The Two Peters
CZAR AND ZIMMERMANN
In three acts by LORTZING.
This charming little opera had even more success than Lortzing's other
compositions; it is a popular opera in the best sense of the word.
Lortzing ought to have made his fortune by it, for it was soon claimed
by every stage. He had composed it for Christmas 1837 and in the year
1838 every street-organ played its principal melodies. But the
directors paid miserable sums to the lucky composer. (F. e. a copy of
the work cost him 25 thalers, while he did not get more than 30 to 50
thalers from the directors.)
The libretto was composed by Lortzing himself; he took it out of an old
Peter, Emperor of Russia, has taken service on the wharfs of Saardam as
simple ship-carpenter under the assumed name of Peter Michaelow. Among
his companions is another Peter, named Ivanow, a Russian renegade, who
has fallen in love with Mary, the niece of the burgomaster Van Bett.
The two Peters being countrymen and fearing discovery, have become
friendly, but Ivanow instinctively feeling his friend's superiority, is
jealous of him, and Mary, a little coquette, nourishes his passion.
Meanwhile the ambassadors of France and England, each of whom wishes
for a special connection with the Czar of Russia, have discovered where
he must be, and both bribe the conceited simpleton Van Bett, who tries
to find out the real Peter.
He assembles the people, but there are many Peters amongst them, though
only two strangers. He asks them whence they come, then takes aside
Peter Ivanow, cross-questioning him in vain as to what he wishes to
At last, being aware of Peter's love for Mary, he gives him some hope
of gaining her hand, and obtains in exchange a promise from the young
man, to confess his secret in presence of the foreign nobleman.--The
cunning French ambassador, the Marquis de Chateauneuf, has easily found
out the Czar and gained his purpose, while the phlegmatic English Lord,
falsely directed by the burgomaster, is still in transaction with
Ivanow. All this takes place during a rural festivity, where the
Marquis notwithstanding the claims upon his attention finds time to
court yet pretty Mary, exciting Ivanow's hate and jealousy. Ivanow
with difficulty plays the role of Czar, which personage he is supposed
to be as well by Lord Syndham as by Van Bett. He well knows that he
deserves punishment, if he is found out on either side. The
burgomaster, getting more and more confused, and fearing himself
surrounded by spies and cheats, examines one of the strangers after the
other, and is of course confounded to hear their high-flown names; at
last he seizes the two Peters, but is deterred from his purpose by the
two ambassadors. They are now joined by a third, the Russian General
Lefort, who comes to call back his Sovereign to his own country. In
the third act Van Bett has prepared a solemn demonstration of fealty
for the supposed Czar, whom he still mistakes for the real one, while
the real Czar has found means to go on board of his ship with the
Marquis and Lefort.--Before taking farewell, he promises a pass-port to
Ivanow, who is very dubious as to what will become of him.
Meanwhile Van Bett approaches him with his procession to do homage, but
during his long and confused speech cannon-shots are heard and an usher
announces, that Peter Michaelow is about to sail away with a large
crew. The back-ground opens and shows the port with the Czar's ship.
Everybody bursts into shouts "Long live the Czar!" and Ivanow, opening
the paper, which his high-born friend left to him, reads that the Czar
grants him pardon for his desertion and bestows upon him a considerable
sum of money.
Next: La Dame Blanche
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