Music with Ease > 19th Century French Opera > La Navarraise - Massenet
(English title: The Girl from Navarre)
An Opera by Jules Massenet
Opera in one act by Massenet; libretto by Jules Claretie and Henri Cain. It was performed for the first time at Covent Garden June 20, 1894, by Mme. Calve and Messrs. Alvarez, Plançon, Gilibert, Bonnard, and Dufriche.
The opera is one of other days. Now it is seldom given. There were two famous Anitas -- Emma Calve and Jeanno Gerville-Reache. The extraordinary success of "Cavalleria Rusticana" no doubt impelled Massenet to try his hand at a tragic one-act opera just as "Haensel and Gretel" was responsible for his "Cendrillon." It is among the best of his works. The music is intensely dramatic. It has colour, vitality. The action is swift and stirring, uninterrupted by sentimental romanzas. The libretto is based on a short story, "La Cigarette," written by Jules Claretie and published in the Figaro Illustré about 1890. Later it gave the title to a collection of short stories.
The time is during the last days of the Carlist war. The place is Spain. Araquil, a Buscayan peasant, loves Anita madly, but her parents frown upon his poverty. No crime seems too great to win his bride. General Garrito, the Spanish chief, has promised a reward to any man who will deliver up Zucarraga, the Carlist. When this dangerous foe is injured in battle, Araquil poisons the wound and claims the promised reward. The general pays the sum, but, disgusted, orders Araquil to be shot. Anitas father consent to the wedding before the execution. But Anita refuses disdainfully, and Araquil is killed as he puffs a cigarette. This is Clareties story. At his suggestion and for the purposes of opera the parts were changed. Araquil became Anita and the peasant with the cigarette became La Navarraise.