- Laurie Shulman
Opera in one act by Count Marco Aurelio Marliani to a libretto by Eugène Scribe; Paris, Opéra, 28 October 1839.
The title is a Gallic version of the Spanish jácara (diminutive jácarilla), a villancico or romance about disreputable characters. Louis Véron, from 1831 to 1835 director of the Paris Opéra, claimed that Scribe altered the spelling so that his libretto titles would begin with each letter of the alphabet. In Marliani’s opera, situated in Cádiz, the xacarilla is a smugglers’ chorus with several reprises at key moments in the drama. When the ruffians first sing it, their accomplice, the innkeeper Cojuelo (bass-baritone), opens his doors to admit them. Witnessing this occurrence and misconstruing it as magic, the penniless and hungry young sailor Lazarillo (mezzo-soprano) tries singing the chorus from memory. The doors swing open. Incorrectly assuming him to be one of the brigands, Cojuelo invites him to join the others for dinner. Thus admitted, Lazarillo is astonished to find his mistress Ritta (soprano) within, not realizing that she is Cojuelo’s daughter. The lovers reaffirm their commitment, interrupted by Cojuelo, who attempts to deter Lazarillo’s courtship by offering him a greater share of the contraband. The Corrégidor (bass-baritone), to whom Ritta is promised, arrives to investigate rumours of smuggling. Faced with incrimination by Lazarillo, Cojuelo saves his neck only by agreeing to let his daughter marry the sailor. The hapless Corrégidor is duped out of both criminals and fiancée, and the lovers are united....