Comic opera in three acts
by Giovacchino Forzano
music by Alberto Franchetti (1940/41)
Don Geronimo Bonaparte, priest baritone
The general baritone
The corporal Charles Martiéz tenor
The knight Franco Rubanti baritone
The friar Padre Silvestro bass
The lawyer Gualtiero Imbrogliati tenor
Tommaso, known as Maso, sacristan tenor
Maria Buonamici, widow soprano
Mattea, her daughter soprano
Agnese Carlotti, Don Geronimo’s housekeeper mezzo-soprano
A peasant bass
Peasant men and women – soldiers – townspeople of Certaldo
The action takes place in Tuscany near Certaldo in October 1804
The action takes place in a small village near Certaldo a few months before Napoleon Bonaparte is crowned emperor.
In the small Tuscan village, as preparations are being made for a party to celebrate the engagement between Mattea and Maso, while also celebrating the results of an exceptional grape harvest and competing to see who has produced the most bottles of wine, a platoon of the Napoleonic army arrives looking for the local parish priest, Don Bonaparte.
The news that the general has to communicate comes directly from the future emperor, who wants to confer the cardinal purple on his old uncle, the parish priest. Don Bonaparte is to pack his bags, travel to Rome for the investiture, and then to Paris, as cardinal, for Napoleon’s coronation. Carriage and horses are already ready for departure, but the nervous and confused parish priest, faced with such an important decision, asks for two days.
The news causes a veritable revolution in the small village, with some claiming rights to go with the parish priest and some who dream of Paris and social redemption. There are even those – a lawyer, a friar, and a knight (emblematic of the three most important state institutions) – who demand large favours and illegal facilitations for their own interests and personal affairs, not hesitating to invoke corruption as a given, so to speak, a natural fact. The surnames of two of the three allude, with bitter mockery, to their inherent dishonest natures.
The peace and quiet of the small village is now hopelessly disturbed. Everyone seems to have gone mad, and even the love affair between Mattea and Maso encounters unexpected obstacles, or rather, brings to maturity the initial indecision of a young woman eager for wider prospects than the limited horizon of the small town. The love at first sight between her and the corporal kindles the affair with nuances ranging from the farcical to the licentious, ending with a providential restorative marriage.
The opera concludes with the decision, unexpected by all: Don Bonaparte will not leave for either Rome or Paris. There is general astonishment, but then the appeasement of spirits in the return to normalcy with the exaltation of small peasant virtues.