Comedy in three acts
with prologue

(five scenes

I became acquainted with E.T.A. Hoffmann in his highly imaginative interpretation of Callot's «Balli di Sfessania». But whilst working on my musical comedy, I departed considerably from Hoffmann's Capriccio. Though some points remained unchanged, I invented and developed others quite independently. Behind the guise of the Charlatan is a «Signore», who takes great pleasure in poking fun at the «honest» Giglio.

Gian Francesco Malipiero


GIACINTA (soprano)

GIGLIO (tenore)

BEATRICE (mezzosopran)

THE PRINCE dressed as a
CHARLATAN (baritone)

also appears
disguised as a

A MASK (baritone)



Captain Spessa Monti and Bagattino

Captain Ceremonia and Lavinia

Riciulina and Mezzettino

Captain Malagamba and Captain Bellavita

In the entourage: twelve flautists, two men dressed as ostriches, twelve Moors, women with cushions, bearers of the sedan chair. Eight slaves.
Masks. Twelve young women. Two servants.


The main curtain rises, revealing another curtain with a huge Baroque harpsichord painted on it. From the small door in one of the instrument's three legs, there emerge pairs of figures, representing the masks in Callot's Balli di Sfessania. They dance according to their individual characters and appear in the following order:
Captain Spessa Monti and Bagattino;
Captain Ceremonia and Lavinia;
Riciulina and Mezzetino;
Captain Malagamba and Captain Bellavita.
After completing their number, each pair returns into the harpsichord, so that there is only one pair on the stage at any one time.


A basement room with stairs on the left leading up to the landing at street level. A small window in the middle. On the right a large open cupboard with a large and colourful variety of dresses hanging in it. Numerous other articles of clothing are also draped over the banister. Eight dressmaker's dummies stand around wearing the mask costumes of the prologue.
In front of and a little to the right of the cupboard, a large table is littered with cloth, boxes and dressmaking implements (a large flat-iron, large scissors, etc.)
Old Beatrice moves busily back and forth. Giacinta sits by the window, sewing a splendid gown of red velvet.

OLD BEATRICE What a pile of rich garments and what piles and piles of work! Just look at all this finery and richness! Tomorrow is carnival, tomorrow the great revelry. (Breaks off - to Giacinta) But why do you lower your head? Are you sad? Why?

GIACINTA Quiet now, old woman! The carnival may be fun to others, but for me it is just painful and tedious. Oh what is the use of toiling day and night? We stay poor and have nothing that brings us pleasure!

OLD BEATRICE What is poverty compared with the carnival? Last year I dressed up as "Doctor" and you as "Gardener"; what a party that was! The most beautiful masks followed us with the sweetest words. A few new ribbons, and the Doctor and the Gardener can return finer than before!

GIACINTA Old woman, what are you saying? I couldn't let myself be seen in such old rags ever again! No! I want a beautiful gown: with a close-fitting bodice and full skirt and splendid sleeves and finest lace. A bonnet with waving feathers. A belt and a diamond necklace and all the gentlemen swarming round me in desire. Who is that lady? A princess? A queen?

OLD BEATRICE You seem to be under a spell! Where does all this vanity come from? If you want to compete with the fine ladies, you'll have to get yourself a sweetheart who is so taken by your beautiful eyes that he is willing to loosen his purse-strings and end this business with that poor Giglio!

The old woman has lit a lamp in the meantime. She notices that Giacinta's eyes are full of tears.

OLD BEATRICE But by all the saints, what's wrong, Giacinta, what's wrong?

GIACINTA Oh, perhaps it is this gown that has upset me. Tell me, old woman, have you ever in your life seen a more beautiful gown? I would love to know who it is for.

OLD BEATRICE What does that matter to you? We work and we live. Perhaps it is for a princess. You'll know tomorrow!

GIACINTA No, no! I don't want to know anything! I want to imagine that it is a fairy's gown. In every fold I sense a cheerful spirit that spurs me on: "Work, work for our Queen, we want to help you!" And while I sew this braid and lace on, I feel ... (she pricks her finger and blood flows) Ow, ow!

OLD BEATRICE Heaven help us! The beautiful gown!

GIACINTA Heaven help us!
(she sews a few last stitches)
Ready! (she jumps for joy, holding the gown up in front of her.)

OLD BEATRICE Beautiful, beautiful! Amazing! Your little hands have done wonderful work. It looks as if it were made for you!

GIACINTA If it were but mine! But no, you're dreaming, old woman. Take it, put it away! Till tomorrow morning! Spots - spots of blood and oil. Oh, we poor women! Take it away! (Beatrice hesitates) I have so often wished it were mine.

OLD BEATRICE Giacintina, Giacintina. How clever you are. Though it be the gown of a princess, a queen, a fairy even: you shall be the first to wear it!

The old woman takes the gown, lays it on a chair and begins to do Giacinta's hair. She takes a feather head-dress out of the cupboard. Slowly she undresses the girl.

OLD BEATRICE Ah, your beautiful neck gleams like ivory, your bosom smells of jasmine, your arms are made of alabaster. (finally appraising the fully dressed girl) No, you are not my Giacinta any more. But wait, just wait!

She goes and fetches all the candles in the house and lights them. She is overcome by Giacinta's beauty and gives flamboyant expression to her enthusiasm. The door opens. Giglio enters. Giacinta attempts to hide in the background. Giglio is dressed rather pretentiously, although his clothing is worn out. He is a needy actor.

GIGLIO (pausing on the top step) Ah, what's that I see, what's that I see? Is it her? May I speak? Princess, Princess!
(emphatically) Princess, you know
I am your servant,
have pity on my pain.
It consumes me and robs me of my composure.

(gradually descending the stairs)
How you torture and torment me, princess,
when I see you so proud and pitiless.
When I see you so proud and pitiless,
you torture and torment me, princess!

GIACINTA (confused) Idiot, idiot!

GIGLIO What do you mean? I have never seen you look so beautiful! I wish you could stay like that for ever!

GIACINTA Oh, you only love me because of the brocade, the precious stones and the feathers?

GIGLIO I had a dream. I dreamt I was Prince Taër. An old man accused me of some crime. I struck him on his right cheek. Enraged, he grabbed his knife and leapt at me. My royal beret fell to the floor. The barbarian transfixed it and, with a cry, flung the poor dying thing at my feet. Revenge! With my cloak over my left arm, I drew my sword. The old man fled, barricaded himself in his house and started shooting at me through the window. Then I became aware of the sparkle of a diamond necklace, and a lovely voice sang: "O Giglio, my Giglio". And a divine creature was suddenly standing before me, saying: "I am the Princess".

GIACINTA (furious) What? You dare to dream of another woman? You dare to be enamoured with a dream figure? Leave me!

GIGLIO I would never have thought it possible, my sweet, that I could make you jealous. But be sensible. I just happen to have a seductive appearance. I sing of the lovesick Prince, with many an oh and an ah. I am a living romance, an adventure on two legs, a love song with lips for kissing and an arm for embracing, an adventure that springs to life from a book and becomes all the livelier as soon as you close the book. Women, no matter what their rank, rich and poor alike, all longingly sense who I am and what is in me, in my wit, my false jewels, plumes, ribbons, sequins. Unless I am mistaken, the most beautiful princess really is mad with love for me. Don't be taken aback now, for I have to explore a wonderful mine. In case I should forget you, just remember that you are a poor girl.

Giacinta, in a huff, slaps his face and runs into her bedroom.

OLD BEATRICE (to Giglio) Get out! Go home! (Giglio exits.)



The carnival procession in Rome. A broad street opening onto a small central square dominated by a majestic palace, its huge portal closed. At the right, a raised structure in which the Charlatan sells his wonder remedies and gadgets.

CHARLATAN Ignorant people! Why do you just walk past? Hear me, hear me! Ungrateful people!

An unusual carnival group appears at the right, creating a surge of interest in the crowd. It is led by twelve flautists with silver instruments. They are quite unrecognizable, being dressed from head to foot in red satin, with two holes in their hoods for them to look through. Two men dressed in ostrich feathers and representing ostriches draw behind them a huge tulip suspended over a light wagon. Inside the tulip sits a little old man with a long, white beard. He is dressed in silver, and his head is adorned with a kind of funnel, also of silver. The old man wears enormous spectacles and has a very large folio open in front of him.
Twelve Moors follow, richly dressed and armed with long lances. Whenever the old man turns a page, they throw themselves to the ground.
Then four, six or eight silver sedan chairs appear, borne by men likewise dressed in silver. Their tunics are similar in cut to the twelve flautists'. The sedan chairs - which are not completely closed and resemble small open coaches without wheels - contain veiled female figures adorned with diamonds and pearls, who are doing needlework on large velvet cushions.
At the end of this strange procession, a large golden carriage, drawn by eight slaves clad in golden cloth. The crowd attempts to peer into the carriage, but because the sides are covered with mirrors, all they see are their own faces. Atop the carriage stands a little Punch, gracefully bowing left and right. Then, as if by magic, the whole procession seems to be gradually swallowed up by the great portal of the palace.
The Charlatan resumes his discourse. Beats on the big bass drum are heard.

CHARLATAN Citizens of Rome! Citizens of Rome! Rejoice, shout, toss your caps into the air. You are fortunate, very fortunate. A famous princess has just appeared before you, a marvel of beauty, of great wealth, who could pave the street with her diamonds. I, a master of white, black, yellow, red and blue magic, know why she came: among the masks in the procession she seeks the companion of her heart, her future husband - the Assyrian prince who has come to Rome to have a tooth extracted by me. See here! (he takes an enormous tooth out of a casket) See here! This is the tooth! The prince has disappeared. Search for him in your houses, your cellars, kitchens and cupboards. Search for him! Whoever brings him back to the princess will receive a reward of five times a hundred thousand ducats! Search for him! But how will you recognize him when he is under your nose? Without the magic spectacles of the Indian Ruffiamonte, which I can give you for a couple of trifling coins, you will not recognize him. Here are the glasses!

The Charlatan opens a box and presents a large number of spectacles. Everybody tries to get hold of a pair of these magic spectacles. Knives flash in the crowd. Policemen try to restore order. Gradually the people's carnival mood returns. Dressed as an oriental prince but with face exposed to view, Giglio has been standing motionless all the while, staring at the bewitched palace as if in a dream. The Charlatan approaches and claps him on the shoulder.

CHARLATAN (to Giglio) Why don't you take a pair of the great magician Ruffiamonte's glasses?

GIGLIO Get away! Get away! Swindler, mad man, cheat! I do not need them!

CHARLATAN Ho, ho, sir, what arrogance! One of my talismans could perhaps yet make a tolerable actor of you.

You find me intolerable?

CHARLATAN You have been seduced by a chimera! That is why you keep staring at the palace over there.

GIGLIO Alright, give me a pair then! (takes the glasses and pays for them)

CHARLATAN Ha, (laughing), they're all the same, they're all the same! The one throws his left slipper into the Tiber to free himself of vicious fever, the other puts frankincense into his pockets to bring him luck at the gambling table. (to Giglio, who is placing the glasses on his nose) I know that with these spectacles you hope to see the princess of your dream, and the Assyrian prince ...

MASK (disguised as Pantalone, to Giglio) Sir! Sir! Pleased to meet you!

GIGLIO The pleasure is mine!

MASK Tell me, do you come from Assyria?

GIGLIO Perhaps. I remember, yes, I remember a long, long journey and a coach that threw me into the Tiber.

MASK To be sure, to be sure, you are he! He! Oh, Prince! My Prince! (passing him a large demijohn) Drink, drink! One gulp, one tiny gulp only.

An evanescent image of the Princess appears.

GIGLIO Stay there! Stay there, so that I may you see! Stay there!

A group of masks passes by. Giglio is left alone. Another mask appears: the «Doctor». It is in fact old Beatrice.

OLD BEATRICE At last I have found you. At last! (she shakes him vigorously, still angry)

GIGLIO What do you want of me? What do you want?

The «Doctor» raises the mask.

GIGLIO It is you, Beatrice? Where is Giacinta? Where is she?

OLD BEATRICE Where is she? Where is she? She is in jail, poor Giacinta, to waste her young life away there.

GIGLIO Poor Giacinta. But why? Why?

A masked crowd draws old Beatrice away

GIGLIO (unhappily) Beatrice! Beatrice!

The Charlatan enters again.

CHARLATAN Have you already forgotten the princess?

GIGLIO (despairing) Oh, Giacinta, unhappy Giacinta! In jail! All my fault.

CHARLATAN Giacinta in jail? See there!

Giglio lifts his head and sees Giacinta in the window of the house on the right.

GIGLIO Giacinta, my dearest! Sweet Giacinta!

Giacinta, still wearing the gown, seems to take no notice of Giglio. She slowly closes the window and moves away from it.
The Charlatan laughs heartily.

The Poet enters and approaches Giglio.

THE POET Giglio, Giglio, you ungrateful son of Melpomene, what are you doing? Where have you been? I have written a drama for you such as ancient Greek theatre cannot equal. For you, Giglio. Tragedy is not dead. It has been reborn in me, and in you if you are willing. Listen to this.

He drags Giglio to the Charlatan's stand. Giglio seats himself limply on one of the steps. The Poet jumps up on the stand, opening a large, well-thumbed book and reading from it with great pathos:
Today the great Ruvenzad, son of Equinozio ...

(out of curiosity, masked people haltingly approach and listen)
and blonde Primavera: (since old tradition demands that every hero be of high birth):
(they follow the declamation and comment on it with comical grimaces)
on the Elysian fields, the great Ruvenzad
awaits the no less great
and no less hapless grandson of Ruvenzad.
Alas! Who will see their beloved sons again!
Ah! Which of them will see his grieving mother!
Ah! What a blood-bath, how many terrible things!
The disasters visited upon us in this time
are not the fault of the king, who wisely and piously
and with gentle restraint governs the unknown world.
But the enraged Jupiter, after the progenitrix
Cherestani, the noble granddaughter of the houses,
defied the ban and entered into union with an earthly being,
of which the Persian novellas
give the world their eternal testimony,
will not turn aside from anger until he witnesses
the complete downfall of this unfortunate house.
Leaning against the stand with his head on his arms, Giglio falls asleep. The Poet notices this. He jumps up and gives the sleeping man a jolt.

THE POET How now? You dare to sleep through my verses?
Ye demons with horned tails
from the terrible abyss,
may ye raise your scaly hands against him!
Up, quickly take
the black comb...

Without hesitating, he snatches a wooden sword from a masked figure and rushes at Giglio, who defends himself with drawn scimitar. A blow to the breast prostrates him, and he imagines he is dead. Everyone laughs. The Charlatan goes up to Giglio, shakes him several times, helps him to his feet and then drags him, in spite of his resistance, by main force to the mysterious palace. The portal opens as if by magic and the Charlatan enters with the struggling Giglio.




A large, brightly lit hall. To the left a spacious balcony with balustrade (leading to a landing as in the first act). To the right a large throne. In a niche over the throne stands a doll, all aglitter with diamonds like a little sun. The little old man seen sitting in the tulip at the beginning of Act Two now ceremoniously occupies the throne, a huge folio before him; it is propped up against a small, stooping Moor, in lieu of a lectern. The old man is still dressed in the long, flowing silver robe; he is wearing his enormous spectacles and has the funnel on his head. The Moors from the entourage of Act Two and the seamstresses are also to be seen, but in greater number. Altogether, there are between twenty and thirty persons present. They are all absorbed in their work and move their heads only to add their own comments on what the little old man is reading; he gesticulates threateningly each time. Whenever he turns a page of the folio, everyone jumps up as if by command.

LITTLE OLD MAN (reading from the throne) «The pure, clear Urdar spring reflected the joy and tranquillity of those who gazed into its pool; but now nobody smiles any more, and anger rules those who approach the ever cloudier Urdar spring.
Only Hermod the magician was in a position to cure these unhappy people, and so they sought his aid.
The magus sank into deep reflection, but then spoke: 'Wait nine times nine nights, then the Queen of the land will blossom out of Lake Urdar!'
And it came to pass that fiery rays rose over the swamp. But they were the fire spirits, who looked in with glowing eyes. But now a beautiful lotus blossomed up on the dry bottom, and in its cup lay a sweet, slumbering child. It was Princess Mitilis.
But all too soon, the people's joy changed into sadness; when she became old enough to talk, the Princess began speaking a language nobody understood.
Begged to explain, magus Hermod said:

'There lies a black stone in the dark hall
where once the royal couple slept
with the still pallor of death on forehead and cheek,
awaiting the mighty sign of magic!
For Mitilis the most priceless of gifts!'
Under the stone they found a small but splendidly carved casket. When Princess Mitilis touched it, she grew stiff and was slowly transformed into a tiny doll. What a terrible thing to happen! Horrible treachery! Hermod the magician spoke no more. He turned into Tifone, the vicious spirit that betrayed the people of Urdar. (raising his eyes to heaven) We must do quite different things to rescue the Princess.'» (he shuts the folio).

(Everyone kneels and kisses the floor).

The old man now takes the doll from the niche behind the throne and holds it up, so that they can all adore it. They all stand motionless. At a sign from the old man, twelve young women are dragged in by the Moors. When they reach the throne, they open a trapdoor and push the hapless women down through it. Motionless and lost in thought, Giglio has observed everything from the other end of the hall. Placing his hand on Giglio's shoulder, the Charlatan forces him to stay put. The eight masks of the prologue appear, Giacinta among them. She is wearing the Princess's gown. The old man winces and drops the doll, which shatters in a thousand pieces. Everyone recoils in terror from the old man, while Giglio dashes over to protect Giacinta.

GIGLIO That I belong to another, you may be sure
is untrue, but yours I am, as I never was before.
Giacinta, do not think
that I, to look at another,
would give her my heart, for you know it is yours.
I want to look at you always
so as to love you even more.
Doubt not, oh, trust me,
trust what I did out of pure love

While Giglio sings, the women approach him without his noticing. They are holding a large, spread net, which they cast over his head when he ends his song. At the same time, the Moors bring in a large cage and put Giglio into it. Then they move him to the balcony. From the street come the sounds of the laughing and chattering crowds. The fragments of the doll are collected and put into a casket. A danse macabre is performed in honour of the doll. Giacinta disappears; the whole hall also slowly disappears in the dark.



The same scenery as in Act One. The gowns still all lie around in a complete muddle. Only the dressmaker's dummies that wore the eight Callot masks in the prologue are absent. The cage containing Giglio is on the landing. He has fallen to the floor of the cage and just huddles there motionless. Still wearing the Princess's gown, Giacinta speaks with great conviction and passion to old Beatrice.

GIACINTA Do you know, old woman, do you know why the Prince is hiding? He is dying with love for me, but he fears the Princess. He saunters around the procession in a mask and gives me the sweetest proofs of his tenderness. Our star shines in the heavens. Do you remember poor Giglio? (Beatrice nods and spreads her arms in a gesture of compassion) Now the Princess follows him, but hesitates to approach him, just as the Prince hesitates to approach me. On the day the Princess gives her hand to Giglio, the Prince will likewise give me his. (Beatrice gestures her astonishment) Do you believe that the Prince will not dare to enter this house? You are mistaken! The Prince, who is a master of magic, will succeed in getting in here undisturbed. One night he made himself very small and seemed a long way off. Often the walls of this room recede, and it becomes a large hall, all of marble, gold and ivory. I wander arm in arm with my lover through the most beautiful garden in harmony with the birds. When he kisses me, wings grow on my shoulders, variegated like a butterfly's, and I fly, fly up with him into the azure blue sky. All the treasures and riches of heaven and earth appear before my ecstatic eyes and everything belongs to me. Do you still dare to think that the prince is tight-fisted and that I could return to poverty if he then left me? Look, look at the splendour of this palace: the fabrics, the carpets, the mirror and everything this cupboard holds. If you open it, you will be showered with gold. Do you not see how the ladies, pages, the whole court wait at my throne? (she bows to all the dresses and greets them.)

OLD BEATRICE (shaking her head and making the sign of the cross) God help you!

GIACINTA (singing)
So help me God
I cannot sing.
I never sang before
and I couldn't sing
if I weren't singing.
Now I have sung my song
those who made it didn't teach it to me.

Old Beatrice climbs the stairs and discovers the cage.

(shrieking) My God, what is this? What is this? Giacinta.

The song of a nightingale is heard, slow and sad; a thousand birds answer. Old Beatrice does not dare move. Giacinta listens, then slowly climbs the stairs. She opens the cage. Giglio does not move. Together with the old woman, Giacinta drags him from his prison and, supporting him, helps him downstairs.

GIGLIO (to Giacinta) That I belong to another, you may be sure is untrue, but yours I am, as I never was before.

He falls at her feet and kisses her hands. Old Beatrice goes up the stairs again and exits.

GIACINTA (emphatically, with a grand gesture) I followed a fisherman from shore to shore who was fishing without a boat while the sea was still and clear. But after he had tried several times and caught no fish at all, I liked the shore so much that I gracefully laid myself in the waves where the green branches shed their shade.

Enter the old man from the tulip in his silver gown and the Charlatan. They come to a halt on the stairs in order to listen.

GIGLIO My heart will always be with you and every other thought has flown away.

(Giglio also gesticulates with melodramatic emphasis).

GIACINTA I liked the shore so much that I gracefully laid myself in the waves.

GIGLIO and every other thought has flown away.

GIACINTA If you want to pick flowers, then fear not the thorns, for love seldom offers help, nor affords pleasure without pain.

GIGLIO Today the great Ruvenzad, son of Equinozio
and blonde Primavera, on the Elysian fields, the great Ruvenzad awaits the no less great and no less hapless grandson of Ruvenzad.

GIACINTA Alas! Who will see their beloved sons again!

GIGLIO Ah! Which of them will see his grieving mother!

GIACINTA and GIGLIO Ah! What a blood-bath, how many terrible things! Ah, ah, ah, ah!

The Poet and the Charlatan swiftly descend the stairs.

POET Bravo! Perfect!

CHARLATAN Perfect! Excellent!

POET Give me your hands.

CHARLATAN Five times a hundred thousand ducats! He has been found ...

POET The great Ruvenzad.

CHARLATAN And Princess Mitilis. Come now, shake each other's hand!

The old man casts off his silver robe and can now be recognized: he is the Poet. The Charlatan also casts off his robe and mask: he is the noble Cavalier, the lord of the magic palace. Old Beatrice enters with a large basket filled to the top with delicacies. She is followed by two boys carrying bottles of wine, cakes, flowers, etc. Old Beatrice removes everything that is on the table - scissors, irons, boxes and all the dress-making tools - and throws it all out of the window. She spreads a tablecloth on the cleared table, which she sets for supper for four persons. Meanwhile, the eight masks from the prologue have come downstairs and begun dancing. The dance reaches a climax when Giacinta, Giglio, the Poet and the Cavalier have seated themselves at the table.

POET (lifting his cup) May the most beautiful symbolsof tragedy soon adorn the greatest celebrities. Everyone believed in the truth which this story relates with so much credit.

The masks dance, playing with the symbols of tragedy. Everyone joins in to sing the last five lines together.

Everyone has believed in the truth
which this story relates with so much credit.

Translation: Gwynne Newton and Michael Berridge