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

after him.

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.--

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