First Performance: Teatro Carlo Felice, Genova, 21 March 1874. Shortcuts to: Characters -- Synopsis -- Notes -- Recordings
Il Duca d'Arcos
Il Conte di Badajoz
Bianca / Suora Inez
Setting: Napoli, during the Neapolitan revolution,1647
scene 1: Salvator Rosa's studio in Napoli, 1647.
Rosa, famous for his landscapes, is at work touching up a new painting. He jokes with Gennariello a young gadabout who has attached himself to Rosa and his students. When the conversation turns to women, the light-hearted Gennariello admits to envying Rosa's idolization of one woman above all others, then sings a song he has composed for use in seduction (Mia piccirella).
As Gennariello finishes the second verse, Masaniello, a fisherman who has become the leader of the people's resistance against the brutal Spanish occupation under the Duke of Arcos, enters. Gennariello leaves them alone, and Masaniello reveals to Rosa that the planned uprising is about to commence. The midday church bells will serve as the signal (All'armi! All'armi!). He hates the idea of bloodshed, but only that can free Napoli from the tyranny under which it suffers. Rosa swears his allegiance to the cause.
After Masaniello has gone, Rosa muses on the fortune that will compel him to abandon his muse, and perhaps give up his house. The Count of Bajadoz enters, and , with ironic deference, "invites" Rosa to an audience with the Duke. In an aside, Rosa assures Gennariello that those who love their fatherland will have no reason to worry about his steadfastness, then is led off. Rosa's students rush into the studio seeking their master. When Gennariello tells them what has happened, they rush off to join the imminent uprising.
Scene 2: The Great Hall of the Viceroy's Palace.
The Duke of Arcos and his troop commander, Fernandez, are planning the destruction of the revolution that they fear will break out soon. The Duke, perhaps less confident of his superior firepower than he lets on to Fernandez, charges the officer with guarding his daughter Isabella, and mentions a secret passage in case escape from the palace becomes necessary. The Count enters with his prisoner, Rosa, who accuses the Duke of violating the guarantees given the Neapolitans by the King of Spain, and substituting instead his own cruel statutes. Isabella enters, and in her Rosa recognizes the woman who has been his ideal since he saw her once by the river bank. She had obviously noticed the painter at that brief moment, because she suppresses her recognition of him. She pleads with her father to lessen his grip on the people's freedom (Padre ... a te il grido innalzasi), against his demand that she be silent, while Rosa laments that his ideal is unattainable.
Suddenly the Count rushes in. The uprising has begun, and the Spanish troops are in retreat before the people. Fearing their vengeance should he be taken, the Duke and his retinue exit by the secret passage, leaving Rosa to greet Masaniello and the victor ious populace, who hail them both as heroes.
Scene 1: A Room in the Castelnuovo, near Napoli.
The Duke, having agreed to a parley with Masaniello, reflects on the life of war and terror that has been his chosen lot, instead of the serene joys of the husband and father (Di sposo, di padre). The Count and Fernandez escort in Masaniello's emissary - Salvator Rosa, to whom the Duke gives a treaty of peace, with his signature, which guarantees the demands of the people. Left alone when the Duke goes off to prepare for the peace ceremony, Salvator can think only of Isabella, who enters at that moment, in search of her father. Rosa describes to her the day he first saw her (Sulle rive di Chiaia). Isabella confesses that she returns his love (L'accento dell'amor). Their idyll is interrupted by the Duke's reappearance, and the three leave for the fete.
Scene 2: The Gates of the City. People are enjoying and celebrating with dancing and singing (A festa! A festa!). They greet Gennariello'as a hero, and he regales them with an account of his daring (Poiche vi piace udir). Masaniello's appearance gives rise to the crowd's greatest enthusiasm. They call for a war of extermination against the Spanish!. but Masaniello reminds them that God has given them the victory in the name of justice, not of vengeance, and that his only wish is to return to the fisherman's life he has had to abandon (Povero nacqui, e ai perfidi). The sound of the approaching procession of Spanish nobles and soldiers calls all to attention, including a group of pirates led by Corcelli.
In a grand concluding ensemble, the Duke promises to abide by
the new, humane, laws, and names Masaniello as arbiter of his
judgements. Masaniello pledges the people's obedience to just
governance, while Isabella and Rosa celebrate the confirmation of
their mutual love. As the finale reaches its conclusion, the Duke
and his cohorts quietly vow to crush the rebels as soon as their
presence is no longer mistrust ed, while the people cry "Viva
Act III: Scene 1: A Terrace of the Viceroy's
It is evening; the palace is lit splendidly for a banquet. The Count of Bajadoz and Fernandez discuss the planned counter-coup, and the participation in it on the Spanish side of Corcelli and his pirates. Masaniello, seemingly tipsy, begins to play with the idea of himself as the King of Napoli. Courtiers and ladies, coming out of the Great Hall, sing of their aristocratic abhorrence of the plebeian participation in the festivities (Di quelle sale il lezzo uccide). Masaniello again complains that he wishes to return to the life of a fisherman, but confronts Rosa with his idea of being king, not hearing the painter's plea that he return to sanity (Li...su quel fragil legno). When the Duke and his party enter, Salvator realizes that Masaniello has been drugged. The Duke orders Rosa's arrest. Faced with overwhelming odds, he has no choice but to surrender.
Scene 2: The Courtyard of a Monastery.
Isabella confronts her father on the whereabouts of her promised spouse. The Duke retorts that she will get the happiness she deserves: marriage to Captain Fernandez (Sola il mio bianco crine). Isabella refuses; the Duke responds that if she does not obey him, her lover will be executed. As the monks chant of the vanity of worldly joys, Isabella pleads in vain with her intransigent father.
Act IV: A Portico of the Castle, with the Carmine Church in the foreground, and the city visible from the heights.
From afar comes the voice of Gennariello singing a reprise of his 'Mia piccirella". The Count and Corcelli devise a plan to murder Masaniello. As they leave, Isabella enters, hoping to find her father and dissuade him from forcing her to marry Fernandez; she will renounce Salvator if the Duke does not force another on her. The Count returns, leading Salvator, freeing him from captivity with what Rosa feels is a sinister farewell. As soon as the Count leaves, Isabella emerges from her hiding to warn Rosa that the Spanish plan to assassinate Masaniello when he enters the church, and that Rosa, too, is slated for death. When she tells him that she is to be married to Fernandez, Rosa curses her and rushes off to warn Masaniello. Isabella has forseen that only this would make him leave her. Now she will do what she must. She enters the church.
The sound of shots from within echoes her entrance. From the castle emerge the Duke and his followers; from the streets Masaniello and his. Before they can engage each other in battle, Isabella appears in the church doorway, mortally wounded by the bullets intended for Masaniello. She falls on the steps, crying, "Father, no more bloodshed." The Duke realizes that heaven has punished him for his misdeeds, and orders his men to obey his daughter's last wish. Salvator mourns his lost love, while Gennariello and the students try to comfort him with the reminder that the glory of his art will eventually soften the pain. With her last breath, Isabella promises Salvator that she will await him in heaven, where love is immortal. She dies, as the people crv for vengeance against the oppressor.
Seeking to recoup his popularity, Gomes turned to Antonio Ghislanzoni, librettist of Verdi's Aida, for an opera based on the Neapolitan revolution of 1647, already immortalized by Auber is his La Muette de Portici (1831). Owing to the fact that the Auber work was already known in Italy as Masaniello, Gomes and Ghislanzoni were forced to rename their opera for another historical figure appearing in the French novel on which they based the libretto, poet /painter Salvator Rosa, famous for his landscapes but not for his revolutionary ardor. At the Genovese premiere Romilda Pantaleoni, later to be the first Desclemona, sang Isabella, with Leone Giralcloni, who created the revised Simon Boccanegra, as Masaniello. Others included Emanuele Dall'Aglio (Fernandez), Clelia Cappelli (Bianca/Suo Ines) and Luigi Torre (Fra Lorenzo). Its success was as immediate as Il Guarany's had been; until the rise of verismo eclipsed it (along with most of the standard 1840-80 repertoire), Italy consisered it Gomes' masterpiece.
Recorded in São Paulo, 11 September 1977
Salvator Rosa...........Benito Maresca
Il Duca D'Arcos.........Edilson Costa
Il Conte di Badajoz.....Aguinaldo Albert
Bianca / Suaro Inez.....Lelya Tayer
Fra Lorenzo.............Boris Farina
Orchestra & Chorus, Teatro Municipal, São Paulo, Brazil
Performance conducted by Maestro Simon Blech
A. Carlos Gomes
Operas - Songs - Chamber Music - Piano Music - Biography - Bibliography & Recordings
About the author of this site, Cyrene Paparotti