Schubert / Alfonso und Estrella (1)

The person responsible for the story of this opera is Franz von Schober. I will summarize the libretto. Note that there seems to be some confusion on the internet about whether the deposed king of Leon is named Troila or Froila. I am going with Troila because that is what is printed in the score that I am looking at.

Troila and his son Alfonso live in an isolated valley, where Troila is very popular among the common folk, who do not know that he is the deposed king of Leon. Alfonso chafes at being confined to the valley. His father gives him a necklace, the Chain of Eurich, to cheer him up.

Meanwhile Mauregato, the man who deposed Troila, is experiencing some domestic drama. Mauregato’s general, Adolfo — who we will persistently confuse with Alfonso, because really, Schober, you couldn’t have named him Brian or something so we could keep the two of them straight? — has a little bit of a crush on Mauregato’s daughter Estrella. Estrella is having none of this. However, back when he was usurping Troila’s throne Mauregato made Brian a promise, out of gratitude, that Brian could have anything of Mauregato’s that he wanted. Brian wants Estrella. As noted, Estrella is not enthusiastic about this idea. Mauregato comes up with rather a clever dodge. He tells Brian that only the man who turns up with the Chain of Eurich can marry Estrella.

You see where this is going.

Anyway. On to Act II. Estrella gets lost in the woods. She’s rather distraught about this, but fortunately she runs into Alfonso and he gives her the Chain of Eurich to cheer her up. Frodo Baggins passes through at this point, but it turns out no one wants the One Ring, what with having the Chain of Eurich already, and so Frodo continues on his way. (Tolkein ripped most of the Lord of the Rings off Franz von Schober. Most people don’t know this.)

Angry with Estrella and Mauregato, Brian raises a rebellion. Meanwhile, Estrella, directed by the helpful Alfonso, has returned home. Mauregato recognizes her necklace, but Brian’s rebellion causes a lot of racket and Estrella can’t make out what her father is trying to tell her about the necklace.

Act III.

Brian has overestimated his military skill. However, he does manage to capture Estrella. He offers her the usual ultimatum: marriage or death. Estrella explains that these two things are in fact symbolically linked, and that it’s actually quite interesting that he’s offering her the choice of la petite mort or the Real Mort. Brian counters that she is changing the subject, and besides, whether she will get any petite mort out the bargain at all is an open question, because this is an early nineteenth century opera and as such adheres to certain fairly rigid narrative conventions. Estrella tells him to fuck off.

Alfonso has learned that Estrella is Mauregato’s daughter. So he lends Mauregato military aid, and they crush Brian and his rebels and rescue Estrella. Mauregato repents of his past misdeeds and gives Troila his kingdom back. Alfonso marries Estrella and that is the end.

This story was set to music by the brilliantly talented but perhaps in this instance over-optimistic Franz Schubert.

(Next part, with discussion of the music, here.)

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