Playwrights And Plays

Opera Guide a Basso Porto Niccola Spinelli

L. Schaffer's image for:
"Opera Guide a Basso Porto Niccola Spinelli"
Image by: 

Niccola Spinelli's opera "A Basso Porto" premiered at Cologne on April 18, 1894. The libretto was written by Eugene Checchi, based on the play by Goffredo Cognetti. The play is a sequel to "A Santa Lucia," which was adapted into an opera by Baron Tosca (libretto by Golisciani) two years earlier.

A previous opera by Niccola Spinelli, "Labilia," won second place in a competition (the winner was Mascagni's "Cavaliera Rusticana") and premiered in Rome on May 9, 1890. "A Basso Porto" brought him even greater success. The prelude to the third act (a revised version of the opera's original overture) is sometimes performed in concert.


* Maria (Soprano)
* Sesella, her daughter (Soprano)
* Luigino, her brother (Tenor)
* Ciccillo (Baritone)
* Pascale, the innkeeper (Bass)
* Pichillo (Tenor)


The story takes place in Naples in the 1860s.

Act I

Members of the harbor band Camorristi are gambling. Luigino gambles and loses. His sister Sesella complains that his gambling habit is killing their mother, Maria, who pays for his losses though she can ill afford it.

Luigino is angry at Sesella for loving Ciccillo, whom he believes to be a spy on the Camorristi. Ciccillo enters; he is indeed the spy, but accuses Luigino of spying himself.

Ciccillo was once Maria's lover, but left her for another woman, Carmela. To get her revenge, Maria had Carmela arrested and executed. Ciccillo intends to get his revenge by leading Luigino into a bad life and seducing Sesella. Maria suspects his motives and threatens to reveal him as a traitor, but he merely laughs at her.

Act II

Ciccillo accuses Luigino of being a traitor. The Camorristi cast Luigino out, but he vows revenge.

Ciccillo convinces Sesella to elope with him by telling her a version of his romance with Maria which makes Maria out to be evil. After he leaves, however, Maria tells Sesella the truth, and she resolves to break things off with Ciccillo.


Maria reveals Ciccillo's motives to the Camorristi. They accept Luigino into their band again, but want him to kill Ciccillo. Maria begs and prays for them not to force her son into this crime, but their minds are set.

To spare Luigino, Maria meets Ciccillo outside the inn and warns him to flee. He has already betrayed the Camorristi to the authorities, however, and reveals that they are surrounded by soldiers. He attempts to signal them, and she stabs him to death.


* Borowski, Felix. Program Notes to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's 28th Season (1918-1919).

* Davidson, Gladys. "Two Hundred Opera Plots." Philadelphia: J.P. Lippincott, 1911.

* Melitz, Leo, trans. Richard Salinger. "The Opera Goer's Complete Guide." New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1921.

Originally published at Suite101.

More about this author: L. Schaffer

From Around the Web