Opera: The Merry War – Johann Strauss

“The Merry War,” a comic opera in three acts with text by Zell and Genée and music by Johann Strauss was first produced in Vienna, Nov. 25, 1881.


Countess Violetta. Colonel Umberto. The Duke de Limburg. Balthazar Groot, a Dutch Tulip Dealer. Elsa, wife of the Former. Spiuzzi. Franchetti. Biffi. Soldiers, citizens.

The scene of the operetta is laid in Genoa in the Eighteenth Century. The not too serious hostilities are brought about by the fact that a famous danseuse has made simultaneous contracts with the theatres of two petty states, Genoa and Massa Carrara. These states go to war over the matter, each insisting upon the fulfilment of its own particular contract.

A mock siege is held, the Genoese storming the fortress of Massa Carrara and each side throwing a harmless bombshell at noon every day. The Genoese, however, succeed in making three captures of some importance, the Marquis Sebastiani, an inveterate gossip ; a Dutch tulip planter, named Balthazar Groot; and the lovely Countess Violetta, who is in disguise. The feminine prisoner, making good use of her beauty, coaxes a pass out of Umberto, the gallant commander of the garrison. On subsequently discovering her rank, he decides to punish her for her deception by marrying her. The fact that Violetta is engaged to the Duke of Limburg and that the marriage is soon to take place, does not present itself to Umberto as a difficulty worthy of much consideration. He arranges that the ceremony shall be performed by the field chaplain, he to appear as the proxy of the Duke. In the ceremony no mention is made of the Duke and Umberto becomes the real husband, although of this the bride is ignorant.

In the second act, several new characters make their appearance. Among them is Elsa, wife of Balthazar Groot. For the benefit of Violetta, Groot has been compelled to pass himself off as the Duke of Limburg, and the jealousy of Elsa is of course aroused. Violetta finds that she abominates her pretended spouse, who can only jabber in Dutch. She also discovers that she is fond of Umberto.

In the third act, complications are nicely untied. Balthazar and’ Elsa find their conjugal bliss again and Umberto reveals to the delighted Violetta that she is married to him instead of to the Duke of Limburg. A dispatch is received to the effect that the dancer, the cause of the war, has run away and, as she will not keep her engagement with either theatre, peace is concluded.

Among the gay and tuneful numbers are the song of the Marchese, ” The Easiest Way’s the Best; ” Umberto’s song, ” There’s not a drop of blood yet spilled; ” Balthazar Groot’s number, “We came all the way from Holland; ” the duet of Violetta and Umberto, “Hear me! hear me ! ” ” Very Nice Conduct” sung by Balthazar ; the romanza, ” So near her now and yet so far; ” Umberto’s love song, ” Now darker falls the night ; ” Artemesia’s war song and the duet of Balthazar and Elsa, ” Two months have passed.”