Theatre / Naughty Marietta
is an operetta with music by Victor Herbert and libretto by Rida Johnson Young. It opened in October 1910 in Syracuse, New York, and was the Trope Codifier
for American operettas.
The story is set in 1780 New Orleans, and focuses on American Captain Dick Warrington's attempt to capture the notorious pirate Bras Pique, as well as his developing relationship with the beautiful and spirited Neapolitan Countess Marietta D'Altena, who's come to New Orleans as a casquette girl to escape an Arranged Marriage
and to find the man who can complete her Dream Melody
, as that's who it's foretold she'll marry. There's also romantic tension between Lizette, another casquette girl, and Silas, Captain Dick's and later French Lieutenant-Governor Grandet's servant (called Simon in the original premiere, then changed to Silas in other versions).
In 1935 Naughty Marietta
was loosely adapted into a film directed by Robert Z. Leonard, starring Jeanette MacDonald
as Marietta and Nelson Eddy as Warrington. It was the first of eight musical films
that co-starred MacDonald and Eddy. The film took many liberties with the plot of the operetta, including changing Marietta into a French princess named Marie, and eliminating the characters of Lizette, Simon/Silas, and Etienne in order to concentrate on the Marie-Warrington romance. Forty years later, MacDonald's performance of "Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life" was memorably sampled in Young Frankenstein
This work contains examples of the following tropes:
- Arranged Marriage: Marietta ran away to escape one in Naples.
- Beta Couple: Lizette and Silas/Simon.
- Beautiful Slave Girl: Adah, Etienne Grandet (Lieutenant-Governor's son)'s quadroon slave mistress.
Etienne: [at Quadroon Ball, where he's auctioning her] La Belle Adah, the most beautiful slave in New Orleans!
- The Big Easy: New Orleans during its time as a French provincial town. Still fun.
- Bilingual Bonus: Doubles as a Meaningful Name. "Bras Pique" means "tattooed arm" in French. Etienne has "Bras Pique" tattooed- guess where? So do his pirate crew.
- Breakaway Pop Hit: 'Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life', the Dream Melody, is an older example, since Naughty Marietta was written in 1910.
- Corrupt Politician: Lieutenant-Governor Grandet. His son, Etienne, is Bras Pique. And he's one of the only two people who know. His family uses whipping boys to take punishments for them. Silas gets appointed as the new whipping-boy midway through the operetta.
- Devil in Plain Sight: No-one except his father and his slave mistress Adah has the slightest clue that Etienne is really Bras Pique or that he wants to establish Louisiana as an independent nation, a dictatorship under his control
- Dream Melody: 'Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life' is the Trope Namer.
- "I Am" Song:
- The title song, where Marietta sings about how "there are two little maidens that live in my heart" and "when I'm good I'm very very good, but when I'm bad I'm horrid!"
- Also 'Tramp, Tramp, Tramp!' which introduces Captain Warrington and his band of soldiers and woodsmen.
- I Just Want to Be Free: When Adah is freed at the climax, she exposes Etienne's secret
Adah: I- a free woman? Then.. I must act like one— Listen, Monsieur, you would prevent this marriage?
Dick: If I could.
Adah: On Etienne Grandet's right arm you will find his name!
Dick: His name?
Adah: Bras Pique!
- In-Name-Only: The 1935 movie, which removed the stage characters of Adah and Etienne, eliminating the hunt for Bras Pique, and making Marietta French, among other changes. But then, YMMV.
- "I Want" Song: 'Neath The Southern Moon' for Adah, after she discovers that Etienne has stopped loving her. He's paying attention to Marietta in the hope of getting her to marry him.
- Kick the Dog: Marietta considers Etienne to be doing this when he tells her that he plans to sell Adah, who is genuinely in love with him.
- Lampshade Hanging: On the poor quality of Marietta's disguise as a boy.
- Mistaken for Cheating: A variation- they weren't really a couple yet, but Marietta decides to accept Etienne's proposal when she thought Warrington was flirting with Adah.
- Mixed Ancestry: Adah.
- Official Couple: Warrington and Marietta.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Emma Trentini, the original Marietta, was an Italian opera diva with a heavy accent.
- Rebellious Princess: Marietta is a non-royal version. (In the movie she is in fact a royal French princess.)
- Runaway FiancÚ: Guess who?
- Slave Liberation: At the Quadroon Ball, Warrington buys Adah to set her free.
- Sweet Polly Oliver: Marietta disguises herself as a boy to remain hidden from people looking for the Countess. Her disguise isn't very good.
- The Ingenue: Coloratura soprano Marietta.
- Villain Song: 'You Marry A Marionette', sung by Etienne trying to convince Marietta to marry him.
Tropes in the 1935 film: