Dennis King, The Devil’s Brother, photogram from the 1934 film
Rome, 13 October 2017
Comedy and drama in Auber’s Fra Diavolo
Bandits in the 19th century have been topics of fascination for many operas: from Verdi’s I masnadieri to Ernani, from Offenbach’s Les brigands to Bizet’s Carmen, freebooters had arias and couplets of their own on stage.
No exception is Auber with his Fra Diavolo, inspired by one of the most feared robbers who fought against French domination in southern Italy, a hero of Bourbon resistance during the Napoleonic wars. In the libretto Scribe draws his model from other French bandits and paints him both romantically – Fra Diavolo steals only from aristocrats, bankers and merchants, leaves the poor and, from the young girls, he only takes “what they want to offer” – and with ruthless cruelty…