thee as my lady, thou, a King's
Now the King recognises at last his lost lady love. Pushing back
Verona, whom Mujko has presented to him he cries: "I choose the black
haired one!" and throwing off his disguise he embraces Magdalen.--
The bells of the royal chapel now begin to ring, and the priests
receive and bless the three happy bridal couples.
As they leave the chapel they are met by the Paladin, ready to marry
his niece to the King.
But Matthias, seizing Magdalen's hand, proclaims her his Consort, and
all hail her as Hungary's Queen.
Next: The Lowlands