Betrothal in a Monastery - The Composer on his Work
I first got acquainted with "The Duenna" by Sheridan in 1940. I was enchanted by its lambent humor, lyrical charm, vivid character sketches, movement of the action and its thrilling plot, whose every turn is anticipated with great interest. The situations which are quite common in comedies are always presented by Sheridan in an unhackneyed and unexpected manner.
When I started my work on the opera based on "The Duenna" I had to choose between two ways: one – to emphasize the comic aspect of he play in my music, the other one – to accentuate its lyricism. Of these two I chose the latter. It seemed correct to pay special attention to the lyrical nature of "The Duenna": the love that united the two young, cheerful and romantic couples – Louise and Antonio, Clara and Ferdinand; the obstacles they had to overcome; the happy betrothal; the poetic charm of Seville where the action takes place; the quiet evening enveloping the young lovers; the fading sounds of the carnival; the old, forsaken convent. But I did preserve the comic scenes so brilliantly depicted by Sheridan: old Don Jerome is so blind with rage that instead of the duenna who had infuriated him he throws out his own daughter wearing the duenna's dress, thus helping her to elope to her lover; the greedy Mendoza is so bedazzled by ducats that he walks into a trap and instead of the young charming Louisa he marries her old nurse; the passionate Ferdinand is so jealous of his sweetheart that he is ready to take any girl accompanied by a young man for Clara betraying him with another man.
Don Jerome enjoys playing music with his friends in this occupation he is constantly interrupted by the intrigue. As a result, Don Jerome, while performing his favorite minuet on the clarinet, quite unawaringly gives a blessing to the marriage of his daughter to Antonio he doesn’t approve of instead of the rich Mendoza.