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Maritana is a grand opera in three acts composed by William Vincent Wallace, with a libretto by Edward Fitzball (1792–1873). The opera is based on the 1844 play Don César de Bazan by Adolphe d'Ennery and Philippe François Pinel Dumanoir, which was also the source material for Jules Massenet's opéra comique Don César de Bazan. (The character of Don César de Bazan first appeared in Victor Hugo's Ruy Blas.)

The first of six operas by Wallace, the work is often cited as an inspiration for a plot device in Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera The Yeomen of the Guard in which a man weds a woman while awaiting execution in prison, escapes and, while he is disguised, the couple falls in love.[1]

Performance history[edit]

Maritana was first produced at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on 15 November 1845, conducted by Julius Benedict. It was then produced the following year in Dublin and Philadelphia, then in New York and Vienna in 1848. In 1873, Maritana became the first opera produced by the Carl Rosa Opera Company. It was revived in Dublin in 1877, and in London at Her Majesty's in 1880, in an Italian version by Mattei. A 1902 production was seen at Covent Garden.[2] It was produced again at the London Lyceum in 1925 and at Sadler's Wells in 1931, remaining popular until the middle of the 20th century.

The Royal Dublin Society revived the work in concert form in 2006, with an orchestra conducted by Proinnsias O Duinn and singers led by Mairead Buicke and Robin Tritschler.[3] The abiding Irish interest in the work is reflected in the works of James Joyce, in his novel Ulysses,[4] and his stories The Dead and A Mother (in Dubliners).

Film versions of the opera were produced in 1922[5] and 1927.[6]


Cigar box depicting a scene from Maritana
Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 15 November 1845
(Conductor: )[7]
Charles II, King of Spain bass Borrani
Don José de Santarém, his minister bass H. Phillips
Don Cæsar de Bazan tenor William Harrison
Marquis de Montefiori bass H. Horncastle
Lazarillo, a poor boy mezzo-soprano Miss Poole
Alcalde bass Morgan
Captain of Guards baritone
Maritana, a gypsy soprano Elizabeth Rainforth ('Emma Romer')
Marchioness de Montefiori mezzo-soprano or soprano Mrs. Selby
Soldiers, populace, and gipsies (chorus)


The wedding of Don Cæsar and Maritana

Maritana is a street singer in Madrid. The King of Spain is taken with her beauty, and his minister, Don José, agrees to help him with his affections. Don José intends to reveal the king's infidelity to further his own favour with the queen.

Don Cæsar de Bazan is a down-on-his-luck nobleman who is arrested and sentenced to death for duelling during Holy Week. Earlier, Don Cæsar had aided a poor boy named Lazarillo. On the day of Don Cæsar's execution, a pardon arrives from the king. It is maliciously intercepted by Don José, however, who offers Don Cæsar a soldier's death if he agrees to marry a veiled girl before his execution; Don Cesar agrees. Don José brings the veiled Maritana to marry Don Cæsar before the execution with the intention of making her a nobleman's widow. During the wedding feast, Lazarillo removes the bullets from all the weapons. The execution is carried out, and de Bazan feigns death.

Don José brings Maritana to see the Marquis and Marchioness de Montefiori. Maritana believes that she has married the king. Don José brings her to meet the king at their appointed time. Maritana is disappointed to find that he is not the dashing Don Cæsar that she had expected. Don Cæsar arrives at the villa and demands his bride. Don José brings the old Marchioness to see him. Since Don Cæsar has never seen his bride, he believes that this is she, and is so disappointed that he agrees to sign away his rights to her. Just as he is about to do this, he hears Maritana's voice and announces that she was the woman he married. He is promptly arrested.

Don Cæsar comes before the king, announces that he is Don Cæsar de Bazan and learns of his original pardon. While the king steps away for a few moments, Maritana and Don Cæsar discover their mutual love. Don Cæsar, realising Don José's treachery, kills him. To show his gratitude, the king makes Don Cæsar the governor of Valencia.

Musical numbers[edit]

Sheet music from Maritana
Act I
  • 'It was a Knight' - Maritana
  • Tis the harp in the air' - Maritana
  • 'Of fairy wand had I the power' - Maritana and Don José
  • 'All the world over' - Don Cæsar
  • 'Pretty Gitana, tell us what the fates decree' - Chorus
  • Finale - ensemble
Act II
  • 'Alas, those chimes so sweetly stealing' - Lazarillo
  • 'Yes, let me like a soldier fall' - Don Cæsar
  • 'The Mariner in his barque' - The King
  • Finale - "What Mystery"
  • 'Scenes that are the brightest' - Maritana
  • Duet - Don Cæsar and the King
  • 'Holy Mother, guide his foot-steps' - Maritana
  • 'There is a flower' - Don Cæsar
  • Finale

Other associations[edit]

A beach resort in St. Pete Beach, Florida, the Don Cesar, is named for the character Don Cæsar, and the restaurant there is named Maritana.[8]


Wallace: Maritana, RTÉ Concert Orchestra and RTÉ Philharmonic Choir

  • Conductor: Proinnsías O'Duinn
  • Principal singers: Majella Cullagh, Lynda Lee, Paul Charles Clarke, Ian Caddy, Damien Smith, Quentin Hayes
  • Recording date: 1996
  • Label: Marco Polo, 8223406


External links[edit]