Gasparone, Operetta by Carl Millöcker
Operettas often thrive on tales of deception, but Carl Millöcker’s Gasparone takes things a step further. We never meet the real Gasparone, indeed if such a man even exists. Instead, Millöcker’s characters use the eponymous scoundrel’s fame and reputation to cover up their own misdeeds as they scramble to lay their hands on the fortune of a countess.
Nasoni, the district mayor, is determined to have his son, Sindulfo, marry the recently widowed Countess Carlotta who stands to inherit a fortune. Count Erminio, however, has his own plans for the countess. Benozzo and Massaccio talking about the legendary smuggler Gasparone, a ruse to prevent the area’s customs officers discovering their own illegal activities, is the chance Erminio has been looking for. He blackmails the pair into holding up the countess’ coach, under the guise of Gasparone, so that he can save her.
After the mock rescue, the mayor sees that Carlotta and Erminio are falling in love and senses that his son’s opportunity is slipping away. Persuading the countess that he can influence the lawsuit through which she will acquire her millions, she agrees to the proposed union with Sindulfo. But just as Nasoni announces that Carlotta has won her case, Sindulfo is kidnapped. Or so Benozzo would have us believe. In truth, Sindulfo’s capture has been staged and blamed on the imaginary Gasparone.
Erminio, ever the rogue, steals Carlotta’s fortune. Sindulfo then reappears, but at this point, Nasoni, with Carlotta penniless, has lost all interest in the wedding. Instead he turns his attention to finding the non-existent Gasparone. Benozzo and Massaccio now fear that they will end up being convicted of a set of crimes that haven’t really taken place. The count, however, still has one more trick up his sleeve.
First performed on 26 January 1884 at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna, Gasparone was a success on both sides of the Atlantic: some sixty performances in the Austrian capital before moving to Berlin and then, in 1885, a double premiere, in English and German, at the Standard (now the Manhattan) and Thalia theatres in New York. One waltz from the show, “Er soll dein Herr sein, wie stolz das klingt”, became so popular that its first audiences sang it in the streets. Today’s music lovers at the Volksoper Wien can look forward to a song and dance fest from one of the masters of Viennese operetta.