The Black Crook (1866)
Libretto by Charles M. Barras
Act IV, Scene II
Editors Note: This show is generally referred to as the first Broadway musical. The playwright meant this to be a serious drama he had no idea the producers would throw in spectacular sets, lousy songs and a full ballet troupe. The dialogue was typical of the 1860's, which makes it easy to understand why none of the plays from this period are still performed today. Naturalistic conversation was definitely not expected; high-falutin' talk was all the rage on stage.
The published script describes lots of lavish stage effects and includes only a few lyrics, which made it easy for revivals to interpolate whatever songs came to hand. Notice that the chorus number in this scene is so darn generic that it could easily be replaced by "She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain." The script does not name the author of the lyric.
The Setup: The action is set in the Hartz Mountains, circa 1600. Rudolphe, an impoverished artist, is engaged to marry the equally poor but lovely village girl Amina. But Amina's scheming foster mother Barbara dismisses this idea and arranges for her daughter to marry the wealthy Count Wolfenstein. In the excerpt below, the Count's self-important steward Von Puffengruntz announces that the Count is arriving (accompanied by his goons, Wulfgar and Bruno) to claim his young bride.
He comes! Room there for his lordship.
(Villagers range themselves to receive the Count, who enters preceded by Guards and followed by Wolfgar and Bruno. When down, Villagers shout and raise their caps.)
Salutations of the good Dame Barbara.
(Curtsying very low.) Oh, your Lordship.
And how fares your lovely charge?
Well, may it please your Lordship quite well. A little nervous from over-anxiety to see your Lordship, but that is quite natural for us poor, silly things. I suffered dreadfully in that way when my poor, dear, dead and gone Christopher courted me. Many and many a time
(Impatiently interrupting her.)
But the fair Amina?
Is quite ready and dying to see you. I will present her to your Lordship at once.
(She is going into the cottage when RODOLPHE appears and comes forward, leading AMINA by the hand. Chord.)
Allow me, Dame Barbara, to do the honors.
ALL THE VILLAGERS
(Picture of astonishment.)
My Lord, Count Wolfenstein, permit me, Rodolphe Werner, a poor artist, to present you to Amina, foster daughter to Dame Barbara, a free maiden of this valley and my my affianced bride.
Who is this madman?
N-n-n-nobody, your Lordship. That is a poor, weak simpleton, who imagines he is betrothed to every girl in the village. As your Lordship truly says, a madman.
A madman! Mercy on us, we shall all be murdered. Seize him, secure him, somebody, everybody.
(Music, WULFGAR and BRUNO seize RODOLPHE, and after a struggle overpower him. AMINA screams, clings to him for a moment, then throws herself at the COUNT's feet. He raises her and passes her to BARBARA, then turns to guards.)
Release him. (They release him.) His misfortune claims our pity. Let some of his fellows conduct him hence and see that no harm comes to him.
(Defiantly.) My Lord Count!
Come, Rodolphe, come with me. (Aside.) Are you indeed mad to brave the tiger in his lair? (Leads him off.) Come I say, this is neither time nor place to right your wring. Be calm, I say, be calm!
(Shaking him by the hand.) You are right, Casper, you are right. (Looks scornfully at Wolfenstein.) Come, my friend, come. (Exit with CASPER.)
(Aside.) Tis he, the lover. He braves me, too. (Aloud.) Wulfgar! (WULFGAR advances. Speaks apart to him.) Track yonder knave, take Bruno with you. Seize him, but let no eye see you. Place him in the secret vault beneath the eastern wing. Once there you know the rest.
(Nods knowingly.) I understand. (Gives a sign to BRUNO, and is going.)
Stay not now, it will be noted; when the procession moves, then steal away by the upper path.
(WULFGAR nods, turns upstage and confers with BRUNO. WOLFENSTEIN confers withVON PUFFENGRUNTZ at back.)
(Leading AMINA forward and aside, to her.) Silence, on your life. Not a word that you have ever seen him before! If the Count were to know mercy on me! I tremble to think of it there would not be a head left on any of our shoulders.
(Birds heard singing, till scene closes.)
(Waving his hand.) Let the procession move.
(Music. WOLFENSTEIN joins AMINA. Villagers bring forward the festooned chair. WOLFENSTEIN assists AMINA into the seat. The chair is borne by four Villagers. The others form in procession, WOLFENSTEIN beside the chair, VON PUFFENGRUNTZ pompously leading BARBARA by the hand. WULFGAR and BRUNO loiter behind and when unobserved, steal off. The procession, after making a circle of the stage, ascends the rocks, and crosses to the right, the Villagers singing the following chorus.)
SONG: VILLAGERS' CHORUS
HARK, HARK, HARK,
HARK THE BIRDS WITH TUNEFUL VOICES
VOCAL FIR OUR LADY FAIR
AND THE LIPS OF OP'NNG FLOWERS
BREATHE THEIR INCENSE ON THE AIR,
BREATHE THEIR INCENSE ON THE AIR.
SEE, SEE, SEE,
SEE THE SUN IN ORIENT SPLENDOR
GILDING EVERY GLITTERING SPRAY,
BUSY WEAVING JEWELED CHAPLETS
FOR OUR LOVELY QUEEN OF MAY,
FOR OUR LOVELY QUEEN OF MAY.
MARK, MARK, MARK
MARK THE PLUMES OF MIGHTY BROCKEN
WAVING IN THE FRAGRANT AIR,
PROUDLY NODDING SALUTATION
TO OUR CHARMING LADY FAIR,
TO OUR CHARMING LADY FAIR.