In three acts by AMBROISE THOMAS
Text by MICHEL CARRE and JULES BARBIER.
This opera is full of French grace and vivacity, and has been favorably
received in Germany. The authors have used for their libretto Goethe's
celebrated novel "Wilhelm Meister", with its typical figure Mignon as
heroine, though very much altered. The two first acts take place in
Lothario, a half demented old man, poorly clad as a wandering minstrel,
seeks his lost daughter Sperata. Mignon comes with a band of gipsies,
who abuse her because she refuses to dance. Lothario advances to
protect her, but Jarno, the chief of the troop, only scorns him, until
a student, Wilhelm Meister steps forth and rescues her, a young actress
named Philine compensating the gipsy for his loss by giving him all her
loose cash. Mignon, grateful for the rescue, falls in love with
Wilhelm and wants to follow and serve him, but the young man, though
delighted with her loveliness and humility is not aware of her love.
Nevertheless he takes her with him. He is of good family, but by a
whim just now stays with a troop of comedians, to whom he takes his
protegee. The coquette Philine loves Wilhelm and has completely
enthralled him by her arts and graces. She awakes bitter jealousy in
Mignon who tries to drown herself, but is hindered by the sweet strains
of Lothario's harp which appeal to the nobler feelings of her nature.
The latter always keeps near her, watching over the lovely child.
He instinctively feels himself attracted towards her; she recalls his
lost daughter to him and he sees her as abandoned and lonely as
himself. Mignon, hearing how celebrated Philine is, wishes that the
palace within which Philine plays, might be struck by lightning, and
Lothario at once executes her wish by setting the house on fire.
While the guests rush into the garden, Philine orders Mignon to fetch
her nosegay, the same flowers, which the thoughtless youth offered to
his mistress Philine. Mignon, reproaching herself for her sinful wish,
at once flies into the burning house, and only afterwards does her
friend Laertes perceive that the theatre has caught fire too.
Everybody thinks Mignon lost, but Wilhelm, rushing into the flames, is
happy enough to rescue her.--
The third act carries us to Italy, where the sick Mignon has been
brought. Wilhelm, having discovered her love, which she reveals in her
delirium, vows to live only for her. Lothario, no longer a minstrel,
receives them as the owner of the palace, from which he had been absent
since the loss of his daughter. While he shows Mignon the relics of
the past, a scarf and a bracelet of corals are suddenly recognized by
her. She begins to remember her infantine prayers, she recognizes the
hall with the marble statues and her mother's picture on the
wall.--With rapture Lothario embraces his long-lost Sperata. But
Mignon's jealous love has found out that Philine followed her,
and she knows no peace until Wilhelm has proved to her satisfaction,
that he loves her best.
At last Philine graciously renounces Wilhelm and turns to Friedrich,
one of her many adorers, whom to his own great surprise she designates
as her future husband. Mignon at last openly avows her passion for
Wilhelm. The people, hearing of the arrival of their master, the
Marquis of Cypriani, alias Lothario, come to greet him with loud
acclamations of joy, which grow still louder, when he presents to them
his daughter Sperata and Wilhelm, her chosen husband.