The Cricket On The Hearth
In three acts by CARL GOLDMARK.
Text after Dickens' tale by M. WILLNER.
With this opera Goldmark has entered a novel way in composing. He has
renounced all sensational effects and has produced an opera, which is
full of charming melodies, but which lacks the high dramatic verve to
which we are accustomed from this composer; there are however
remarkably fine pieces in the whole, the best of them being Dot's
dancing song in the second act, the quintette at the end of it,
and the prelude in the third act, into which Goldmark has interwoven
the popular song "Weisst Du, wie viel Sternlein stehen."
The story is soon told, as everybody is supposed to know its contents
from Dickens' famous fairy-tale. That it is less pretty than the
original, is not Mr. Willner's fault, who did his best to endue it with
dramatic strength, and to make it more effective, an elevation to which
the tale never aspired, its poetic simplicity being its great charm.
The scene is laid in an English village.
The cricket, a little fairy, lives with a postilion John and his wife
Dot. They are a happy couple, the only thing wanting to their complete
happiness being children, and even this ardent wish Dot knows will be
fulfilled before long.
A young doll-maker May visits Dot to unburden her heavy heart. The
young girl is to marry her old and rich employer Tackleton, in order to
save her foster-father from want, but she cannot forget her old
sweetheart, a sailor named Eduard, who left her years ago, never to
come back. Dot tries to console her, and gives her food for her old
father. When May has taken leave, Dot's husband John enters, bringing
a strange guest with him.
It is Eduard, who has however so disguised himself, that nobody
recognizes him. Dot receives him hospitably, and while he follows her
in another room, a very lively scene ensues, all the village people
flocking in to receive their letters and parcels at John's hands.
In the second act John rests from his labour in his garden, while Dot,
who finds her husband, who is considerably older than herself, somewhat
too self-confident and phlegmatic, tries to make him appreciate her
more by arousing his jealousy. While they thus talk and jest May
enters, followed by her old suitor, who has already chosen the
wedding-ring for her. Eduard listens to his wooing with ill concealed
anxiety, and Tackleton, not pleased to find a stranger in his friend's
house, gruffly asks his name. The strange sailor tells him, that he
left his father and his sweetheart to seek his fortune elsewhere, and
that he has come back rich and independent, only to find his father
dead and his sweetheart lost to him. His voice moves May strangely,
but Tackleton wants to see his riches. Eduard shows them some fine
jewels, which so delight Dot, that she begins to adorn herself with
them and to dance about the room. Eduard presents her with a beautiful
cross, and seizes the opportunity to reveal to her his identity,
entreating her not to betray him. Then he turns to May, begging her to
chose one of the trinkets, but Tackleton interferes, saying that his
promised bride does not need any jewels from strange people. Dot is
greatly embarrassed, and Tackleton, mistaking her agitation, believes,
that she has fallen in love with the sailor, and insinuates as much to
her husband, whom he invites to have a glass of beer with him.
This unusual generosity on the part of the avaricious old man excites
the clever little wife's suspicion. May having withdrawn, she
greets the friend of her youth with great ostentation (knowing herself
secretly watched by John and Tackleton), and promises to help him to
regain his sweetheart. John and his friend, who suddenly return, see
them together, and poor old John gets wildly jealous. But when he is
alone, he falls asleep and the faithful cricket prophetically shows him
his wife fast asleep in a dream, while a little boy in miniature
postilion's dress plays merrily in the background.
In the third act Dot adorns May with the bridal wreath, but the girl is
in a very sad mood. All at once she hears the sailor sing; Dot steals
away, and May vividly reminded of her old love by the song, decides to
refuse old Tackleton at the last moment, and to remain true to Eduard
until the end of her life. The sailor, hearing her resolve, rushes in
tearing off his false grey beard, and catches May, who at last
recognizes him, in his arms. Meanwhile Tackleton arrives gorgeously
attired; he brings a necklace of false pearls and invites May to drive
with him to the wedding ceremony in the church at once. A whole chorus
of people interrupt this scene however; they greet him, saying they are
his wedding guests, exciting the miser's wrath. At last May, who had
retired to put on her bridal attire, re-appears, but instead of taking
Tackleton's arm she walks up to Eduard, who courteously thanking the
old lover for the carriage standing at the door, suddenly disappears
with May. The chorus detains the furious old Tackleton until the
lovers are well out of the way.
Meanwhile Dot has explained her behaviour to John, and whispering her
sweet secret into his ear, makes him the happiest man on earth.--The
cricket, the good fairy of the house, chirps sweetly and the last scene
shows once more a picture of faithfulness and love.
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