A King Against His Will


In three acts by EMANUEL CHABRIER.

Text after a comedy written by ANCELOT, from EMILE DE NAJAC and PAUL


The composer has recently become known in Germany by his opera

Gwendoline, performed at Leipsic a short time ago. His latest opera,

"A King against his will", was represented on the Royal Opera in

Dresden, April 26th
890, and through its wit, grace and originality

won great applause.--Indeed, though not quite free from "raffinement",

its melodies are exquisitely interesting and lovely. Minka's Bohemian

song, her duet with De Nangis, her lover, as well as the duet between

the King and Alexina are master-pieces, and the national coloring

in the song of the Polish bodyguard is characteristic enough.

The libretto is most amusing, though the plot is complicated. The

scene is laid at Cracow in the year 1574.--Its subject is derived from

a historical fact. Henry de Valois has been elected King of Poland,

through the machinations of his ambitious mother, Catarina di Medici,

to whom it has been prophesied, that all her sons should be crowned.

The gay Frenchman most reluctantly accepts the honor, but the delight

of his new Polish subjects at having him, is not greater than his own

enchantment with his new Kingdom.

The first act shows the new King surrounded by French noblemen, gay and

thoughtless like himself; but watching all his movements by orders of

his mother, who fears his escape. By chance the King hears from a

young bondwoman Minka, who loves De Nangis, his friend, and wishes to

save him a price, that a plot had been formed by the Polish noblemen,

who do not yet know him personally, and he at once decides to join the

conspiracy against his own person.--Knowing his secretary, Fritelli to

be one of the conspirators, he declares that he is acquainted with

their proceedings and threatens him with death, should he not silently

submit to all his orders.--The frightened Italian promises to lead him

into the house of Lasky, the principal conspirator, where he intends to

appear as De Nangis. But before this, in order to prevent discovery he

assembles his guard and suite, and in their presence accuses his

favorite De Nangis with treachery, and has him safely locked up in

apparent deep disgrace.

The second act opens with a festival at Lasky's, under cover of which

the King is to be arrested and sent over the frontier. Now the King,

being a total stranger to the whole assembly, excepting Fritelli,

presents himself as De Nangis and swears to dethrone his fickle friend,

the King, this very night. But meanwhile De Nangis, who, warned by

Minka's song, has escaped from his confinement through the window,

comes up, and is at once presented by the pretended De Nangis as King

Henry. The true De Nangis complying with the jest, at once issues his

Kingly orders, threatening to punish his antagonists and proclaiming

his intention to make the frightened Minka his Queen. He is again

confined by the conspirators, who, finding him so dangerous, resolve to

kill him. This is entirely against King Henry's will, and he at once

revokes his oath, proclaiming himself to be the true King and offering

himself, if need shall be as their victim. But he is not believed; the

only person, who knows him, Fritelli, disowns him, and Alexina, the

secretary's wife, a former sweetheart of the King in Venice, to whom he

has just made love again under his assumed name, declares, that he is

De Nangis.--Henry is even appointed by lot to inflict the death-stroke

on the unfortunate King. Determined to destroy himself rather than let

his friend suffer, he opens the door to De Nangis' prison, but

the bird has again flown. Minka, though despairing of ever belonging

to one so highborn has found means to liberate him, and is now ready to

suffer for her interference. She is however protected by Henry, who

once more swears to force the King from the country.

The third act takes place in the environs of Crakow, where preparations

are made for the King's entry. No one knows who is to be crowned,

Henry de Valois or the Arch-Duke of Austria, the pretender supported by

the Polish nobles, but Fritelli coming up assures the innkeeper, that

it is to be the Arch-Duke. Meanwhile the King enters in hot haste

asking for horses, in order to take himself away as quickly as

possible. Unfortunately there is only one horse left and no driver,

but the King orders this to be got ready, and declares that he will

drive himself. During his absence Alexina and Minka, who have

proceeded to the spot, are full of pity for the unfortunate King, as

well as for his friend De Nangis. Alexina resolves to put on servant's

clothes, in order to save the fugitive, and to drive herself. Of

course Henry is enchanted when recognizing his fair driver and both set

about to depart.

Minka, left alone, bewails her fate and wants to stab herself,

whereupon De Nangis suddenly appears in search for the King. At the

sight of him, Minka quickly dries her tears, being assured that her

lover is true to her. Fritelli however, who at first had rejoiced to

see his wife's admirer depart, is greatly dismayed at hearing

that his fair wife was the servant-driver. He madly rushes after them,

to arrest the fugitives. But the faithful guard is already on the

King's track, and together with his Cavaliers, brings them back in


Finding that, whether her will or no, he must abide by his lot, and

hearing further, that the Arch-Duke has renounced his pretentions to

the crown of Poland, the King at last submits. He unites the faithful

lovers, De Nangis and Minka, sends Fritelli as Ambassador to Venice

accompanied by his wife Alexina, and all hail Henry de Valois as King

of Poland.