“L’Amico Fritz” or “Friend Fritz” is a lyric comedy in three acts, the music by Pietro Mascagni, the book by P. Sardon after the novel of Erckmann-Chatrian of the same name. It was first presented at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome, Oct. 31, 1891.
Fritz Kobus, a rich bachelor. Rabbi David. Federico, a friend of Fritz. Hanenzo, a friend of Fritz. Suzel, the head farmer’s daughter. Beppe, a gypsy. Caterina, a housekeeper. Chorus behind the scenes.
The most interesting character in the opera is David, the Rabbi, the consummate match-maker, whose good humor and knowledge of human nature permeated every situation.
Fritz Kobus is a rich bachelor who has reached the age of forty without becoming a convert to matrimony. In fact, he is openly averse to it and declares himself “A friend to all, a husband, never.” The Rabbi knows his excellent qualities and believes that marriage would bring him happiness. So he sets very cleverly about it to find him a suitable wife. Fritz’s birthday is celebrated by his friends with a feast. Among those who come to do him honor is Suzel, the daughter of one of his farmers, who brings him violets and presents her father’s respects. In spite of all his boasted indifference to women, the girl’s beauty and simplicity appeal to him and he speedily makes the visit to her father’s farm which she has requested. They pick cherries together and the pretty incident comes near to completing the capture of the bachelor. The Rabbi sees them and is satisfied that his plans are prospering. To make sure of the state of the maiden’s affection, he bids her tell him the old love-story of Isaac and Rebecca and her deep confusion convinces him that she is truly in love with Fritz. Believing that a little jealousy is necessary to bring the wary bachelor to capitulation, he casually informs him that he has found Suzel a husband. Fritz is very indignant at the thought of trying to marry off ” such a baby ” and, in rage, vows it shall not be done. He is miserable indeed when David tells him later that everything is arranged. When Suzel appears, looking sad and pale, he inquires ironically whether she has come to invite him to the wedding, whereupon she bursts into tears. He suspects for the first time that she is not indifferent to him and, in the prettiest and simplest of love-scenes, they are betrothed. Fritz’s wager of his vineyard, Clairefontaine, made at the birthday feast apropos of the marriage question is lost and the delighted winner, Rabbi David, hands it over to Suzel for a dowry.
This opera, which the public awaited with eagerness, did not meet the expectations aroused by ” Cavalleria Rusticana.” Although it has many merits of its own, it is generally agreed that the subject is too gentle for the dramatic and sensational style of Mascagni.
Among the more notable numbers in the score are Suzel’s presentation of the violets; Beppe’s song in the first act; the charming ” cherry ” duet, which is the best number; Suzel’s story of Isaac and Rebecca and the final duet of Fritz and Suzel, ” Io t’amo, t’amo, o dolce mio tesor ” (” I love thee “).