Daniel-François-Esprit Auber: La muette de Portici

Auber, Daniel

Edited by Peter Kaiser

Opéra en cinq actes 
Libretto: Eugène Scribe and Germain Delavigne (in French)
World premiere: 29.02.1828, Paris

It became clear at the Brussels premiere how much Auber and Scribe had hit the nerve of their time, the rebellion against a restorative social order. The revolutionary sounds spilled over into the audience – the fight for freedom began.
—Stefan Lang, Deutschlandfunk Kultur


The plot takes up the 17th Century Neapolitan revolt against the Spanish occupation, led by Tommaso Aniello d’Amalfi. The opera begins with preparations for the wedding of Princess Elvire to Alphonse, son of the Spanish viceroy. The mute girl Fenella recognizes Alphonse as her rapist and kidnapper, provoking her brother, the fisherman Masaniello, to lead an uprising against the despised Spanish occupiers. Elvire forgives Alphonse and tries to find Fenella. With Masaniello at risk of losing control of the uprising, Alphonse and Elvire seek protection with him as he now fears the ire of his rebellious friends. His friend Pietro deems him a traitor and potential tyrant and poisons him. As he dies, Masaniello manages to save Elvire from the rebels. Alphonso has in the meantime succeeded in mobilizing troops against the revolt. At the end of the opera Vesuvius erupts, and Fenella throws herself into the glowing lava out of desperation.


The Opera La muette de Portici is an exceptional work: There is an eponymous character who does not sing, a revolution that censors did not deem to be seditious, and its development is formally prototypical of Grand Opéra. Although the work’s historical background is the 1647 Naples uprising against the Spanish government, it is the fate of Fenella that comes to the fore. The spectacular and extremely successful 1828 premiere in Paris became an exceptional coming-together of text, music, and stage. The accessible plot, with a strong focus on human fate, appealed directly to audiences. But contrary to the assessment of censors, its revolutionary echoes were indeed felt, particularly in context of the 1830 Belgian independence movement and the revolutionary year of 1848.

Critical Edition

  • The newly-edited piano reduction is based on the first edition but has been made more precise – especially with regard to dynamics, phrasing, and articulation – in accordance with the new full score.
  • In addition to the stage directions, descriptions of the scenery, and more contained in the autograph manuscript, further information has been taken from the libretto in order to make the scenic context more clearly recognizable, especially with regard to the reactions of the mute Fenella. These additions are contained in square brackets.
  • The conductor has the possibility to change decisions made by the editor regarding the reading of the opera by consulting the footnotes where needed.

Recommendations for concert

Overture - 4.2.3.Oph - timp.perc - str

1. Act Guarache, 1. Air de danse and 2. Air de danse: Boléro - - timp- str

2. Act No. 8 Duet Masaniello, Pietro Mieux vaut mourir que rester
T.B - - 4.2.4.Oph - timp - str

3. Act No. 10 Duet Alphonse, Elvire N’espérez pas me fuir - 4.2.3.Oph - timp - str

4. Act No. 13 Air et Cavatine Masaniello Spectacle affreux, jour de terreur!
T - - 4.2.3.Oph - timp.perc - str

4. Act No. 14 Cavatine Elvire Arbitre d’une vie
S - - 4.2.3.Oph - str