Comic operas in one act, in Hungarian, with English surtitles
- Eiffel Art Studios – Miklós Bánffy Stage
- Feb. 5, 2022
- Start time
- 7 p.m.
- End time
- 9:45 p.m.
Tante Simona (Aunt Simona)
Ernst von Dohnányi is one of those Hungarian composers whose works are played much less frequently than they deserve to be. The Opera is striving to correct this situation: after our productions of The Tower of the Voivod and The Tenor, next up is our staging of Tante Simona, the first opera that the former general director of Budapest’s Franz Liszt Academy of Music ever wrote. The comic opera takes places in Italy and follows the story of Aunt Simona, who was abandoned by her sweetheart long ago and, with her bitterness undiminished by the intervening years and now intent on protecting her niece, Beatrice, from the disappointments of love, attempts to shut out any and all men from her life – naturally, without success.
Le luthier de Crémone (The Violin Maker of Cremona)
The city of Cremona announces a competition to see who can craft a violin finer than any other. The stakes are high: aside from a golden necklace, the winner will also gain the hand in marriage of the beautiful daughter of the master craftsman Ferrari. Premiered in Budapest in 1894, Le luthier de Crémone is Jenő Hubay’s most popular opera. On special occasions, the composer himself would play its remarkable violin solo. The work received great acclaim both in Hungary and abroad, with runs in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and even New York, making it the second Hungarian opera, after Karl Goldmark’s Die Königin von Saba, to be staged on the other side of the Atlantic. Since being made into a television drama in 1987, it has not been performed for more than 30 years. Staging it now will be Bence Varga, who attracted notice for his production of Sancta Susanna.
A wayfarer arrives at the fence of an ancient villa. His singing awakens the young and lonely Beatrice and attracts the attention of the gardener. It emerges that the self-declared minstrel is actually the rakish Count Florio, while the gardener is the young Count Ghino in disguise. Ghino has been pretending to be a deaf-mute in order to get close to Beatrice, with whom he is in love. The two old comrades only have a short time to enjoy their reunion before they are disturbed by Nuto, the house servant. Aunt Simona, the mistress of the house, had ordered that no other men be allowed to enter the estate. Nevertheless, the “gardener” hides his much older friend in the greenhouse. Beatrice, who yearns for adventure, laments the disappearance of the unknown minstrel. Little does she know that Ghino is risking his life as he awaits the right moment to finally run away with her.
Beatrice does not understand why men must be banished from the house. Aunt Simona reveals that she had once been in love when she was young, but was terribly deceived and was abandoned at the altar. Disillusioned with men, she took in Beatrice. She fears the passion that she once had to go feel. Nuto announces that a delegate from the Convent of Saint Agatha has arrived. Simona rushes to receive the important guest.
Beatrice is left alone with her chatty maidservant, Giacinta, who relates from experience what it is like when a girl falls sincerely in love. In order to illustrate her point, she summons Ghino, still disguised as a gardener. The poor lad is embarrassed by the unexpected situation. Giacinta says that it is worth risking and suffering both grief and disappointment for love. After the maidservant returns to the villa to do her work, Ghino reveals himself to Beatrice. They rejoice in their feelings for each other and hide away in the arbour.
Aunt Simona is confidentially speaking with Nuto about how it is time to send Beatrice to the convent when they are alerted to suspicious sounds coming from the arbour. The two lovers are caught: Nuto immediately charges at Ghino. Beatrice helps her beloved to escape.
Simona threatens to send Beatrice to a convent. Count Florio, who has been hiding in the greenhouse throughout all this time, reveals himself. It turns out that the old wanderer is the one who long ago broke Aunt Simona’s heart. At the end of his adventures, Florio realized that life is not much worth living in loneliness, and that the most important virtue is fidelity. With great difficulty, Aunt Simona finally admits that she is still attracted to the old rascal. They quickly go into the arbour to revive their old memories.
Beatrice has no desire to enter the convent and prepares to abscond with Giacinta. The two are prevented from doing so by the return of Count Ghino. All of them notice Aunt Simona and Count Florio locked in an embrace. Learning from her own failure, Aunt Simona concedes that the heart cannot be commanded, and people must not deprive themselves of love. At Ghino’s request, she gives her blessing to the young couple. Everyone is filled with happiness, except for Nuto, who will have to look after the grounds himself now that there is no gardener to do it.
THE LUTHIER OF CREMONA
The master luthier Ferrari, head of the stringed instrument-makers guild in the city of Cremona, which is famous for its violins, announces that the mayor is holding a competition to see who can craft a violin of the highest quality. The reward for the winner will be a gold chain, along with the hand in marriage of Ferrari’s own daughter, Giannina, who is astonished that her father would simply give her away to the winner of the contest without consulting her. She is in love with her childhood playmate, the handsome and popular Sandro, who is employed in her father’s guild workshop. In order to win the girl for himself, the lad submits a violin that produces a beautiful sound as his entry in the contest. However, the hunchback Philippo, Ferrari’s other talented student, is also entering the competition. Making the situation even more intriguing is the fact that Sandro and Philippo are good friends: they have never competed with each other before.
Rumours circulate that Philippo has created an instrument with no rival anywhere in the world. Then one day, the local boys mock and physically abuse Phillippo after the good-hearted lad attempts to save the life of a stray dog. Giannina rushes to his aid. The two are truly close friends: Giannina had taken Philippo in to their household after he was orphaned.
Philippo summons up his courage and tells the girl that he is also competing for her hand. This revelation fills Giannina with despair, as she is in love with another, but doesn’t want to hurt her friend. She urges Philippo to play her a song on his wondrous violin, as she wishes to find out what chance Sandro has of victory.
Giannina is moved by the violin’s sound and confesses to Philippo that she loves Sandro. The good-natured Philippo is devastated by this news, and his first thoughts are of suicide. Then, his sense of selflessness prompts him to decide to secretly exchange the two instruments in order to help ensure his rival’s triumph. Fearful of defeat, Sandro too realises that he could sneak in and exchange the two violins in order to help him win the contest and Giannina’s hand. Inadvertently, he switches back the two instruments.
The great contest takes place on Cremona’s main square, with the unfortunate switch leading to Philippo winning after all. The mayor presents him with the gold chain, and Ferrari leads his daughter before him. The honourable young violin-maker, however, renounces Giannina’s hand, giving her instead to Sandro. Philippo himself will set off on a journey to establish his reputation far and wide with his violin. The city’s inhabitants join the happy young couple in celebrating Philippo’s magnanimity and artistry.