One stage work of Auber’s that might succeed in a revival is Le Domino noir (“The Black Domino”), one of those mistaken-identity farces that Scribe could probably churn out by the dozens. In brief: Angèle, a novice nun, decides to have a last fling and attends a ball on the night before she is to take her final vows. To conceal her identity, she wears a black mask (the “black domino” of the title). Another guest, Horace de Massares, is in love with her. A friend of his, Count Juliano, sets back the clocks one hour so Horace can spend more time with the mysterious woman. By the time she realizes what time it actually is, it is too late for her to return to the convent, whose gates close at midnight. Seeking a shelter for the night, she ends up at the house of Count Juliano, who is throwing a post-ball party. Afraid of being recognized, she talks Juliano’s housekeeper into letting her assume the disguise of a maid. Everyone is deceived but Horace, who recognizes her but says nothing. After an evening of misadventures, she manages to return, undetected, to the convent the next morning. Horace eventually shows up to see her. Conveniently, a letter from the Queen arrives, freeing Angèle from her vows, and she accepts Horace’s proposal of marriage. Opera audiences have swallowed more ridiculous plots.
Auber and Scribe collaborated on an opera based on Scribe’s play Gustav III, which deals with the events leading to and including the assassination of Gustav III, King of Sweden. Antonio Somma used Scribe’s play as the basis for his libretto for Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera. As is the case with Auber’s Manon Lescaut, any revival of Auber’s piece will be partially driven by curiosity, given what later composers did with the subject. As a filler, Bonynge presents the opera’s overture and a series of dances performed at the masked ball during which Gustav is slain. With his facility and lively sense of rhythm, Auber was a natural for the ballet field and, in fact, Scribe even supplied the scenarios for several of Auber’s ballet scores.
Performer: Isabelle Vernet, Bruce Ford, Patrick Power, Martine Olmeda, Jules Bastin, Doris Lamprecht, Jocelyne Taillon, Sumi Jo, Gilles Cachemaille Conductor: Richard Bonynge