Francesco Cilea (1866-1950)
È la solita storia del pastore from L'arlesiana
In 1897, the Italian composer, Francesco Cilea, turned Alfonse Daudet's play L'Arlésienne (The Girl from Arles) into an opera with the title L'arlesiana. Daudet's original work was based on a true story of a young lad - a relation of Frédéric Mistral, a famous poet from near Arles -who had been frustrated in love and had subsequently committed suicide.
In Cilea's opera the lad is called Federico and he has a younger brother, known to all as L'Innocente (The Innocent). When it is discovered that the girl from Arles who Federico wants to marry is in fact a woman of easy virtue, his mother, Rosa, forbids him ever to mention her again. Although he understands why he should give her up Federico is still smitten with her. In his desperation he asks Baldassare, an old shepherd, for a potion that could cure his hopeless love. As L'Innocente falls asleep one day, Federico hears him speak of a fight between a wolf and a goat and immediately realises that this comes from a story that the old shepherd has often told him - È la solita storia del pastore. As he watches his young brother sleep he is reminded that the last time he had seen L'arlesiana she had called his own name to wake him from sleep. In time he agrees to marry Vivetta, Rosa's god-daughter, but as the thoughts of his first love will not leave him he kills himself.
© 2000 Peter Avis