Opera: Maritana – William Vincent Wallace

“Maritana,” an opera in three acts, with text by Fitzball, founded upon the romance of “Don Caesar de Bazan” and with music by William Vincent Wallace, was produced at Drury Lane, London, Nov. 15, 1845.


Charles II., King of Spain. Don José de Santarem, his minister. Don Casar de Bazan. Marquis de Montefiori. Lazarillo. Alcalde. Captain of Guards. Maritana, a Gypsy. Marchioness de Montefiori. Nobles, alguazils, soldiers, men-at-arms, populace, gypsies. The scene is laid in Madrid.

Maritana is a beautiful Gypsy girl with a charming voice who, when singing in the public square in Madrid, succeeds in captivating the gay King Charles, who is in the crowd in disguise. He gives the maid a piece of gold of much value and hastens away but not before the keen eyes of his minister, Don José, have discovered his identity. To further certain designs of his own in respect to the neglected Queen, Don José resolves to assist the King in this evidently desired amour. When Maritana offers to read the minister’s palm, he says he will tell her fortune instead and paints for her a career in which such splendors as a palace and a prince for a husband are included. As Maritana is ambitious, she is delighted beyond measure.

In the meantime, Don Caesar de Bazan comes striding out of a humble tavern, a bit uncertainly it is true, for he is not averse to wine as well as the other loves of a good fellow. In spite of the shabbiness of his attire, his bearing is that of a gentleman. Don José, who is an old acquaintance, is surprised to see him so down at the heel. When the minister speaks of the absence of his one-time numerous followers, Bazan returns that he has them yet but that they are all creditors. His misfortunes have not embittered him, however, and his first impulse is, as ever, toward generosity. So when the poor youth Lazarillo, who has been trying to make away with himself, appears, he defends him against his oppressors in spite of the fact that he knows dueling in Holy Week is punishable by hanging. For this, he is arrested and cast into prison.

In the second act, we find Don Caesar in prison with the faithful Lazarillo watching over him. He wakes to find that only two hours of life remain but not even this can dim his gaiety and courage. He playfully asks the boy how he would spend them had he but two hours to live and, when Lazarillo timidly suggests sending for a priest and confessing his sins, Don Caesar laughs and says it could never be done in two hours. Don José comes with proffers of friendship and proposes to give him his one wish, a soldier’s death, if he will consent to be married. Don Caesar quite willing, assumes the bridal apparel provided and is soon the husband of a heavily veiled lady. Previous to this, however, Lazarillo has brought in a paper which Don José, discovering it to be the king’s pardon, intercepts. After the bride has gone and while Don Caesar is feasting with his executioners, Lazarillo extracts the bullets from the arquebuses. When they are discharged, Don Casar feigns death and later on walks away unhurt.

The scene changes to the salon in the palace of the Marquis and Marchioness of Montefiori, where Don José brings Maritana, who fancies she has been married to the King. He reminds them of past obligations, requests them to recognize in her a long-lost niece and to introduce her as such. Maritana is presented to the King, who is very attentive, for Don José has promised to insure their meeting at an appointed hour. Maritana is deeply dejected not to find in him the dashing Don Cesar. Soon, however, this latter gentleman arrives safe and sound, much to the amazement of Don José, and demands his wife. The intriguer brings forth the old Marchioness and Don Caesar is so disappointed that he agrees with alacrity to sign a paper relinquishing her and has the pen in his hand when he hears Maritana’s voice and declares that it was with her that he knelt at the altar. The act ends with his arrest.

In the third act, Maritana is discovered a prisoner in a magnificent villa of the King. She realizes that she is the victim of a plot and in her purity persistently repulses all the royal advances, although Don José still hopes to see his heinous plans succeed. Here Don Caesar, seeking his bride, comes only to find the king there before him. The inter-view is most amusing, for in his confusion, Charles declares that he is Don Caesar de Bazan and his vis-à-vis returns that he himself is then the king of Spain. For the first time Don Caesar learns that he has been pardoned and, while the king is absent for a few moments, he and Maritana find that their love is mutual. Don José’s treachery and his intended insult to the Queen are discovered by Don Casar, beneath whose sword he falls. In gratitude, the King makes him governor of Valencia, a locality especially desirable because it is distant enough to be beyond the easy access of creditors.

This delightfully humorous and melodious opera contains many popular ballads, among them being, in the first act, Maritana’s song, “It was a Knight” and her lovely romanza, “‘Tis the harp in the air; ” the duet of Maritana and Don José “Of fairy wand had I the power;” Don Caesar’s merry drinking song, “All the world over:” the chorus, “Pretty Gitana, tell us what the fates decree” and spirited finale ensemble.

In the second act are Lazarillo’s song over Don Casar sleeping, “Alas, those chimes so sweetly stealing;” Don Caesar’s stirring song, “Yes, let me like a soldier fall ; ” the King’s aria, “The Mariner in his barque” and the finale, “What Mystery.” In the third act occurs that much-loved song by Maritana, “Scenes that are the brightest;” the duet of Don Caesar and the King, when they meet each under the other’s name; “Holy Mother, guide his foot-steps” sung by Maritana and Don Caesar’s tender song, “There is a flower.