The Bohemian Girl – Opera in three acts by Michael William Balfe

The Bohemian Girl

Opera in three acts by Michael William Balfe. Text by Bunn.

THE opera opens with a scene on Count Arnheim’s grounds near Presburg. Count Arnheim’s retainers are waiting to accompany him to the hunt. He appears with his foppish nephew Florestein, who is afraid of a gun. He bids farewell to his little daughter Arline, and she goes up a mountain path with Buda, her nurse, and Florestein. Thaddeus, a Polish exile, enters exhausted from pursuit. Gypsies appear, headed by Devils-hoof. They attempt to rob Thaddeus, but after some parley he decides to join their band. Devils-hoof takes everything he has except his commission, but gives him a ragged gypsy dress in return. He mingles with the gypsies just as a troop of soldiers come to apprehend him. Huntsmen return in excitement; Florestein appears, terrified. Arline has been attacked by a wild animal. Thaddeus rescues her, and the Count in gratitude invites him to a feast, daring which he refuses to drink to the Emperor. He is repudiated by all, but Devilshoof comes to his aid. As a reward for the rescue of Arline the Count offers the exile a purse, which he proudly refuses. Thaddeus and Devilshoof are imprisoned, but the latter escapes and carries off Arline. He is seen by the Count and his guests crossing a frail bridge between two rocks with the child in his arms. He breaks down the bridge and disappears.

The second act reveals a street in Presburg twelve years later. We see the tent of the gypsy Queen. Arline sleeps while Thaddeus keeps watch. Devilshoof and others enter with a new project to rob Florestein, who is flushed with wine. They secure his valuables, bit the Queen makes them return everything. Florestein is solicitous about a medallion which has disappeared and which is an heirloom of great value. Devils-hoof has secreted it. Arline awakens and tells Thaddeus her dream in the aria “I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls.” Thaddeus and Arline declare their love. The Queen, through jealousy, is angry, but, ridiculed by Devilshoof, joins their hands according to the gypsy rite.

The scene shifts to another street where a fair is being held. Count Arnheim and Florestein appear. Florestein compliments Arline, which amuses her, until he tries to kiss her, when she slaps him vigorously. The Queen, recognizing him, gives Arline the stolen medallion, so that she will be accused of robbing him. This plan succeeds, but Thaddeus and the gypsies protect Arline. Nevertheless, she and Thaddeus are imprisoned.

The final scene of the act shows Count Arnheim’s apartments with a portrait of Arline in her childhood. The Count enters sadly, and gazes at the portrait. He sings “The heart bowed down.” The captain of the guard reports Arline’s capture. She is brought in and pleads her innocence, but in her humiliation is about to. stab herself. The Count, while stopping her, observes a scar by which he recognizes her as his daughter, and Thaddeus, who enters at that moment, as her preserver.

The last act takes place in the Count’s castle. Arline, in rich attire, is sad and lonely. She looks with longing at her gypsy dress. Devilshoof boldly enters the room and begs her to rejoin the tribe. Thaddeus appears at the window. He sings “Then you’ll re-member me.” The two men hide themselves as the guests enter. The Queen of the gypsies suddenly appears and tells the Count that Thaddeus is concealed in his daughter’s room. The Count denounces his daughter. Thaddeus comes from his hiding-place, and declares Arline innocent. He proclaims his identity as a Polish noble. The Count is reassured, but the Queen tries to kill Thaddeus, and Devilshoof, while attempting to snatch the rifle from her hands, accidentally shoots her. The joy of the lovers is too great to be marred, and all ends happily.