“Erminie,” a comic opera in two acts with libretto by Bellamy and Paulton after Charles Selby’s “Robert Macaire” and music by E. Jakubowski, was first produced at the Comedy Theatre, London, Nov. 9, 1885.
Marquis de Pontvert. Eugene Marcel, the Marquis’ secretary. Vicomte de Brissac. Delaunay, a young officer. Dufois, landlord of the Lion d’Or. Chevalier de Brabazon, the Marquis’ guest. Ravennes, two thieves. Cadeaux, Cerise Marcel, Ermine’s companion. Javotte, Ermine’s maid. Princess de Gramponeur. Erminie de Pontvert. Soldiers, peasantry, guests, waiters.
There are two bad men in ” Erminie,” thieves named Ravennes and Cadeaux. They are very clever in their knavery, and account for their deeds in the most plausible way. They say, for instance, We’re a philanthropic couple, be it known, Light fingered, sticking to whate’er we touch. In the int’rest of humanity alone, Of wealth relieving those who have too much.
The sour old gent, whose worship vile is dross, We hate to see a-wallowing in tin; It ain’t ‘cos gain to us to him is loss, We eases him ‘cos avarice is sin.
Erminie, daughter of the Marquis de Pontvert, is about to be betrothed to Ernst, a young nobleman. He is on his way to the betrothal ceremony when he has the misfortune to meet this philanthropic pair, who, after depriving him of his wardrobe, tie him to a tree. They go in his stead to the Lion d’Or for the betrothal festivities, Ravennes presenting himself as no other than the fiancé and introducing Cadeaux as his friend of high degree. They explain their inappropriate apparel by a fine tale of a holdup and robbery at the hands of a highwayman. Cadeaux is half intoxicated and his remarkably bad manners and language nearly bring them to grief. However, Ravennes tells that the ” Baron ” is erratic and original and all suspicions are allayed. The betrothal, it must be explained, has not been anticipated with delight by the parties most concerned. Erminie is already in love with her father’s secretary, Eugene, and Ernst is cherishing a secret passion for Cerise Marcel, the friend of Erminie. Ernst, in due season, escapes his bonds and arrives somewhat late and in disordered attire. Ravennes throws the guests and the soldiers, who are in pursuit of two thieves, off the scent by raising a cry of ” Seize the villain,” and by claiming that Ernst is the thief who attacked them earlier in the day.
Ravennes convinces Erminie of his entire unselfishness and nobility of character by pretending sympathy for her in her love for Eugene and promising her his help in securing happiness, while she aids him, all unwittingly, in his plan for a wholesale robbery of the house, which plan just fails of being successful.
The opera is brought to a satisfactory conclusion with the robbers in the hands of the law and the happy pairing off of Eugene and Erminie and Ernst and Cerise.
This tuneful and interesting work has enjoyed great and enduring popularity in the United States. It was produced in New York at the Casino, March 10, 1886, with Francis Wilson as Cadeaux and has been one of the most frequently performed of the light operas.
The music is unusually tuneful and pleasing throughout. Numbers that have proven great favorites are “Ah ! When love is young; ” the martial song of the Marquis, “Dull is the life of the soldier in peace; ” Hermione’s song, “At midnight on my pillow lying; ” Eugene’s song, “The Darkest Hour; ” Ermine’s widely-sung lullaby, “Dear Mother, in dreams I see her ; ” the amusing solo for ” Caddy ” with a whistling chorus, “What the dickey-birds say ” and the vocal gavotte, ” Join in Pleasure, dance a measure.”