Fra Diavolo was composed in 1830 by the great Daniel Francois-Esprit Auber. The bandit leader, Fra Diavolo, was based on a historical Italian bandit from the time of the Neapolitan king Joseph Bonaparte who inspired great fear in his time.
The bandit Fra Diavolo gives great importance to his elegance and his duet with the lovely Lady Pamela shows this. In addition to this, he also plays the great Italian lover.
Fra Diavolo stands out from other operas due to its memorable melodiousness. It is able to draw the audience under its spell in a direct way.
An ‘opera comique’ in three acts, the libretto was composed by Eugene Scribe. It premiered on the 28th January 1830 in Paris at the Opera-Comique. It is set in the surrounding area of Naples in 1830.
Fra Diavolo, a bandit leader (Tenor)
Lady Pamela, a travelling Englishwoman (Mezzo-Soprano)
Lord Cokbourg, Lady Pamela’s huband (Baritone)
Matheo, an innkeeper (Bass)
Zerline, the daughter of Matheo (Soprano)
Lorenzo, an officer in the Roman dragoons and Zerline’s lover (Tenor)
Beppo and Giacomo, bandits (Tenor, Bass)
A Miller (Bass)
A Solider (Tenor)
Dragoons, villagers (the chorus)
Zerline is in love with the poor solider Lorenzo but has been promised in marriage to a rich peasant. Lorenzo intends to hunt down the notorious bandit Fra Diavolo as he has a high bounty placed on his head. At this time, an English couple seek protection at the inn. Fra Diavolo has robbed them whilst on the road and Lorenzo goes in search for him. Meanwhile, the bandit arrives in disguise as a marquis and makes up to Lady Pamela. Lorenzo returns with her jewellery and is given a large reward.
Zerline retires to bed and takes care to put away Lorenzo’s money. She is secretly observed by Fra Diavolo and his bandits, Beppo and Giacomo. They intend to kill Zerline and steal the money but the bandit is disturbed by Lorenzo. The ‘marquis’ pretends to have come for a rendezvous while Lorenzo and Lord Cokbourg argue about which woman is unfaithful.
Fra Diavolo has agreed that Beppo and Giacomo would give them a sign once everyone has gone to church. However, they are recognised by Zerline and Lorenzo forces them to show him the sign. Fra Diavolo is caught and Lorenzo now has enough money to marry the beautiful Zerli