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The Firebrand of Florence

Broadway operetta in two acts. Music and lyrics by Weill and Ira Gershwin. Book by Edwin Justus Mayer, based on his play The Firebrand.

Work Details

Duration

Full Evening

First Broadway Production

22 March 1945, New York, Alvin Theater, John Murray Anderson, dir., Maurice Abravanel, cond.

For information about licensing this work for use, see our online guide

Act I

Florence, 1535. Sculptor Benvenuto Cellini has been sentenced to hang for the attempted murder of Count Maffio (). The people of Florence gather in the public square, gaily celebrating the hanging . On the gallows, the unrepentant, rakish Cellini says it’s been a good life anyway (). Suddenly Alessandro, Duke of Florence, pardons Cellini, because the statue of a nymph he commissioned from the sculptor hasn’t been finished yet, though Alessandro has already paid for it. Walking away from the scaffold, Cellini is set upon by Maffio; this time he kills him (or so it seems).

Back at Cellini’s workshop, his apprentice Ascanio and servant Emilia rejoice in the reprieve (), as Cellini presents an embellished version of his latest duel with Maffio (). He resumes work on the statue, but he has trouble concentrating because of his attraction to his model, Angela. Angela reciprocates the attraction but with reservations (). The French ambassador enters, telling Cellini that the Duke intends to hang him for Maffio’s murder, and suggesting that he flee to Paris, where the king wants him to decorate Fontainebleau. But before Cellini can bolt, Duke Alessandro arrives () to ogle Angela. The Duke decides to carry off Angela to his summer palace, and he puts Cellini under house arrest ().

Cellini escapes his guards and hurries to the summer palace to rescue Angela. He accidentally encounters Alessandro’s wife, the Duchess of Florence () on her way to Pisa. The Duchess makes no secret of her yen for Cellini, and she’s not interested in romance, just sex (). The two plan an assignation for later. Next Cellini encounters the Duke’s cousin, Ottaviano, who demands that he conspire to kill the Duke, but Cellini refuses, and Ascanio helps him escape. At the summer palace, the Duke exults in the opportunity to have his way with Angela (). But Cellini has sneaked in, and he eavesdrops as the Duke makes his move. The Duke senses Cellini’s presence and is unnerved, and his attempt at seduction degenerates into spoonerisms (). Cellini emerges, and a commotion ensues during which Cellini escapes with Angela and the Duchess unexpectedly returns, to the Duke’s chagrin. The act concludes in a merry .

Act II

Back in Florence at Cellini’s workshop, Benvenuto and Angela finally consummate their passion. But they bicker the following morning, and when a missive from the Duchess arrives () inviting Cellini to decorate the summer palace, he sets his mind on the Duchess rather than Angela. Cellini’s inconstancy aggrieves Angela, who blames it all on Cupid (). Meanwhile, at the city palace, the guards always have their spears at the ready (“Just in Case”). Inside the palace, the Duke schemes to woo Angela by writing her a love poem, but he can’t come up with . When he learns that Cellini has taken Angela away, the Duke again threatens to hang him, but the Duchess persuades him to put him on trial first.

The people of Florence gather in a carnival atmosphere once again (). The judges read the charges against Cellini () but Cellini protests that his past behavior, like everyone else’s, is predetermined by the stars (). For a moment the Duke is amused by this, sensing that this astrological alibi covers his own amatory transgressions. Then Ottaviano testifies that Cellini conspired to kill the Duke. Just when Cellini appears doomed, Ascanio testifies that it was really Ottaviano who was plotting against the Duke (), and the Duchess supports the accusation. So the Duke again reverses himself, arresting Ottaviano and pardoning Cellini. Now Cellini decides to accept the commission to redecorate Fontainebleau. For the greater glory of art and posterity (), he swears off both the Duchess and Angela, while they commiserate with each other ( reprise).

The scene shifts to Fontainebleau () where Cellini, deprived of Angela as a model/muse, has a bad case of “sculptor’s block.” Suddenly the Duke and Duchess of Florence arrive, with Angela in tow. Cellini reconciles with Angela. Finally he finishes and unveils his nymph statue, as commedia dell’arte players perform a motley dance. Bizarrely, Maffio reappears–he hadn’t been killed after all. As Cellini and Maffio draw their swords, a spirit of gaiety lights up the stage in a final reprise of .

  • When the Bell of Doom is Clanging
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  • Come to Florence
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  • Life, Love, and Laughter
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  • Our Master is Free Again
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  • I Had Just Been Pardoned
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  • You're Far Too Near Me
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  • Alessandro the Wise
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  • Finaletto ("I Am Happy Here")
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  • Entrance of the Duchess
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  • Sing Me Not a Ballad
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  • When the Duchess is Away
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  • The Nosy Cook
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  • Act I Finale (Tarantella)
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  • The Duchess's Letter
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  • The Little Naked Boy
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  • March of the Soldiers of the Duchy (Just in Case)
  • A Rhyme for Angela
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  • Hear Ye!
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  • The World is Full of Villains
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  • You Have to Do What You Do Do
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  • How Wonderfully Fortunate!
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  • Love Is My Enemy
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  • The Little Naked Boy (Reprise)
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  • Come to Paris
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  • Finale (Reprise: Life, Love, and Laughter)
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  • Cast

    • Singing Roles

      • Benvenuto Cellini (baritone)
      • Angela (soprano)
      • Emilia (soprano)
      • Duke (baritone)
      • Duchess (mezzo-soprano)
      • Ottaviano (baritone)
      • Magistrate, Hangman (bass)
      • Tartman (tenor)
      • Ascanio (baritone)
      • Maffio, Captain of the Guard (tenor)
      • Marquis
      • Page (boy soprano)
      • ensemble
    • Non-Singing Roles

      • Arlecchino
      • Columbina
      • Beatrice
      • Pierot
      • Flomina
      • Major-domo
      • Pantalone
      • Fiorinetta
      • Gelfomino
      • Clerks, models. apprentices, vendors, courtiers, citizens
  • Instrumentation

    • Flute (picc)
    • Oboe
    • 2 Clarinets
    • Bassoon
    • 2 French horns
    • 3 Trumpets
    • Trombone
    • Harp
    • Guitar
    • Timpani & percussion
    • Strings

  • Much Ado about Love 2017

    Suite of dances from The Firebrand of Florence. Conceived and edited by Kim H. Kowalke and John Baxindine.

    Read More

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