La cambiale di matrimonio, farsa comica in two acts to a libretto by Gaetano Rossi, was first produced at the Teatro San Moisè, Venice, on 3 novembre 1810. The singers at the first performances were Domenico Remolini (Norton), Clementina Lanari (Clarina), Luigi Raffanelli (Tobia Mill), Tommaso Ricci (Edoardo), Rosa Morandi (Fanny), Nicola de Grecis (Slook).
A room in Tobia Mill’s house. Norton and Clarina, servants of Tobia Mill, a rich English merchant, are eagerly discussing the latest news about the future of their master’s daughter, the lovely Fanny. The two gossipers have to break up their conference when old Mill comes into the room, intent upon studying – without being much enlightened – the map of the world: his preposterous notions of geography do not get him very far! Norton and Clarina come back with an important letter that has arrived from the New World; although reluctant to tear himself away from geography, Mill is overjoyed to recognize the handwriting of Slook, his colonial correspondent in America. In his letter, the American announces his impending arrival in order to pick up the “merchandise” quoted in the agreement that he has signed with Mill: the latter now reads out to the astonished Norton the promissory note by which Slook has commis-sioned Mill to find him a wife, stipulating all the necessary qualities. It is a “deal” of the greatest importance and Mill, without at all consulting the young lady in question, has decided that his own daughter Fanny shall be the “merchandise”. Norton tries in vain to dissuade him: Mill intends to combine business with pleasure in marrying his daughter to the rich American. When the two men have left, Fanny comes in with her beloved, Edoardo Milfort. As Edoardo’s financial circumstances leave something to be desired, Fanny has never confessed her love to her father: the two young people are awaiting the arrival of Edoardo’s rich uncle before confessing their love.
Norton joins the young couple and warns them of Fanny’s father’s intentions; Mill himself unexpectedly enters and Norton explains away the suspicious presence of a young man by introducing Edoardo as the new book-keeper. His mind now at rest, Mill entrusts his daughter with a letter that she is to present to the foreigner who is about to arrive. This is none other than Slook: as soon as he comes in, he clumsily tries to show off his newly acquired “European” good manners without, however, forgetting that he is basically a man accustomed to “practical American simplicity”. When at last he is left alone with Fanny, Slook learns from the letter that she is the girl whom Mill has selected to be his future wife. Fanny tries to persuade Slook to give up any idea of getting his hands on his “merchandise”, and then Edoardo comes in and intimates that the American had better abandon the business entirely and not say anything about it to old Mill: Slook, afraid of having his eyes torn out, goes off with the young people without being able to understand why they are so threatening. Clarina is worried about Fanny, whom she would like to see happy, and Norton comforts her, secure in his belief that the marriage to Slook will never take place. As soon as he has the chance, Norton insinuates to Slook that the goods in which he is about to invest (his future wife) are already mortgaged. His head spinning with all this, poor Slook goes to look for Mill and tells him that the deal is off, but the outraged Mill at once challenges him to a duel, feeling himself to have been tricked and insulted. When Mill has gone away, Slook soon discovers that Edoardo and Fanny are in love and, moved by their words, proposes to sign the promissory note over to Edoardo whom, at the same time, he designates as his heir: the American cannot believe that in Europe a father would force a daughter into marrying against her will. Fanny, thanking him, expresses all her unbounded happiness. Meanwhile Mill, preparing for the duel, realizes that he might get the worst of it and becomes terrified: when Slook joins him and observes his lack of courage he teazes him until the others come in to break off the warlike preparations. Now Edoardo shows Mill the promissory note and demands the goods specified, but the astonished Mill will have none of it. Only Slook can persuade him to allow Fanny to marry Edoardo, promising him that he has nominated the young man his heir: now that the promissory note has been made out to Edoardo it will bring happiness to all, and within a year it will produce interest in the shape of a bouncing baby grandson.