The season, day by day

back to calendar

The Bandits

Jacques Offenbach 1819–1880

Opéra bouffe in 3 acts
Libretto by Henri Meilhac & Ludovic Halévy
First performed December 10 1869, Théâtre des Variétés, Paris

Sung in German with German & English surtitles

Introductory talks (in German) in the Holzfoyer 30 minutes before performances begin
There's a chamber music concert on February 18 inspired by this work

Early morning in the woods: The robbers assemble. One’s missing: their leader Falsacappa. Four young girls appear following a supposed hermit to his hermitage; but it's none other than the notorious robber. His gang’s delighted by their chieftain’s catch, but the general mood’s not good; recent raids yielded next to nothing. And now Falsacappa’s daughter Fiorella’s gone and fallen in love with the young organic farmer Fragoletto, who they recently robbed, and vice versa: He wants to marry into the gang, but must prove himself first. They set off looking for someone to ambush; only Fiorella and Pietro, Falsacappa’s deputy, remain behind. A well-heeled gentleman’s lost his way. It’s the Prince of Mantua. This young man sparks Fiorella’s interest too. When Pietro goes to get the bandits to rob him she warns the Prince, without knowing who he is, and shows him the way out of the woods. He runs away reluctantly, because he’s very attracted to the lady robber. Fragoletto passed with flying colours by capturing a cabinet’s courier. Papers found on him indicate that the Princess of Granada is on her way to marry the Prince of Mantua. The reason’s financial: The Mantuans owe Spain 5 Million; they’ll get 2 Million as the Princess’s dowry, the remaining 3 are supposed to be handed over to the Spanish delegation. Falsacappa hatches a plan. He swaps the Princess’ portrait for a picture of his daughter and lets the courier continue on his way. Solemn rituals accompany Fragoletto’s joining the gang, followed by a booze-up. The party’s interrupted by the approaching Carabinieri, recognisable a long way off by the noise their boots make, so it’s easy for the robbers to hide and carry on partying once they’ve gone. ACT II The »Cheerful Frontier«, on the border between Spain and Italy: The landlord Pipo, his family and staff are preparing to greet the delegation from Mantua to await the delegation from Granada. The robbers arrive, disguised as beggars. They overpower the innkeepers and lock them in the cellar, before impersonating them. The delegation from Mantua arrive, led by Baron Campotasso and Bramarbasso, the leader of the Carabinieri, and his men. The fake innkeepers manage to overpower them too, and bundle them into the cellar. Then the Spaniards arrive; the robbers have to dress up as Mantuans very quickly to greet them. The arrogant Spaniards are incensed by the unusual welcome. While they’re made to wait Count Gloria-Cassis tells the Princess why she’s marrying the Prince of Mantua. The Princess is outraged; but then she and her page, Adolfo de Valladolid, find out that Fiorella and Fragoletto are lovers, for whose story she’s burning with curiosity. But now the Spaniards are overpowered too, and the robbers steal their clothes to take the 3 Million disguised as the delegation from Granada when they arrive in Mantua. Meanwhile the Carabinieri have found champagne in the cellar; so are incapable of putting up a fight. ACT III The Prince’s palace in Mantua: The Prince takes his leave from his adoring ladies-in-waiting with a heavy heart, because he’s got to get married. He asks his treasurer Antonio to settle the ladies’ bills. This puts him on the spot; he fiddled the books and squandered almost the entire state funds on his private amours. The fake Spaniards arrive. The Prince is astonished by the supposed Princess of Granada’s likeness to the young woman he met in the mountains. When Falsacappa, alias Count Gloria-Cassis, mentions the outstanding sum of 3 Million to the treasurer he tries to bribe him with a smaller sum. The robber chieftain is outraged. Now the real Spaniards, Carabinieri and Baron Campotasso arrive. Falsacappa’s coup failed. The robbers are threatened with the gallows. Fiorella reminds the Prince that she saved his life, so they’re all pardoned and decide to give up being robbers: The bandits can’t compete with criminal activities at court. In the meantime the treasurer and real Count Gloria-Cassis have quickly sorted out the financial transaction.

Life as a bandit ain’t what it used to be. Robber chieftain Falsacappa’s having trouble keeping his men happy: Recent forays raked in next to nothing.

When the robbers raided Fragoletto's farm he fell in love with Falsacappa’s daughter Fiorella, and she with him. So now he wants to be a robber too. To prove he's up to the job he makes an interesting catch: a ministerial courier. From papers in his possession they discover that the Princess of Granada’s on her way to marry the Prince of Mantua. Most of her dowry consists of money the Mantuans owe Spain. The rest – 3 million – is to be given to the delegation from Granada when they arrive. Falsacappa cooks up a plan ...

Jacques Offenbach, the master of satirical-biting wit and virtuosic situation comedy, proves he’s still at the top of his game with his operetta about robbers, always a popular theme.