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Portugal
Le donne cambiate
English
Title Page
Libretto
Italian
Libretto

Act I

 
Overture
 
Trio
A delightful, verdant avenue – in the background can be seen the Count’s palace, which has a working doorway.
 
Count
Let me be…
Let me go…
My mind has gone…
I’ve lost my head…
What kind of wife is this!
She’ll be the death of me.
 
Lucindo
Be tranquil… be calm…
curb your agitation:
hope for good fortune
and good fortune will return.
 
Count
I shall go to America
 
Lucindo
But listen to me first…
 
Biagio
What’s all this noise!
What calamity has occurred!
By your leave, my lordship,
tell me what’s happened.
 
Count
Six lengths… heavens above!…
My friends… you see…
six lengths… I cannot…
These are such extravagances!
 
Lucindo and Biagio
Six lengths of what?
 
Count
A train for a dress.
 
Biagio
O frivolous wife!…
 
Lucindo
Such behaviour… such actions…
 
Biagio
Listen to me now,
this is the action you must take;
if your wife is mad,
kind words are of no use:
the only way to cure her
is to give her a good beating.
 
Count
Beat her, poor girl!
 
Biagio
She doesn’t care for me.
 
Lucindo
Well then, you must
enjoy life just as it is.
(The silly fellow’s in love,
I can’t help but laugh.)
What insolent behaviour!
What a tangle this is.
 
 
Aria
Ernesta
How one’s heart is comforted
by a youthful husband!
Yet, for my misfortune,
a dotard was chosen for me.
 
Jealous and suspicious,
He watches my every move…
bothers me night and day…
makes me out to be proud…
and in the end nothing has happened…
He makes me so angry!
 
Who will give this heart
a fleeting moment of joy!
Ah, a tiny amount would suffice
to fill my heart with delight.
 
 
Quartet
Lucindo
Ah, if you will be so good,
my charming young lady,
we must with peace and love
bring this matter to an end.
 
Ernesta
With all the peace and love you want,
but I shall not back down.
 
Lucindo
I am with you… what is your reply?
 
Biagio
(Answer as a husband should.)
 
Count
I grant you without argument
the ear-rings and the bracelets;
But a train of six lengths
I simply cannot allow.
 
Lucindo
I’m coming and going (what fun!)
I’m here…
 
Ernesta
What did he say?
 
Lucindo
At last he’s meeting all your wishes…
 
Ernesta
Heaven be praised…
 
Lucindo
There is just one problem…
He will not consent
to the train of six lengths.
 
Ernesta
Four then, go on…
 
Biagio
(Hold fast.)
 
Count
No…
 
Lucindo
Lower your demand…
 
Ernesta
Two…
 
Biagio
(Be strong…)
 
Lucindo
The offer is two…
 
Count
In short:
one alone can I allow.
 
Ernesta
Unkind man! I reject your offer…
This means war, war.
 
Lucindo
Ah, here we go again,
the negotiations are over…
(I laugh and delight in this,
what wonderful fun!)
Put your heart at rest,
I beg you to be strong.
 
Ernesta
I shall win my argument
even if it’s the death of me.
 
Count
I shall stick to my argument
even if it’s the death of me.
 
Biagio
Yes, stick to your argument
even if it’s the death of you.
 
 
Recitative and Duet
Count
I like it, the way is certain and decisive,
however, I do not understand
how this matter can go so far,
even were it to take us all day and all night!
 
Ernesta
Well, you will see.
 
Count
But at least I am compromising,
now, you who abound in so many graces,
answer that which I am about to ask.
 
Ernesta
I shall answer as is my wont,
freely and in simple words.
 
Count
My lady, I beg you,
if I am not too bold,
to tell me if at times a husband
may not issue commands?
 
Ernesta
My lord, I cannot answer;
the subject is problematic,
if it is not put into practice,
I know not how to decide.
 
Count
Then, if you will permit me,
I shall do just that.
 
Ernesta
Provided you do not get angry,
I shall listen here to you.
 
Count
My lady wife, let us go,
I want to go for a walk.
 
Ernesta
We are already at odds;
but I will say farewell.
 
Count
Patience, let us go;
I want something to eat.
 
Ernesta
You may do as you see fit;
but I do not want to eat.
 
Count
Again, be patient,
I would like to speak.
 
Ernesta
Not I.
 
Count
I would like to be silent.
 
Ernesta
Not I.
 
Count
I would like to sit down.
 
Ernesta
Not I.
 
Count
I would like… I would like…
 
Ernesta
Not I.
 
Count
Always disagreeing, dear heavens!
If your intent is to annoy me,
I shall make you sorry.
 
Ernesta
Ah, wretched old man,
is this how you speak to me?
Take this, and gossip away,
this is what I want.
 
Count
Not I,
ah, no, have pity!
Friends, help, anyone.
Whatever you want, I shall do.
 
Ernesta
Ask my forgiveness
then I shall be calm!
 
Count
I’ll give you anything,
and not bother you more.
 
Ernesta
Girls, learn now
from this example:
with men you need
to play your role well,
and with great skill
command or forbid;
we have a secret,
which they cannot withstand.
 
Count
Husbands, my dear friends,
we, we are fools;
women, if they wish,
can lead us by the nose,
and dealt such a harsh fate,
we remain simpletons
for certain reasons
which here I cannot tell.
 
 
Cavatina
Carlotta
Honoured gentlemen,
here I am, a country girl:
I’m selling my wares
if anyone will buy.
 
I have two little doves,
plump and fine as can be:
I’ve other tasty treats as well,
which I’m sure will please you;
take a look yourselves —
I don’t want to cheat you.
 
I’m selling my wares
if anyone will buy.
 
 
Recitative and Minuet
Pilgrim
Greetings spirits, and demons too,
in the name of the devil himself,
listen, listen to my command.
I want you to transform
Countess Ernesta into Carlotta,
and Carlotta into Ernesta; thus each
will be found in the other’s bed. Spirits,
hear me, and swiftly obey my will.
 
 
Scene change:
Biagio’s chamber – a peasant’s bed, a cobbler’s bench and a rough-hewn table on which stand an oil lamp and a bottle.
 
Recitative and Aria
Biagio
I’ve done it… I don’t know how.
Like any good man I got drunk
and fell asleep. Now I need
to get down to work
if I want to earn any money.
My dear young ladies – oh, were you sincere
it would be a pleasure – to make love to you!
But you captivating girls – you deceive us
And give to us… – Tan la lara la.
 
You steal our hearts – with a hundred sweet smiles,
and those little ways – which are so enchanting.
 
 
Duet
Ernesta
I shall sing of a certain countess:
changed one day into a peasant girl,
she found herself in the hands of a rogue
and now is bursting with fury.
Miserable woman, she sings
and toils and inwardly rages;
but if her time should come
she’ll take her rightful place once more.
 
Biagio
This longed-for time
did not come to the lovely countess;
what came her way instead
was a good and thorough thrashing.
 
A pretty story – keep it in mind:
it will be – very useful to you.
Be quick with my orders – you little slow coach:
work like fury – now are you happy?
Bravo Carlotta! – That’s the way.
 
See how a mistake – rings a little bell:
and this rule – will never fail.
 
Ernesta
Good heavens!… how!… what!…
I shall not do anything
you insolent man!
 
Biagio
Ah Carlotta, Carlotta!
Keep in mind
that pretty story.
 
Ernesta
You dare threaten me with such drudgery?
You brute!…
You beast!
 
Biagio
Ah Carlotta, Carlotta!
Are you happy?…
 
Ernesta
Oh, as happy as can be!…
 
Biagio
See how a mistake
rings a little bell,
and this rule
will never fail.
 
Ernesta
I am so very happy,
truly happy.
 
Biagio
Bravo Carlotta,
that’s the way.
 
Ernesta
(Oh, I’m so angry
I could die.)
 
Biagio
(She’s fuming inside,
how well she looks.)
 
 
Scene change: A room in the Count’s palace.
 
Aria
Carlotta
I feel my heart beat,
I can hardly explain:
hope and fear
are making me tremble.
 
I’ll free myself from this confusion,
if I escape with my sanity!
 
Ah, what joy and contentment
my soul is now experiencing!
 
 
Aria
Count
My friend… what is this!
Servants… what a change!
I’ve half a world in my head,
and a reason for my dreams…
(Now I’ll try and test
whether what I am hearing is true.)
 
My sweet little wife…
My dearest little love…
Ah, come close to me…
That’s right… what a miracle!
Give me your tiny hand…
That’s better… What delight!…
Look at me with love…
Excellent… I’m in ecstasy…
Feel my heart beating…
I am melting.
 
Desire is growing in my breast…
Give me something else…
But all has its time and place,
so dear she has to be.
My sweet little darling
you fill my heart with delight.
 
 
Recitative and Aria
Ernesta
Ah, well I understand
what you are doing to test me.
I swear to you once more,
you will find me humble… I will wait on you
as would a maidservant…
And my loving heart promises you
a thousand soft caresses.
 
Ah, if you have a heart,
feel compassion for my pain:
dear husband, full of love
my soul will be yours.
 
I shall tell you my reason,
listen and decide.
You who are my servant…
Is that not true? Go away, you rogue!
You my loving husband…
It is not true! What misfortune…
You ridiculous coquette,
put aside your charms,
I know of that broken heart,
and I’ll give you a sound beating.
I understand now, I console myself,
the lady has her protectors…
Ah, my fury is growing,
and my heart is ready to burst.
 
Ah, at least feel pity
for an abandoned wife.
 
 
Finale
Ernesta
You should know… alas… that she…
that I… that he… that there was…
Ah, I cannot breathe…
I cannot finish.
 
Count
All of this is clear to me…
 
Lucindo
You speak, Countess.
 
Carlotta
I will say… that he… that she…
Alas, I cannot speak.
 
Biagio
Let me go, you scoundrels.
 
Count
Come here, yes come forward…
 
Biagio
Here you are, my melancholy girl!…
Sir, with your permission,
I’d like to work on her a little
with my faithful staff.
 
Ernesta and Carlotta
Stop him… stop him…
 
Count and Lucindo
Don’t do it…show some respect…
 
Biagio
What’s this about respect!
She’s my wife after all!
When you act so sad,
you’ll pay for it.
 
Count and Lucindo
But you must explain the reason
for such a disturbance.
 
Biagio
My lords, you should know,
that lady is my wife,
she’s an impertinent girl,
for all she wants is
to give me a headache.
 
When you act so sad,
you’ll pay for it.
 
Lucindo
You’re wrong, she’s not sad;
she’s insane.
 
Count
She’s got it into her head
that she is my wife.
 
Ernesta
But of course I am…
 
Lucindo and Count
You see!…
 
Ernesta
Of course he does…
 
Lucindo and Count
You hear that!…
 
Biagio
To clear her head,
the medicine is ready, and quick…
 
Count
No, no, make your peace
or I will not let her go.
 
Biagio
Come here… come on… give me a kiss…
 
Ernesta
A kiss… I’d rather die:
I am faithful to my husband,
he alone will I love.
 
Lucindo and Count
You are going at last…
 
Biagio
But towards misfortune…
 
Ernesta and Biagio
Take my life,
but I want to stay here.
I am here, here, you impudent girl…
I’ll make you forget about this!
 
Count and Lucindo
Stop… Don’t do it…
The girl has to go.
(This is all certain
to end badly.)
 
Pilgrim
Stop… stop…
 
All
What do you want?
 
Pilgrim
Pride has been punished:
let everyone be prepared
for the great transformation
I am about to perform.
 
 
All five: Count, Lucindo, Biagio…
What’s this… I’m bewildered…
I’m ecstatic…
Whatever can this be…
I seem to be dreaming.
 
Ernesta and Carlotta
What’s this!… They are
all bewildered:
what evil has bewitched them!
I know not what to think.
 
Count
Ernesta!…
 
Ernesta
Yes!…
 
Count
Yes!…
 
Biagio
Carlotta…
 
Carlotta
Yes!…
 
Biagio
Yes!
 
Ernesta
But why was I rejected,
yet now am being summoned?
 
Count
But why did that lady
just now appear to be my wife?
 
Carlotta
But why have I fallen
from such grandeur to such depth?
 
 
Biagio
But why did she
till now seem to be such a grand lady?
 
Lucindo
But why, in short,
did such an exchange occur here?
 
The five
But why… why…why…
Can anyone tell me?
 
Pilgrim
This magic wand
brought about the strange transformation:
by such a miracle, the proud
repent and come to their senses.
 
All five: Ernesta and Carlotta…
O evil wand
you have truly served me ill!
 
… Count, Biagio and Lucindo
O blessed wand
you have truly served me well.
 
Biagio
Down with these rich people, let’s be away now.
 
Carlotta
I’ll obey you, I’ll be quick,
no longer capricious,
I only want to please you.
 
All five: Count, Biagio and Lucindo…
O blessed wand, etc.
 
… Ernesta and Carlotta
O evil wand, etc.
 
Count
And what have you to say, miss?
 
Ernesta
I shall be as a little lamb,
obedient and so loving,
and willing to please you.
 
All five
O blessed/evil wand, etc.
 
All
See, see how fancies
fly away in a moment!
Softly, softly my heart beats…
My happiness is ever increasing,
I am transported with delight.
 
 
 
Translation: Susannah Howe

 


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