A Trip To Africa
A Comic Opera in 3 Acts
Music by Franz von Suppé
Lyrics and text by Emil Schwab, Hannah Salvi and Dario Salvi
Original German libretto and Lyrics by Moritz West and Richard Genée
Miradillo, an explorer with little money, leaves his home and fiancée, Tessa, in Palermo, Italy, in order to penetrate the recesses of Africa. He arrives in Cairo, Egypt, and takes lodgings in the Hotel Pharone, however he is not courageous enough to leave the city. Pericles, the hotel owner, soon becomes tired of Miradillo being unable to pay and threatens to have him sent to prison if he cannot pay is dues. Sebil, a servant, implores Pericles not to be so angry with Miradillo, as she is in love with him and he has promised to buy her and free her from the life of a servant.
Miradillo is about to be ejected from the hotel, after hearing of the imminent arrival of the rich heiress Titania, when Prince Antarsid appears on the scene. He wishes to take lodgings at the hotel, however they have all been booked out in preparation for Titania’s arrival. Titania soon arrives and it is immediately apparent that the two are attracted to each other. Titania offers to share the rooms equally between herself, Antarsid and their respective parties.
Titania, however, is in a quandary herself; her fortune of two million francs, which is in the keeping of her uncle, Fanfani Pasha, will be forfeited if she is not married before her 19th birthday. She had told the Pasha that she would be arriving with a husband, however she has none. With her birthday the following day, she must find a husband quickly before her uncle finds out. After recognising Miradillo from some business in Naples, they resolve to help each other; she will share her inheritance with Miradillo if he pretends to be her husband.
Fanfani becomes suspicious when he hears the news of the matrimony. He senses that not all is as it seems, and blames Miradillo for robbing him of the two million francs that he has already squandered. Titania reluctantly pays Miradillo’s hefty hotel bill in the hope that all will soon be settled and she can return to Palermo.
Antarsid approaches Fanfani to buy some slaves, much to the disapproval of Titania. He vows that he will change his ways if they can be together.
Meanwhile, Tessa, Miradillo’s fiancée from Palermo, and her mother, Buccametta, have followed the young explorer to Cairo and are not getting on well with the Egyptian way of life. They meet Fanfani, who seems to have taken a fancy to Tessa, but she only has eyes for her Miradillo. The Pasha reveals that he has 46 wives in his harem, and that Miradillo is staying at the Hotel Pharone with his ‘wife’, Titania. Tessa and Buccametta are distraught at the news, so Fanfani consoles them by inviting them to stay with him at his villa. When Miradillo appears, they veil themselves so as not to be recognised by him. In order to free Titania of Miradillo, and unaware of her attachment to Antarsid, Fanfani Pasha invites them to accompany him to dinner where he can further his plot.
In preparation for the party, Sebil insists that Miradillo has bought her, which he eventually admits, much to the shock and disapproval of the onlookers. They worry about what Titania will think of her ‘husband’ fraternising with the slave girl, however she seems too busy to notice, with her attention firmly on Antarsid. She invites him to be her guest at the feast, and the act closes with their departure.
The act opens in the garden of Fanfani’s villa. He is whipping his slaves into shape when Miradillo appears and tries to stop him from his cruel behaviour. Fanfani accuses Miradillo of not being Titania’s real husband and tries to offer him a share of the inheritance if he admits to the deceit, however he declines. Fanfani decides to continue with his original plan; he has reserved a kiosk for Miradillo and Titania to share, which they would not agree to if they were indeed not married. Miradillo, much to Fanfani’s surprise, goes along with the plan and leaves to tell Titania of the ‘good news’.
Tessa and Buccametta, meanwhile, appear to have taken to Egyptian life quite nicely. They are plotting revenge on the scoundrel Miradillo when Fanfani proposes that Tessa become his 47th wife. Tessa deliberates the idea, to get back at Miradillo, however her mother appears to have fallen for the Pasha in this short time. Fanfani refuses her overt advances, and she eventually agrees that her daughter should marry him.
Titania and Antarsid are falling more in love with each moment, and with Antarsid unaware of the fake marriage, they begin to lose all discretion. They are witnessed sharing an intimate moment, and Miradillo informs Antarsid that this behaviour is inappropriate, which makes him think that Miradillo is in love with Titania. With everyone having seen this interaction, they become increasingly suspicious as Miradillo and Titania share a whispered conversation. Miradillo wishes to go ahead with the Pasha’s plan to share a kiosk so as to appear as a real married couple, however Titania is horrified at the idea. She threatens him with a gun, and he eventually accepts her decision. He realises he is in a tricky situation; his ‘wife’ has threatened him, Antarsid seems intent on a duel as he thinks that Miradillo wants to be with Titania, and the Pasha is trying to bribe him into admitting the false marriage. He decides it would be best for him to leave unnoticed.
Meanwhile, Fanfani has met with Nakid, the local poison dealer, who attempts to sell him Revenge Dates, which make the eater sneeze every time they try to kiss somebody. Fanfani threatens him and accuses him of being a con. Nakid is enraged and vows revenge, which he plans to take at the feast that evening.
Titania implores Antarsid to abduct her in order to avoid the enforced the ‘advances’ of Miradillo. He agrees to ‘abduct’ her at the feast, as long as they can leave together. Titania becomes hopeful that Antarsid may marry her before the term expires, meaning that she would be entitled to the inheritance after all.
Tessa appears and reveals her identity and despair to Titania for having ‘stolen’ her fiancée. Titania explains the marriage is a farce, and that if she had been more patient she could have had Miradillo after all. Miradillo appears, and Tessa veils herself again in order to get a confession from him. Not realising that she is in fact his fiancée, he flirts with her after she confesses his love for him, and begins to fancy himself as somewhat of a ladies’ man. Tessa becomes upset and eventually gives up her identity. Miradillo is shocked and begs her forgiveness for his unfaithfulness, however she threatens to go back to join the Pasha’s harem unless he drops the façade with Titania. He refuses, and Fanfani arrives on the scene with the belief that Miradillo is trying to seduce Tessa. Miradillo refuses to accept that Tessa could marry the Pasha, and they share a kiss. In order to continue the deceit, he reveals that he and Titania allow each other to do as they please. Fanfani wants more than ever to get rid of Miradillo for good, having stolen the affections of his latest wife and his money, and enlists the help of Antarsid to have him abducted. Tessa joins the Pasha’s harem, as Miradillo cannot break off the deal with Titania. He also asks the Prince to abduct Tessa so that they can be together, and so Antarsid can be with Titania; an offer which he agrees to also.
The feast begins, and the slaves pass around the dates, which Nakid has laced with his poison. Soon all of the guests begin sneezing, much to Nakid’s delight. The flood arrives, marking the end of Ramadan, and the boat appears with Antarsid’s men, who seize Titania (under her own instruction), Miradillo (under Fanfani’s instruction) and Tessa (under Miradillo’s instruction). They all board the boat, while Fanfani watches on in a state of confusion. He orders his men to stop them, however they are thwarted by Antarsid’s followers.
The act opens in a desert oasis. Antarsid is in a dreamlike state having taken his love and rescued Miradillo and Tessa. Tessa, however, doubts Miradillo’s fidelity and suspects him of flirting with the slave girls. Antarsid hatches a plan to test his faithfulness and instructs Tessa to hide in one of the tents, so that they can tell Miradillo that she has been kidnapped and needs to be rescued. Antarsid informs Miradillo that he wishes to marry Titania that very day, however Miradillo objects to keep up appearances of the false marriage between himself and Titania. Antarsid reveals that he knows of the plot, and Titania release Miradillo from his obligations. She informs him that his share of the money has been deposited in the bank under Tessa’s name. Miradillo accepts that he will no longer be a travelling bachelor, and instead will marry Tessa. He asks after her, and Antarsid and Titania inform him that she has been kidnapped in the night by Fanfani, and taken to the Interior of Africa. Miradillo decides that he will have to buck up the courage to explore the country after all in order that he finds his future wife. Titania and Miradillo try their best to scare him so that he does not go, and will instead go back to Naples with them, however he displays the required courage by saying that he will not go unless he has Tessa by his side.
Tessa is elated that Miradillo really does love her, and reveals her hiding place stating that she managed to escape. However it is not long before the Pasha actually is hot on their heels. Titania and Antarsid flee the camp and head for the nearest chapel so that they can marry. The others hatch a plan to delay Fanfani until the deed is done to ensure that he does not retain the money that is rightfully Titania’s. The Bedouins storm the camp under the command of Fanfani and search the tents. He finds Miradillo, and exclaims his disbelief that Antarsid duped him by taking all of them away. He demands that Tessa appear before him, and she soon enters with a tray of drinks. She greets Fanfani, and confesses that she has a plan to kill Miradillo because of his deceit, which Fanfani welcomes heartily. She reveals that the bottle of wine that Miradillo is drinking from contains poison, and encourages the Pasha to share a drink with him from the other bottle. He agrees, and Miradillo makes a show of making friends with the Pasha again. Fanfani humours him, believing that he will die soon, until Tessa rushes in, feigning horror, stating that the bottles must have been switched and that Fanfani is actually drinking the poison. He rolls around on the floor, calling for Nakid, who says he cannot help, until Buccametta appears, having once again followed the party to the desert, and says she will save the Pasha if he will take her as his wife. Fanfani hastily agrees, before Nakid reveals that there was never any poison at all!
Amongst the din, a mirage appears showing Titania and Antarsid getting married. They have wed on her 19th birthday, meaning that Fanfani must give up the inheritance after all. Miradillo and Tessa are free to be together, and the four declare that they will leave for Naples after an eventful trip to Africa, with Buccametta staying in Cairo to join the Pasha’s harem.