The Clandestine Marriage – Il Matrimonio Segreto

“Il Matrimonio Segreto,” or “The Clandestine Marriage,” a comic opera in two acts, with music by Domenico Cimarosa and words by Bertati, was produced in Florence in 1792.


  • Carolina, younger daughter of Geronimo
  • Fidalmo, sister of Geronimo
  • Elisetta, elder daughter of Geronimo
  • Paolina, clerk to Geronimo
  • Count Robinson
  • Geronimo, a rich merchant
  • The scene is laid near London in the house of Geronimo

Carolina, the fair and amiable young daughter of Geronimo, has for the past two months been secretly married to his clerk, Paolina, a worthy youth. Knowing the merchant’s ambition to ally himself with the nobility, they are fearful of disclosing their secret, although it weighs heavily upon both of them.

Paolino’s friend, Count Robinson, expresses his willingness to wed any well-portioned maiden, if she can match his rank with a dowry of one hundred thousand crowns and Paolino hopes that by arranging the match with Carolina’s elder sister, Elisetta, he will gain such favor for himself that forgiveness will be easily be obtained from the father.

The marriage is duly agreed upon, much to the frankly expressed joy of Geronimo. The bride-to-be, whose disposition is far from amiable, immediately takes on great airs and taunts her younger sister with being envious. Embarrassments arise when Count Robinson comes to claim his fiancée and declares that his hart will inform him which is she. He promptly places himself beside the lovely Carolina. When told of his mistake he next chooses her aunt Fidalmo, a widow, who at a previous moment in the opera has coyly spoken of her willingness to make a second matrimonial venture.

Great is his disappointment when he is forced to the realization that his fiancée must be Elisetta. In fact, he will have nothing to do with her. Soon a way out of the matter occurs to him and he suggests it to Paolino. It is that the younger sister shall be substituted and the dowry cut in half. Of course, Paolina is aghast at this, although he naturally finds it easy to understand the Count’s preference. In the meantime, Count Robinson’s conduct towards Elisetta is discussed and it is agreed that “even to a wife” he could not have behaved worse. Elisetta discovers him trying to make love to Carolina and her jealousy leads her to a really disgraceful scene, the noise of which summons the apprehensive father. He professes great indignation at the treatment his daughter has received but is appeased when he hears the proposal about cutting the dowry in half. He says that the exchange may be made on condition that the fair Elisetta agrees to it. Whereupon the Count sets out with the avowed intention of making her hate him.

Paolino in desperation seeks the advice of Fidalmo but this lady misunderstands him and, thinking that he is making a proposal of marriage to her, she accepts him at once. Paolino and Carolina plan to fly by night, some instant course being necessary, especially as Fidalmo and Elisetta have decided that the offending sister must be banished to a convent for alienating the affections of the Count. Before this escape can be accomplished, however, Elisetta, made with jealousy, spies upon her sister and, hearing a noise in her apartment, makes a great outcry, calling out that the count is discovered. That gentleman comes to his own door, very sleepy and very angry, and demands an apology. Meantime, Paolino and Carolina appear and make their long delayed confession. Geronimo gives way to fury but Count Robinson comes to the aid of the young couple and offers to marry Elisetta if it will do anything toward restoring peace. The father is happy again and the curtain goes down as he gives orders for a wedding as showy as possible.

This work is a masterpiece of its kind (the buffo), and retained its popularity for many years. It was received with great enthusiasm. It is recorded that at the end of the first performance the emperor had supper served to the company and then demanded the immediate repetition of the work.