11. MASANIELLO "Scraps From The Operas" by Justin Holland; two guitars





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Uploaded on Jan 24, 2012

Opera: La Muette de Portici (The Dumb Girl of Portici) (Masaniello)
Composer: D. F. E. Auber
Premiere: Paris, 1828.

Note: Portici is a city near Naples, and thus, Vesuvius. "La Muette" refers to the mute heroine of the opera, Fenella, who communicates with her dance. The alternate title, "Masaniello", is the name of her brother, the unfortunate hero of the opera.

Question: Is opera relevant? Maybe all you hear is pretty music, but when the Belgians heard this opera in 1830, they stormed out of the theater and started their own revolution for independence from the Dutch.

Scrap 1: Allegro non troppo.

This is the lively Market Scene in which vendors tout their wares and the populace makes merry in the Italian sunshine. It is in Act 3 of 5. Below the surface, the citizens' resentment towards the Spanish rule churns. A little later, Masaniello's mute sister Fenella is seized in the square by the captain of the Spanish guard. Masaniello rescues his sister, and the people's determination to rise up is forged.

Scrap 2 (at 1:22): Barcarolle. Andantino.

In Act 2, Masaniello is requested to give a song to cheer his comrades who are also brooding on their oppressed state. Masaniello sings the famous barcarolle, "Amis, la matinee est belle" ("Friends, the morning is beautiful"). He assures them the day of freedom will come soon, and he cautions them to be careful to not let on anything is afoot.

The music is used again in Act 5 where Masaniello shows he has lost his sanity. The troops are marching on Naples and Vesuvius is erupting, and a disheveled Masaniello enters and sings of the fine night and the joy of a fisherman king's life.

Scrap 3 (at 3:26): Marcia. Allegro mod.

In Act 4, Masaniello promises safety to a fugitive at his hut who turns out to be the hated Viceroy's son. A little later, the people arrive and declare Masaniello their king. He rides away on a finely arrayed steed. To this march music, the people sing the praises of Masaniello while his comrades express disgust at his behavior.

The march also comes around twice in the overture.

Justin Holland (1819-1887) was a 19th-century black American guitarist. He was the most important guitarist of his generation. Over 300 of his guitar arrangements were published. His earlier editions predate the Civil War. He would have been a household name to anyone who played guitar in that era of home music-making.

Moreover, Justin Holland devoted much of his life to working for the end of slavery and the advancement of his race. He participated in the operation of the Underground Railroad in Cleveland. He secured recognition of African-American Freemasons by white Freemasons in Europe. He joined other African-American leaders in local, state, and national Negro Conventions.

Guitar Primo (left) - Bob Wysong
Guitar Secondo (right) - Donald Sauter
Recorded: ca 2008

Credit: Sheet music from the collection of the Library of Congress. Other text from "A Guide To The Opera" by Esther Singleton (1899), "The Standard Opera Guide" by George P. Upton (1885, etc.), "The Complete Opera Book" by Gustav Kobbe (1919, etc.), and "The Metropolitan Book Of The Opera" by Pitts Sanborn (1937).

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