Music with Ease > 19th Century Italian Opera > Isabeau - Mascagni
An Opera by Pietro Mascagni
With Rosa Raisa in the title role, the Chicago Opera Company produced Mascagnis "Isabeau" at the Auditorium, Chicago, November 12, 1918. The company repeated it at the Lexington Theatre, New York, February 13, 1918, also with Rosa Raisa as Isabeau. The opera had its first performances on any stage at Buenos Aires, June 2, 1911. The libretto, based upon the story of Lady Godiva, is in three acts, and is the work of Luigi Illica. The opera has made so little impression that I restrict myself to giving the story.
In Illicas version of the Godiva story, the heroine, Isabeau, is as renowned for her aversion to marriage as for her beauty. Her father, King Raimondo, eager to find for her a husband, arranges a tournament of love, at which she is to award her hand as prize to the knight who wins her favour. She rejects them all. For this obstinacy and because she intercedes in a quarrel, Raimondo dooms her to ride unclad through the town at high noon of the same day. At the urging of the populace he modifies his sentence, but only so far as to announce that, while she rides, no one shall remain in the streets or look out of the windows. The order is disobeyed only by a simpleton, a country lout named Folco. Dazed by Isabeaus beauty, he strews flowers for her as she comes riding along. For this the people demand that he suffer the full penalty for violation of the order, which is the loss of eyesight and life. Isabeau, horrified by Folcos act, visits him in prison. Her revulsion turns to love. She decides to inform her father that she is ready to marry. But the Chancellor incites the populace to carry out the death sentence. Isabeau commits suicide.
When "Isabeau" had its American production in Chicago, more than twenty-seven years had elapsed since the first performance of "Cavalleria Rusticana." A long list of operas by Mascagni lies between. But he still remains a one-opera man, that opera, however, a masterpiece.