Opera: Stradella – Friedrich von Flotow

“Stradella,” a romantic opera in three acts, with music by Friedrich von Flotow and words after the French by W. Friedrich, is founded on the story of a semi-historical character, Alessandro Stradella, the singer. It was first produced as a lyric drama at the Palais Royal Théâtre, Paris, in 1837, but was rewritten and presented in Hamburg, Dec. 30, 1844, in its present form and under the title ” Alessandro Stradella.”

CHARACTERS

Stradella, a celebrated Venetian singer. Leonora, ward of Bassi. Signor Bassi, a wealthy citizen. Barbarino, Malvolio, assassins hired by Bassi. Pupils, maskers and peasants. The time of the opera is 1658, A. D.

Stradella, the singer, falls in love with Leonora, the ward of Bassi, who himself has planned to espouse her. During the Venetian carnival, Stradella and Leonora evade her guardian and fly to Rome to be married. Bassi, whose methods are to the point, hires Malvolio and Barbarino to trace them to their retreat, where Stradella is to be murdered, and his bride brought back to Venice. The assassins disguise themselves as pilgrims bent on business of the soul and easily gain a refuge in Stradella’s house, even finding a place at the wedding-feast. They are so touched, however, by their host’s marvelous singing, that their errand grows distasteful and they hesitate in their purpose.

Bassi comes in person to see that his work is well done. He upbraids his hirelings for their weakness and, by many times increasing the reward, exacts another promise from them to dispose of his enemy. Bassi and his men conceal themselves, ready to rush out upon their victim, but again Stradella’s lovely voice thwarts their purpose. They hear him rehearse a hymn to the Virgin, which he is to sing in public on the morrow, a performance so exquisite and moving that they throw away their daggers and, falling at his feet, confess all and beg henceforth to be called his friends. Even Bassi is repentant and craves forgiveness, which Stradella freely gives to them all.

It has frequently been said in criticism that Flotow wrote too palpably for effect but it cannot be denied by his detractors that many of the melodies of ” Stradella ” have more real sentiment than is usual with contemporaneous compositions.

Among admired selections from the first act of the opera are Stradella’s serenade, ” List, lady, List ! while true love singeth ” and the animated carnival chorus. In Act II occur Leonora’s bridal song ” Be witness to my young heart’s dreaming; ” the drinking duet of the bravos; the terzetto, sung by the hesitating assassins, ” Tell me now, friend Barbarino,” and Stradella’s lovely hymn to the Virgin, ” Virgin Mary; ever divinely,” which now is sung to the words, ” Pity, 0 Savior.”