In one act by KARL VON KASKEL.
Text by FRANZ KOPPEL-ELLFELD.
This opera, which was represented for the first time at the Royal Opera
in Dresden on April 29th, 1893, is the first attempt of its young
composer, and as such shows considerable talent, even genius.
Indeed it sins rather in too much than in too little invention; it
would seem that Kaskel's brain, overflowing with musical ideas, wanted
to put them all into this one first child of his muse. This promises
well for the future, but it explains, why it lacks the great attraction
of Cavalleria with which it has some relation, without imitating it in
the least. The hearer's attention is tired by too much and divided by
lack of unity. Nevertheless the composer has understood how to make
the most of a somewhat weak libretto, and the manner in which the
musical interest increases from scene to scene is admirable in a
The scene is laid in an Italian Frontier Fortress near Mentone at the
foot of Col di Tenda. It may be added here, that the national
colouring is particularly well hit.
Giovanna, the daughter of Regina Negri an inn-keeper is betrothed to
Pietro Montalto, Captain of the Bersaglieri; and the wedding is fixed
for the following morning. Before her betrothal Giovanna has carried
on a flirtation with Paolo Tosta, a wild fellow, who unfortunately took
the girl's play seriously, and seeing the friend of his childhood
estranged from him, has turned smuggler and head of a band of
Anarchists. Giovanna is afraid of him, and trembles for her
bridegroom, whom she loves truly.
However, when she sees Paolo taken captive and sentenced to death by
her own lover, she implores the latter to deal mercifully with the
miscreant. She has neglected to tell him of her early friendship for
the captive, and so Pietro, who does not understand her softness for
the ruffian refuses, his soldierly honour being at stake. But at last
love conquers and Giovanna extracts a promise from him, to let the
prisoner escape during the night.
Left alone, Pietro's keen sense of duty reawakes and he leaves the
place without freeing the captive.
However Toto, a dealer in tobacco, Paolo's friend and helpmate in
smuggling arrives and releases him. Instead of escaping Paolo seeks
Giovanna, and when she turns from him with loathing, he swears, either
to possess her, or to destroy her bridegroom.
On the following morning Pietro hears from Bastiano, the Bersaglieri
Sergeant, that the keys of the prison have been stolen, and the
prisoner has escaped. Pietro rejoices, that this happened without his
own intervention and turns full of happiness to his bride, who stands
ready for the wedding. The wedding-procession is slowly moving towards
church, when it is suddenly arrested by Paolo, who throws himself
between the lovers. "Mine she was, before she knew you," he cries out,
"to me she swore eternal faith, which she has now falsely broken."
Giovanna, struck dumb by terror, is unable to defend herself.--Pietro
orders his men to recapture the ruffian, but quick as thought Paolo has
deprived the soldier nearest to him of his sabre and with the words
"Thou shalt die first," has thrust it towards Pietro. Alas, it is
Giovanna's breast, he pierces; she has shielded her lover with her own
body.--With a sweet smile she turns to Pietro, who implores her to
speak. "Pardon me," she sighs faintly, "he was long a stranger to my
heart; thee alone I loved, to thee I was faithful unto death." With
those loving words she sinks back expiring.
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