Opera: Falka – Francis Chassaigne

“Falka,” a comic opera in three acts, with score by Francis Chassaigne and text by Leterrier and Vanloo, was first produced, Oct. 29, 1883, at the Comedy Theatre, London.


Folbach, Military Governor of Montgratz. Tancred, his nephew, usher in a village school. Arthur, a student, son of a rich Hungarian farmer. Lay-Brother Pelican, doorkeeper of the convent. Konrad, captain of the Governor’s pages. Tekeli, sergeant of the patrol. Boboky, a Tzigan scout. Boleslas, chief of the Tzigani. The seneschal, Folbach’s steward. Falka, niece of Folbach, at the convent school. Edwige, sister of Boleslas. Alexina de Kelkirsch, a young heiress. Minna, her maid. Janotha, landlady of the inn. Military pages, soldiers of the watch, maids of honor, peasants, Bohemians.

The action passes in Hungary, about the middle of the Eighteenth Century. Folbach is a military governor and is promised by the emperor a patent of nobility on condition that he can show a male heir, direct or collateral, on whom the succession may be settled. He is childless but has a nephew, Tancred, and a niece, Falka, of both of whom he has disposed, upon the death of his brother, by sending the boy to be an usher in a village school and by putting the girl into a convent. He builds his hope upon Tancred, whom he never has seen and whom he has summoned from his humble post. But while the youth is on his way through the forest at night he is waylaid by gypsies and bound to a tree. Edwige, the chief’s sister, offers to release him on condition that he will marry her. He promises and then ignominiously takes flight. Tancred is closely pursued by his fiancée and her brother, neither of whom has seen his face. Their meager clues are limited to the sound of his voice and to certain pet words in which he has indulged. Learning that he is a nephew of the Governor, they decide to lurk about until the meeting and thus identify him. But of this scheme Tancred learns and to baffle them he sends word to his uncle that he is ill and cannot appear.

Meantime, Falka has been making history for herself and has eloped from her convent with Arthur, the son of a rich Hungarian farmer. They come to the inn where the Governor is waiting for Tancred and are closely followed by Brother Pelican, doorkeeper of the convent. Falka eludes her pursuer by dressing in Arthur’s clothes. Finding that her brother is expected at the inn, she impersonates him. Folbach is greatly pleased with his heir. Things are further complicated when Pelican finds Falka’s convent dress and, suspecting that she is disguised as a boy, arrests Arthur for Falka. Edwige and Boleslas, witnessing the meeting of the Governor and Falka, believe that they have found the faithless Tancred. As the act ends the cortège sets out to the castle, where the heir presumptive is to be betrothed to Alexina de Kelkirsch, the bride assigned to Tancred by the emperor.

In Act II, Arthur is made to put on convent dress and is marched away by Pelican leaving Falka, in huzzar uniform, to win her uncle’s forgiveness, which, on account of his antipathy to girls, she knows will be difficult. Tancred comes, in footman’s costume, to watch over his own interests and to defeat the schemes of the young impostor not knowing that it is his sister. He dares not yet reveal himself because of the gypsies but he hopes that these persons will dispose of his rival for him, under the impression that it is he. Falka is challenged to a duel by Boleslas and averts it by a private confession to Edwige that she is a woman. Arthur is brought back from the convent in haste and has to own up to an exchange of clothes with Falka, and in disgust the Governor orders the pair out of his presence. At this desired consummation, Tancred cries ” O joy! O rapture!,” familiar words which reveal him to his pursuers. The Governor’s state of mind is unpleasant when he learns that Tancred is betrothed to a gypsy and that he possesses such a madcap niece.

In Act III, the Governor, obliged to carry out the emperor’s will, dispiritedly goes on with the marriage of Tancred and Alexina. Falka is consigned to a tower to await her restoration to the convent. Edwige and Alexina have an interview and, as a result, the gypsy presents herself as the bride. Meantime Falka escapes from her tower only to be recaptured and led before her uncle. Admiring her pluck and spirit in spite of himself, he pardons her just as a despatch from the emperor arrives, settling the succession on the female line.

The principal numbers are the patrol chorus, “While all the town is sleeping; ” the air and refrain, “I’m the Captain Boleslas ; ” the rondo duet of Falka and Arthur, “For your indulgence we are hoping;” the “Tap tap” chorus of the maids of honor; Falka’s song ” You must live strictly by rule; ” the pretty Bohemian chorus, ” Cradled upon the heather ; ” the trio “Oh Joy ! Oh Rapture ! ; ” the quintet, “His aspect’s not so overpow’ring ; ” the bridal chorus ” Rampart and bastion gray;” the Hungarian rondo and dance, “Catchee, catchee;” the romanza, “At even-tide ; ” the duet, ” Slumber, O Sentinel” and the finale, “And now a long good-bye.”