Albums

The Chocolate Soldier – Studio Cast Recording 1958

The Chocolate Soldier – Studio Cast Recording 1958

Listen

Synopsis

ACT I It is 1885; Serbia and Bulgaria are at war. At their home in the mountains near the border, Nadina, daughter of Popoff, a Colonel in the Bulgarian army, her mother Aurelia and cousin Mascha are pining for their absent men (“Introduction”). Nadina is alone in her bedroom gazing at a portrait of her brave fiancé Alexius (“My Hero”), when an intruder in Serbian uniform climbs through her bedroom window. He doesn’t appear at all threatening; in fact he introduces himself as Bumerli, a Swiss mercenary, and explains that he has just escaped from a battle nearby and climbed the drainpipe to her window to gain sanctuary from his pursuers. When she threatens to call for help he pulls his revolver, but soon lays it down on a table. Thinking to get the upper hand, she picks it up and threatens him, but he only laughs at her – the weapon is not loaded. His ammunition pouch contains only chocolates. Nadina is amused and charmed in spite of herself. Bumerli tells her the story of the battle he has just fled: a bumbling Bulgarian major lost control of his horse, which led to an unintentional cavalry charge against the Serbian position. But the Serbian guns had been supplied with the wrong ammunition and thus were overcome. Nadina is livid when she realizes that the bumbling officer was none other than her own Alexius, and orders Bumerli to leave at once (“Sympathy”). But when he actually starts to leave, she calls him back, not a moment too soon. Bumerli has just enough time to hide in the bed behind the curtains before Captain Massakroff arrives at the head of a disordered squad of Bulgarian soldiers (“Seek the Spy”). Nadina insists that she has seen no sign of an intruder. While the Bulgarians search every other nook and cranny of the house, Aurelia and Mascha come into the bedroom to find out what is going on. They spot Bumerli’s revolver on the table and realize that Nadina is hiding him. After the Bulgarians have given up and left the house, Nadina pulls aside the bed curtains. Bumerli is peacefully asleep. Although they awaken him and are quite charmed by his presence, all he wants is to sleep through the night. When he leaves in the morning, they put together a disguise for him from the Colonel’s civilian clothes, including a cherished old housecoat, and each of the women, unbeknownst to any of the others, slips a photograph of herself into the coat’s pocket. (Finale, Act I) ACT II It is six months later, and the fighting is over; the Popoff family and servants are welcoming their warriors home (“Our Heroes Come”). Nadina is initially happy to have her fiancé back, (“Alexius the Heroic”), but she grows increasingly perturbed at his self-centered boasting (‘Never Was There Such a Lover”). Alexius is chagrined to learn, when he tells her of his victorious cavalry charge, that Nadina knows more about it than she ought to. The ladies, for their part, are strangely taciturn when Colonel Popoff tells them of a Swiss mercenary whom he met after the truce, who had told him a very funny story of evading pursuit by hiding in a house with three ladies who all fell in love with him. Bumerli himself then arrives at the Popoff house to bring back the clothes the ladies lent him, managing to get them into the Colonel’s wardrobe without arousing suspicion. Alexius and Popoff are a little mystified to see him there, but they invite him to stay for the wedding. Bumerli manages to get Nadina alone (“The Chocolate Soldier”), and confesses that his love for her has brought him back. But since she has promised to marry Alexius, they must part (“That Would Be Lovely”). Sorrowfully, Nadina asks to have her photograph back. But Bumerli never looked in the pocket of her father’s housecoat – the picture must still be there! The Colonel is happy to be wrapped in his favorite housecoat (“The Tale of a Coat”). Bumerli and the three ladies are anxious to prevent him from putting his hands in his pockets, and rush around comically to find him matches and a fresh handkerchief. Somehow each lady surreptitiously retrieves a photograph from the pocket, assuming it is the one she put there herself. But Nadina, looking at the photograph and reading the message written on the back, discovers that it is from Mascha! She flies into a jealous rage. The guests are gathering for Nadina’s wedding (Finale, Act II). Captain Massakroff also arrives and recognizes Bumerli as the fugitive he saw climbing the Popoff drainpipe six months ago. In the ensuing confusion Mascha produces Nadina’s photograph, backed by Nadina’s affectionate note. Alexius is furious with Nadina, and she confesses that she no longer loves him. Nadina and Alexius publicly set each other free. ACT III Nadina, back in her bedroom, jealous of Mascha, is writing a chastising letter to Bumerli. But just as she affixes her signature, Bumerli climbs in through the window. Nadina delivers the letter, but he laughs it off. Her passionate jealousy only demonstrates that she loves him. Massakroff appears and accosts Bumerli with a challenge from Alexius to a duel. Bumerli accepts on the spot. Nadina is appalled, but it turns out that Alexius, too, is terrified: he had simply assumed the Chocolate Soldier would never have had the courage to accept the challenge. It begins to appear that Alexius might be happier with Mascha anyhow. The duel is called off. The elder Popoffs are overjoyed to learn that Bumerli is the son of a wealthy Swiss businessman, and all ends well.

– Lucy E. Cross

Credits

Nadina: Risë Stevens Bumerli: Robert Merrill Mascha: Jo Sullivan Alexius: Peter Palmer Aurelia: Sadie McCollum Popoff: Michael Kermoyan Massakroff: Eugene Morgan Music by Oscar Straus Libretto by Rudolf Bernauer and Leopold Jacobson English translation and adaptation by Stanislaus Stange (1909) Orchestra and Chorus under the direction of Lehman Engel