“Boccaccio,” or the “Prince of Palermo,” a comic opera in three acts with music by Franz von Suppé and text by Zell and Genée, was first produced at the Carl Theatre, Vienna, Feb. 1, 1879.
Boccaccio, a novelist and poet. Leonetto, his student friend. Pietro, Prince of Palermo. Lotteringhi, a cooper. Lambertucci, a grocer. Scalza, a barber. Fiammetta, Lambertucci adopted daughter. Beatrice, Scalzi’s daughter. Isabella, Lotteringhi’s wife. Peronella, Lambertucci sister. Checco, a beggar. Fratelli, a bookseller. Fresco, the cooper’s apprentice. The unknown. Florentine students, journeymen, girls, beggars, servants.
Boccaccio, the hero of this tale, is a novelist and poet whose virile pen deals with truth not romance, and who has brought down upon his head the hatred of many of the Florentines, who are portrayed in his novels with really embarrassing fidelity. They vow vengeance upon him and his life, or at least his safety, is in peril. Boccaccio has found time in the midst of his literary labors to fall in love with Fiammetta, the adopted daughter of Lambertucci, the grocer. He, as well as Lambertucci, is unaware of the fact that the girl is the daughter of the Duke of Tuscany, who for political reasons has had her brought up in this humble fashion. Her father has destined her for a fitting marriage and he sends to Florence at this time, Pietro, Prince of Palermo, to claim as his wife, Fiammetta, who has been betrothed to him in infancy. Pietro is acting in accordance with the wishes of his father and not because he desires to assume marital ties, for, as ,he himself confesses, he is far too fond of wine and flirting to care to take on himself the role of husband.
Upon his arrival in the city, he joins in several adventures with the students and meets Boccaccio, for whom he has had, for some time, a profound admiration. He fancies that by his adventures he may gain such experience that he, too, may write of life as Boccaccio does. But his literary ardor is somewhat cooled when, on account of a resemblance which he bears to Boccaccio, he is seized by Florentine citizens who have figured unpleasantly in the novels of ” the miserable scribbler ” and given a sound drubbing.
Boccaccio, who has learned that Fiammetta is to marry, succeeds in stealing interviews with her in the disguises of a beggar and a simpleton, and finds that his love is returned. Meantime Pietro’s adventures go on merrily. He is introduced to Isabella, the wife of the drunken cooper, Lotteringhi, and proceeds to fall in love with her, for the students represent that she is the cooper’s niece. On one occasion, when Lotteringhi returns before he is expected, the lady hides her princely lover in a barrel and when he is discovered, glibly explains his presence by saying that he had purchased the barrel and had gone in to examine it.
To be brief, after much flirting and serenading, Pietro accomplishes the business for which he has set out and meets Fiammetta whose foster-father is overcome with awe to learn her true identity.
In the last act, Fiammetta is found at the ducal palace in Palermo, about to be solemnly betrothed to Pietro. Boccaccio, for whom the Prince has a profound liking, comes as a guest to the festivities. He knows well that his love is reciprocated, and he has Pietro’s own admission that he feels only indifference for Fiammetta, so he decides to help fate to a more gallant role. He is asked to arrange a play for the evening and, in the impromptu affair he illustrates the situation with such fidelity and shows up the follies of Pietro so vividly, that the young man who looks it over previous to its performance decides not to have it played and instead surrenders the hand of Fiammetta to the one who truly loves her. Fiammetta is better pleased to wed a professor of the University of Florence, for such Boccaccio is now made, than to be Princess of Palermo and the happy Boccaccio promises that it shall be quite the last of his literary practical jokes.
The opera is full of genuine comedy which is generously furnished by the superstitious Lambertucci, who sees dreadful signs and portents in every occurrence; by Checco the beggar and by Peronella, the elderly sister of Lambertucci, who is engaged in hunting a rich husband.
The numbers include in Act I, Leonetti’s song, ” I will follow thee; ” Boccaccio’s song, ” There is a jolly student; ” Fiammetta song, “Love is a tender flower ” and the duet of Fiammetta and Boccaccio, “A poor, blind beggar.” In Act II are found the song, “Always in twos and in threes ; ” the serenade of Boccaccio, Leonetto, and Pietro before Fiammetta window, ” I’d be a star; ” the cooper’s song and chorus; the letter trio of Fiammetta, Isabella and Peronella and Boccaccio’s simpleton song. In Act III, occur ” How pleasing his novels; ” ” I’m the father of a Princess; ” the duet of Boccaccio and Fiametta, ” The language of love ” and the septet, ” You that less, blind and silly men.”