Operetta in 3 acts. Libretto: Friedrich Zell, Richard Genée; Revised libretto: Ernst Steffan, Paul Knepler: Music by Karl Millöcker

Theater an der Wien, Vienna, 26 January 1884.
Friedrich-Wilhelmstädtisches Theater, Berlin, 26 September 1884.
Thalia Theater, New York, 21 February 1885


The synopsis follows the original version. The 1932 version by Ernst Steffan, which is most frequently heard and which introduces the song 'Dunkelrote Rosen', offers a substantial rewriting of both book and score.

The year is 1820 and the scene, the Mediterranean coast near the town of Syracuse in Sicily.

Act 1

A band of smugglers approach a seaside inn and begin concealing a ship's cargo of sugar and coffee in the cellar. The landlord of the inn, Benozzo, is the nephew of the leader of the smugglers, Massaccio, and he has circulated the rumour that the notorious bandit, Gasparone, is again active in Sicily in order to set the customs officers off on a false trail and keep them occupied away from the activities at the inn. As a result of Benozzo's well laid stories, the mayor of Syracuse, Nasoni, is even now on the bandit's trail together with a posse of customs officers.

The conversation between Massaccio and Benozzo is overheard by a young nobleman, Erminio, and his friend Luigi, but the price of their silence is soon enough agreed. Count Erminio happens to have acquired an admiration for a widowed countess, Carlotta, and it is arranged that Massaccio and Benozzo will waylay the coach carrying the Countess Carlotta and carry off her old dragon of a duenna, Zenobia. Erminio will then appear on the scene as Carlotta's saviour. The customs officers arrive, despairing of their unavailing search for Gasparone and Nasoni is discussing with Benozzo whether the bandit has actually been seen in Sicily, when the landlord's wife, Sara, arrives crying for assistance for the Countess Carlotta, who has been attacked by bandits. However, before Nasoni can go to her assistance, the Countess arrives on the scene with a description of how she was rescued from her attackers by a gallant gentleman.

When Count Erminio appears following his gallant 'rescue' of Carlotta, Nasoni notices that his glances and hers are already meeting with a disturbing frequency. Since he is himself hoping to marry his son Sindulfo to the rich Countess in order to improve his family's finances, he insinuates that Count Erminio is the bandit Gasparone, but Erminio laughs off the suggestion.

The Countess's old duenna, Zenobia, sweeps in, reporting that the bandits have not only freed her but given her two ducats to help her on her way. She and Nasoni watch with concern and interest the seeming decline in the Countess's interest in Nasoni's son. As mayor, Nasoni happens to know that a lawsuit the widowed Countess has been conducting to secure a considerable inheritance will shortly end in her favour and he intends that, before she learns of her resultant millions, she should become engaged to Sindulfo. Sindulfo, however, is a good-for-nothing fellow who spends much of his time chasing after Benozzo's young wife. This fact does not go unnoticed by Erminio and, when he and Countess Carlotta find themselves alone, he warns her about the unscrupulous pair.

Nasoni manages to persuade Carlotta that he can help sway the outcome of her legal case and, although Carlotta knows she does not love Sindulfo, she finally gives Nasoni her word that she will marry his son in return for his assistance. Conveniently, news now comes of the result of the judgement and the mayor unfolds a scroll and proceeds to read the verdict, detailing the extent of Carlotta's wealth. With the exception of Erminio, everyone is very happy for the Countess, Benozzo rushes in with the news that the prospective bridegroom, Sindulfo, has been kidnapped. It is the work of Gasparone, who has left a note demanding a ransom of 10,000 zechinen. Nasoni does not have the money to pay, but Carlotta at once agrees to find it and the wily Benozzo agrees to act as go-between in taking the ransom to Gasparone.

Act 2

In the ballroom of the castle of Santa Croce much merrymaking and dancing is taking place to celebrate the engagement of the Countess and Sindulfo while, in an adjoining room containing a safe holding Carlotta's newly acquired millions, Marietta, Sora and Zenobia are deep in conversation. Sora and Marietta are surprised that the Countess should go through with her engagement to Sindulfo in view of her evident attraction to Erminio, while the old duenna is still sulking over the fact that her encounter with the supposed Gasparone ended with her not even being deemed worthy of a ransom.

Nasoni is in a fearful rage, since his son has still not been released by Gasparone, but Countess Carlotta is perfectly happy in the company of Erminio as they go off to the ballroom together. Meanwhile Benozzo, with a fresh cargo of contraband to attend to, is wondering how he can get away from his unsuspecting wife Sora, but he ends up admitting his smuggling activities to her.

Despite everything, Carlotta persists in honouring her word to Nasoni that she will many Sindulfo, but she is dismayed when Erminio suddenly finds it necessary to leave the party. She is alone in the ante-room when a violent thunderstorm breaks out. Suddenly a window opens and Erminio climbs into the ante-room dressed as a robber. He demands from Carlotta the key to the safe, takes the millions of her inheritance that have been deposited there, and leaves, thanking the Countess courteously as he goes.

When Zenobia and Marietta come to call Carlotta for supper, they see what has happened and raise the alarm. Although Carlotta has recognised the thief as Erminio, her feelings for him persuade her to say that it was the dreaded Gasparone who robbed her. Suddenly Sindulfo appears with a tale of having been kept blindfold in a cellar full of sugar and coffee but, learning that the Countess's millions have been stolen, Nasoni is not anxious to confirm his son's engagement until the bandit has been captured and the money recovered.

Act 3

Martial law is in force across Syracuse and the guards are assembled in front of the town hall preparing to flush out the elusive Gasparone. A judicial hearing has been arranged, much to the concern of Benozzo and Massaccio who, although they know that they are the kidnapping arm of Gasparone, have no idea who stole the Countess's millions. What if they were convicted of the whole lot? Benozzo determines to devote more attention to his loving wife in the future and less to the smuggling side of Syracuse.

Nasoni opens the judicial hearing and Sora and Zenobia give colourfully conflicting evidence to which Carlotta adds a deliberately confusing and false picture of the man who robbed her. But still, despite such efforts to protect Erminio, she continues to honour her word regarding her engagement to Sindulfo.

Erminio, who has noted with joy the protection that Carlotta continues to give him, seizes the opportunity to explain to her that he is really no robber and that his actions have been designed solely to show Nasoni in his true light. Benozzo and Massaccio, anxious to extricate themselves from the seemingly dangerous situation, arrive with a letter for Nasoni which announces that, weary of tormenting Nasoni, Gasparone has decided to return to the mainland. He will even be returning the 10,000 zechinen ransom he obtained for Sindulfo. Although pleased by the bandit's strange change of heart, Nasonï s main interest still centres on the whereabouts of the very much larger sum which he is apparently not offering to return.

Erminio gives Nasoni a packet which he says contains a wedding present, but Nasoni returns it. He wants to hear no more about the wedding now that Carlotta has no fortune left. Now that she is formally released from her engagement, Carlotta falls into Erminio's arms. Then Erminio hands the packet to Carlotta. It contains the millions he had stolen earlier. Too late does Nasoni now protest that he would like the marriage between Sindulfo and the Countess to take place after all, as universal rejoicing breaks out that the affair of Gasparone is finally at an end.

Story adapted from Ganzl's Book of the Musical Theatre - ISBN 0 370 31157 4


  • Carlotta, Widowed Countess Santa Croce
  • Baboleno Nasoni, Bürgermeister von Toresino
  • Sindulfo, his son
  • Count Ermino
  • Luigi, his friend
  • Benozzo, Landlord of the Fisherman's Inn
  • Sora, his wife
  • Zenobia, duenna of the Countess
  • Massaccio, a smuggler , Benozzo's uncle
  • Marietta, the Countess's maid
  • Colonel Ruperto Corticelli
  • Lieutenant Guarini

Smugglers, Sora's friends, milkmaids, pesant girls, citizens of Syracuse, policement, customs officers, boatmen.

Musical Numbers

  1. Einleitung, Dialog und Chor- Orchester, Chor
  2. Denkst du an mich, schwarze Ninetta - Fremder
  3. Zwanzig halt ich (Schmugglerszene) - Benozzo, Fremder, Ensemble
  4. Nur Gold will ich haben- Fremder, Benozzo
  5. Der verdammte Gasparone- Nasoni, Senozzo
  6. Erzähl doch endlich, was geschah / Ein int'ressantes Abenteuer /Im dunklen Wald- Chor, Benozzo, Sora, Nasoni, Carlotta
  7. Komm, Sora / Verzeihung, wenn ich stör - Benozzo, Nasoni, Sindulfo, Carlotta, fremder
  8. O dass ich doch ein Räuber wäre- Fremder
  9. Wenn ich ja sag, sagt er nein / So sind die jungen Leute- Sora, Benozzo, Nasoni
  10. Wie freu ich mich, sie hier zu sehn / Liebe erhellt die ganze Welt - Carlotta, Fremder
  11. Wenn der Morgen hold erwacht - Sindulfo, Chor
  12. Was bedeutet das? / Gräfin, lasst euch erzählen- Chor, Carlotta, Nasoni, Sindulfo, Fremder
  13. Anzoletto sang: Komm, mia bella (Tarantella) /Diese wunderbare Frau - Sora, Benozzo, Chor, Fremder, Nasoni, Luigi
  14. Dunkelrote Rosen - Fremder
  15. Auch ich war einst ein junger Mann / Das waren Zeiten - Nasoni
  16. Carlotta, ich liebe sie / O schweigen sie- Fremder, Carlotta
  17. Stockfinster war die Nacht- Benozzo, Nasoni, Sora, Chor
  18. Bin ich allein? / Ich bitte: Keinen Laut - Carlotta, Fremde
  19. Er soll dein Herr sein - Sore, Benozzo
  20. Liebe erhellt die ganze Welt - Carlotta, Fremder