Comic Opera in two acts by Peter Cornelius
The scene takes place in Bagdad, in the house of a wealthy young Mussulman called Nureddin. He is lying on a couch, surrounded by his servatns, who think him dying. But it is only the flame of love which devours his strength and deprives him of all energy. As soon as Bostana, an old relative and companion of his lady love, appears, in order to tell him the Margiana, his adored, is willing to receive him, Mureddin forgets his illness and only longs for the promised interview. The ensuing duet between him and Bostana, wherein she gives instruction about time and hour of the rendezvous, is delightfully fresh and piquant.
As Mureddin has neglected his personal appearance durin ghis malady, his first wish is for a barber, who is speedily sent to him by Bostana. This old worthy, Abul Hasson Ali Ebe Bekar, the barber, makes him desperate by his vain prattle. Haying solemnly saluted to Nureddin, he warns him not to leave the house, as his horoscope tells that his life is in danger. The young man not heeding him, Abul Hassan begins to enumerate all his talents as astrologer, philosopher, etc. When Nuredin orders him to begin his shaving he relates the fate of his six brothers, who all died before him and always of love. At last Nureddin’s patience giving away, he calls his servants in to throw the old dotard out of doors, but Abul drives them all back. Nureddin tries to pacify him with flattery and finally succeeds.
Now Abul is curious, as all barbers are, and having heard Nureddin’s sighs, he determines to find out all about the young man’s love. This scene is most ludicrous, when Abul sings his air “Margiana”, which name he has heard from Nureddin’s lips, and the latter is in despair at being left with only one side of his head shaved. This great work done at last, Abul wants to accompany the young lover to the house of the cadi Baba Mustapha, Margiana’s father. Nureddin agagin summons his servants, who begin to surround Abul, pretending to doctor him. Nureddin escapes, but Abul, after having shaken off the servants, runs after him.
The second act takes place in the cadi’s house. Margiana is full of sweet anticipation, while her father, who has already chosen a husband fro his daughter in the person of an old friend of his youth, shows her a large trunk full of gifts from the old bridegroom. Margiana admires them obediently. A musical scene of surpassing beauty follows, where we hear the call of the muezzin summoning the faithful to prayer. It is alos the sign for Nuredding to appear. The cadi hurries to the mosque and Bostana introduces the lover. Here ensues a charming love duet, accompanied, orginally enough, by a song from the old barber, who watches before the house. Suddenly they are interrupted by cries of alarm, and with dismay they learn from Bostana that the cadi has returned to punish a slave, who has broken a precious vase.
Nureddin, unable to escape unobserved, is hidden in the big trunk. Meanwhile Abul, having heard the slave’s cries and mistaking them for Nureddin’s, summons the latter’s servants and breaks into the cadi’s house to avenge his young friend, whom he velieves to be murdered. Bostana angrily bids him carry away the trunk, signigying to him whom she has hidden in it, but the cadi intervenes, believing the servants to be thieves who want ot rob his daughter’s treasure. The rumor of the murder gradually penetrates the whole town; its inhavitants gather before the house, and the appointed wailing women mingle their doleful lamentations with teh general uproar. At last the Calif himself appears in order to settle the quarrel.
The cadi accuses the barber of theft, while Abul calls the cadi a murderer. To throw light upon the matter, teh Calif orders the trunk to be opened, which is done with great hesitation by Margiana. Wehn the lid gives way Nureddin is lying in it in a deep swoon. All are terrified, believing him to be murdered; but Abul, caressing him, declares that his heart still throbs. The Calif bids the barber show his art, and Abul wakens Nureddin by the love song to Margiana. Theyoung man revives and the truth dawns upon the deceived father’s mind. The Calif, a very humane and clement prince, feels great sympathy with the beautiful young couple, and advises the cadi to let his daughter have her treasure, for he had told htem himself that it was Margiana’s treasure that was kept hidden in the trunk.
The cadi consents, while the Calif bids the funny barber come to his palace to entertain him with stories, and invites all present to the wedding of the betrothed pair, to the great satisfaction of the people. The brilliant finale is full of energy, and is espcially noteworthy on account of its melody.