The Bell Of The Hermit

In three acts by LOUIS AIME MAILLART.


Text after the French by G. ERNST.

Maillart, who studied under Halevy in Paris and received the Roman

prize (prix de Rome) in the year 1841, composed six operas, all of

which are now almost forgotten with the single exception of "Les

Dragons de Villars" (in 1856), which found favor in Germany by virtue

of its wit and grace.

The music sparkles with French charm and gaiety of the most exquisite

kind and these are the merits by which this unpretentious opera has

kept its place by the side of its grander and more pompous sisters.

The tale is clever and amusing.

The scene is laid in a French mountain-village near the frontier of

Savoy towards the close of the war in the Cevennes in 1704.

In the first act peasant women in the service of Thibaut, a rich

country Squire, are collecting fruit. Georgette, Thibaut's young wife,

controls their work. In compliance with a general request she treats

them to a favorite provencal song, in which a young girl, forgetting

her first vows made to a young soldier, gives her hand to another

suitor. She is interrupted by the sound of trumpets. Thibaut hurrying

up in great distress asks the women to hide themselves at once, because

soldiers are marching into the village. He conceals his own wife in

the pigeon-house. A detachment of dragoons arrive, and Belamy, their

corporal, asks for food and wine at Thibaut's house. He learns, that

there is nothing to be had and in particular, that all the women have

fled, fearing the unprincipled soldiers of King Louis XIV., sent to

persecute the poor Huguenots or Camisards, who are hiding in the

mountains,--further that the "Dragons de Villars" are said to be

an especially wild and dissolute set.

Belamy is greatly disgusted and after having had his dinner and a sleep

in Thibaut's own bed, decides to march on. The Squire gladly offers to

accompany the soldiers to St. Gratien's grotto near the hermitage,

where they have orders to search for the Huguenot refugees.

While Belamy is sleeping, Thibaut calls his servant Silvain and scolds

him because, though his best servant, he has now repeatedly been absent

over-long on his errands; finally orders him to saddle the mules.

Stammering Silvain owns, that they have gone astray in the mountains,

but that he is sure of their being found in due time. While Thibaut

expresses his fear that they may be stolen by the fugitives, Rose

Friquet, an orphan-girl, brings the mules, riding on the back of one of

them. Thibaut loads her with reproaches, but Silvain thanks her

warmly, and though she mockingly repudiates his thanks, he discovers

that she has taken the mules in order not to let the provost into

Silvain's secret. The fact is that Silvain carries food every day to

the refugees, and Rose Friquet, the poor goat-keeper, who is despised

and supposed to be wicked and malicious, protects him in her poor way,

because he once intercepted a stone, which was meant for her head.

While the soldiers are dining, Belamy, who has found Georgette's

bonnet, demands an explanation. Thibaut, confused, finds a

pretext for going out, but Rose betrays to Belamy first the wine-cellar

and then Georgette's hiding-place. The young wife cries for help and

Rose runs in to fetch Thibaut. Belamy is delighted with the pretty

Georgette, but she tells him rather anxiously, that all the wives of

the village must needs remain entirely true to their husbands, for the

hermit of St. Gratien, though dead for two hundred years, is keeping

rigid watch, and betrays every case of infidelity by ringing a little

bell, which is heard far and wide.

Belamy is somewhat desirous to try the experiment with Georgette and

asks her to accompany him to the hermitage instead of her husband.

After having found the other women in the village, the soldiers, to

Thibaut's great vexation, decide to stay and amuse themselves. Silvain

rejoices and after a secret sign from Rose resolves to warn the

refugees in the evening.

In the second act Rose and Silvain meet near St. Gratien. Rose, after

telling him that all the paths are occupied by sentries, promises to

show him a way for the refugees, which she and her goat alone know.

Silvain, thanking her warmly, endeavours to induce her to care more for

her outward appearance, praising her pretty features. Rose is

delighted to hear for the first time that she is pretty, and the duet

ensuing is one of the most charming things in the opera. Silvain

promises to be her friend henceforth and then leaves, in order to seek

the Camisards. After this Thibaut appears, seeking his wife, whom

he has seen going away with Belamy. Finding Rose he imagines he has

mistaken her for his wife, but she laughingly corrects him and he

proceeds to search for Georgette. Belamy now comes and courts

Thibaut's wife. But Rose, seeing them, resolves to free the path for

the others.--No sooner has Belamy tried to snatch a kiss from his

companion, than Rose draws the rope of the hermit's bell, and she

repeats the proceeding, until Georgette takes flight, while Thibaut

rushes up at the sound of the bell. Belamy reassures him, intimating

that the bell may have rung for Rose (though it never rings for girls)

and accompanies him to the village. But he soon returns to look for

the supposed hermit, who has played him this trick and finds Rose

instead, who does not perceive him.--To his great surprise Silvain

comes up with the whole troop of refugees, leading the aged clergyman,

who had been a father to him in his childhood. Silvain presents Rose

to them as their deliverer and vows to make her his wife.--Rose leads

them to the secret path, while Silvain returns to the village, leaving

Belamy triumphant at his discovery.

In the third act we find the people on the following morning speaking

of nothing but Silvain's wedding with Rose and of the hermit's bell.

Nobody knows who has been the culprit, but Thibaut slily calculates

that the hermit has rung before-hand, when Rose the bride kissed the

dragoon. Having learned that the soldiers had been commanded to

saddle their horses in the midst of the dancing the night before, and

that Belamy, sure of his prey, has come back, he believes that Rose has

betrayed the poor Camisards in order to win the price set on their

heads and this opinion he now communicates to Silvain.

To keep Belamy away from Georgette, the sly Squire has conducted him to

the wine-cellar, and the officier [Transcriber's note: officer?], now

half-drunk admits having had a rendez-vous with Rose.--When Thibaut has

retired, Belamy again kisses Georgette, and lo, the bell does not ring

this time!

Meanwhile Rose comes down the hill, neatly clad and glowing with joy

and pride and Georgette disregarding Thibaut's reproofs offers her the

wedding-garland. The whole village is assembled to see the wedding,

but Silvain appears with dark brow and when Rose radiantly greets him,

he pushes her back fiercely, believing that she betrayed the refugees,

who are, as he has heard, caught. Rose is too proud to defend herself,

but when Georgette tries to console her, she silently draws from her

bosom a paper, containing the information that the refugees have safely

crossed the frontier.--Great is Silvain's shame and heartfelt his

repentance.--Suddenly Belamy enters, beside himself with rage, for his

prey has escaped and he has lost his patent as lieutenant together with

the remuneration of 200 pistoles, and he at once orders Silvain to be

shot. But Rose bravely defends her lover, threatening to reveal the

dragoon's neglect of duty. When therefore Belamy's superior

appears to hear the important news of which the messenger told him, his

corporal is only able to stammer out that nothing in particular has

happened, and so after all, Georgette is saved from discovery and Rose

becomes Silvain's happy bride.

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