The Beauties Of Fogaras


In three acts by ALFRED GRUeNFELD.

Words by VICTOR LEON, founded on the Hungarian novel of MIKSZATH,

"Szehistye, the village without Men".

This opera was first performed in Dresden on September 7th, 1907.

Victor Leon's great talent to amuse his public shows itself as clearly

here as it did in "Barfuessele". The libretto is
lively picture of

the time of the Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus.

Gruenfeld's music is not deep, but delightfully fresh and naive. He is

master in the instrumentation of miniature art. His vivid rythms

display a grace, an "entrain" and a piquancy, which remind one of

Delibes and Massenet, without being imitations of these great masters.

The dances are perfectly original, full of life and fire, and the

ballet in the second act is in itself a masterpiece, that will hold its


Besides this there are a roguish song by a goose-girl, a very pretty

valse rondo, and last but not least many fine Hungarian songs.

The scene is laid in Transylvania in the year 1459.

The first act takes place in the Transylvanian village of Fogaras.

A long war has deprived the village of all its men, and the women of

Fogaras are wildly lamenting their absence.

They have charged the governor ("Gespann") Paul Rosto to petition the

King, to restore their husbands, and when the young schoolmaster,

Augustin Paradiser, the only man in the village besides Rosto appears

on the scene, they bitterly complain to him of the governor's


Augustin tries to appease them, by assuring them, that the petition was

duly sent, and soon Rosto himself comes to his assistance by presenting

them with the King's answer to their appeal.

His Majesty graciously agrees to the right of the women of Fogaras to

claim their respective husbands, fathers and sons, the King having only

borrowed them for a time.

But as unfortunately most of them were slain in battle or taken

captive, he is unable to return them all, and therefore he

declares himself ready to supply other men in their stead.

To this end it seems necessary to him, to see some of the Fogaras

beauties, and therefore he decrees, that the town is to send him three

specimen of the handsomest amongst them, a black haired, a brown haired

and a fair haired beauty.

Should the women not be willing to comply with the King's command, they

should be severely punished for having troubled his Majesty about


The women of Fogaras being all the reverse of pretty the governor finds

himself in an awkward dilemma.

Fortunately for him the Countess Magdalen Honey has just returned home

with her maid Marjunka.

The latter is at once surrounded by her old companions, and begins to

tell them of their travels and adventures.--She relates how being at

Buda ("Ofen") two years ago during the great coronation festival, King

Matthias only danced with the Countess, and even kissed her before the

whole assembly, and that Marjunka herself had also found a sweetheart

in a first-rate violinist, and that everything had seemed to be turning

out for the best, when they were suddenly summoned home to the old

Countess's death-bed.

When, the year of mourning being passed, they returned to Buda, they

found the doors of the Kingly palace closed to them; and now they

have come home to their native village full of grief and sorrow.

Rosto, after having greeted the Countess, tells her of his difficulties

about the three beautiful women, whom he cannot find; but the Countess

smilingly points to her jet black hair and then to the pretty brunette

Marjunka; and offers to drive with him to castle Varpalota, where the

King resides.

Rosto is considerably relieved, as there is only the fair haired beauty

still to be found.

At this moment the goose-girl Verona passes with her geese.

She is the sweetheart of the schoolmaster, who now comes to meet her,

after having had a rehearsal with the school children for the reception

of Countess Magdalen.

Their charming love duet is interrupted by Rosto.--While the Countess

is greeted by the singing children, Rosto no sooner perceives the

flaxen haired Verona, than he rushes up to her crying: "I have her,

thank God!--the fairest of the fair!"

Augustin interposes, but when Magdalen promises, not only to take care

of the young maiden, but also to give the sweethearts a cottage, two

pigs, a cow and some geese after their return from Varpalota, he is

satisfied, and offers himself a coachman for the journey and they all

drive away in high glee.--

The second act takes place at the King's hunting palace Varpalota. A

band of Bohemian musicians is playing to the people assembled, and

their leader ("Primas") Czobor plays an exquisite solo to the

royal cook Mujko, a most important person at court.

King Matthias tries to kill the time with all kinds of tricks and

frolics,--he vainly strives to forget the sweet lady he saw but once,

and whom he has sought for two years in vain.

He is on the eve of his twenty-fifth birthday, before which date he is

either to choose a bride or to lose his crown.

When the Paladin comes up to remind him of the fact, the King answers:

"Give me Magdalena Honey and I will marry her at once!" But the

Paladin, who wants him to marry his niece Ilona Orszagh answers, that

the Countess could not be found anywhere.

Meanwhile General Hunyadi sends a number of prisoners to the King, and

the women of Fogaras being announced at the same time, Matthias orders

all to be brought before him.

The wild idea has come into his head of turning his cook into the King,

while he himself is to play the part of the cook.

The change is soon effected and a ludicrous scene ensues; the big cook

appearing in comic majesty before his subjects. Then the whole court

groups around the mock King, to receive the women of Fogaras, who drive

up, clad in the rich costume of the Szekle peasants.

Mujko, the sham King, expresses his perfect satisfaction with the three

beauties and begins to flirt with them. Magdalen, perceiving at

once that they are being deceived, recognises the true King in the

disguise of the cook, while he is haunted by a dim recollection,

without being able to recognise the Countess in her disguise.

The scene ends with a charming ballet.--

In the third act Augustin has a stormy interview with Verona, whom he

saw with a jealous eye flirting with the pretended cook.

Magdalen, who has also perceived Verona's wiles and graces, believes

herself to be forgotten by the King, but Marjunka advises her, to

revive his memory by a song, which he once composed for his lady love.

Meanwhile Augustin, goaded to fury by his provoking little bride,

threatens to denounce the cook's love making to the King, and when he

finds himself alone with the man, whom he takes for the cook, he tells

him, that the King is being deceived, for the three beauties do not

come from Fogaras.

On hearing this, the King decides to punish them for their

treachery.--The prisoners being brought into the courtyard he tells

Mujko to choose every tenth man of them as husbands for the three

beauties of Fogaras.

Mujko announcing their fate to the ladies frightens them to death, the

prisoners presenting a most repulsive aspect of misery and neglect.

The lot of the brunette is the first cast, but Czobor, the Bohemian

leader intervenes, having recognised in Marjunka the girl he saw and

loved two years ago.

After a sign from the King Mujko consents to give the brunette to


Then comes Verona's turn and Augustin claims her as his already

affianced bride.

The black haired lady being the last one left, Mujko begins to count,

when Magdalen slowly approaches the King, singing softly: "Take my

life, take my all, I will greet thee as my lady, thou, a King's


Now the King recognises at last his lost lady love. Pushing back

Verona, whom Mujko has presented to him he cries: "I choose the black

haired one!" and throwing off his disguise he embraces Magdalen.--

The bells of the royal chapel now begin to ring, and the priests

receive and bless the three happy bridal couples.

As they leave the chapel they are met by the Paladin, ready to marry

his niece to the King.

But Matthias, seizing Magdalen's hand, proclaims her his Consort, and

all hail her as Hungary's Queen.