La Muette De Portici

In five acts by AUBER.

Text by SCRIBE.

This opera was first put on the stage in the Grand Opera-House at Paris

in the year 1828, and achieved for its author universal celebrity; not

only, because in it Auber rises to heights, which he never reached

either before or after, but because it is purely historical. The

"Muette" is like a picture, which attracts by its vivid reproduction of
r /> nature. In the local tone, the southern temper, Auber has succeeded in

masterly fashion, and the text forms an admirable background to the

music. Its subject is the revolution of Naples in the year 1647 and

the rise and fall of Masaniello, the fisherman-King.

In the first act we witness the wedding of Alfonso, son of the

Viceroy of Naples, with the Spanish Princess Elvira. Alfonso, who has

seduced Fenella, the Neapolitan Masaniello's dumb sister and abandoned

her, is tormented by doubts and remorse, fearing that she has committed

suicide. During the festival Fenella rushes in to seek protection from

the Viceroy, who has kept her a prisoner for the past month. She has

escaped from her prison and narrates the story of her seduction by

gestures, showing a scarf which her lover gave her. Elvira promises to

protect her and proceeds to the altar, Fenella vainly trying to follow.

In the chapel Fenella recognizes her seducer in the bridegroom of the

Princess. When the newly married couple come out of the church, Elvira

presents Fenella to her husband and discovers from the dumb girl's

gestures, that he was her faithless lover. Fenella flies, leaving

Alfonso and Elvira in sorrow and despair.

In the second act the fishermen, who have been brooding in silence over

the tyranny of their foes, begin to assemble. Pietro, Masaniello's

friend, has sought for Fenella in vain, but at length she appears of

her own accord and confesses her wrongs. Masaniello is infuriated and

swears to have revenge, but Fenella, who still loves Alfonso, does not

mention his name. Then Masaniello calls the fishermen to arms and they

swear perdition to the enemy of their country.

In the third act we find ourselves in the marketplace in Naples, where

the people go to and fro, selling and buying, all the while concealing

their purpose under a show of merriment and carelessness. Selva,

the officer of the Viceroy's body-guard, from whom Fenella has escaped,

discovers her and the attempt to rearrest her is the sign for a general

revolt, in which the people are victorious.

In the fourth act Fenella comes to her brother's dwelling and describes

the horrors, which are taking place in the town. The relation fills

his noble soul with sorrow and disgust. When Fenella has retired to

rest, Pietro enters with comrades and tries to excite Masaniello to

further deeds, but he only wants liberty and shrinks from murder and


They tell him that Alfonso has escaped and that they are resolved to

overtake and kill him. Fenella, who hears all, decides to save her

lover. At this moment Alfonso begs at her door for a hiding-place. He

enters with Elvira, and Fenella, though at first disposed to avenge

herself on her rival, pardons her for Alfonso's sake. Masaniello,

reentering, assures the strangers of his protection and even when

Pietro denounces Alfonso as the Viceroy's son, he holds his promise

sacred. Pietro with his fellow-conspirators leaves him full of rage

and hatred.

Meanwhile the magistrate of the city presents Masaniello with the Royal

crown and he is proclaimed King of Naples.

In the fifth act we find Pietro with the other fishermen before the

Viceroy's palace. He confides to Moreno, that he has administered

poison to Masaniello, in order to punish him for his treason, and

that the King of one day will soon die. While he speaks, Borella

rushes in to tell of a fresh troop of soldiers, marching against the

people with Alfonso at their head. Knowing that Masaniello alone can

save them, the fishermen entreat him to take the command of them once

more and Masaniello, though deadly ill and half bereft of his reason,

complies with their request. The combat takes place, while an eruption

of Vesuvius is going on. Masaniello falls in the act of saving

Elvira's life. On hearing these terrible tidings Fanella rushes to the

terrace, from which she leaps into the abyss beneath, while the

fugitive noblemen take again possession of the city.