The original writer Camprodón having died, Carrión undertook to expand his graceful, fluent verse play by the addition of recitatives and ultimately seven new numbers. The premiere of the new version took place on March 16 1871 at the Teatro Real, with Tamberlick, and this time it was a resounding success from the start. The plot is a wafer-thin romance, containing little to excite even the most nervous listener, but the perturbations of Marina, her timid lover Jorge, surly fiancé Pascual and the drunken Roque proved so popular that many later zarzuelas - notably Carrión's own La tempestad for Chapí, and Sorozábal in La tabernera del puerto - adopted Marina's maritime setting and romantic ambience.
Arrieta's music is notable for gentle, mellifluous charm rather than dramatic thrust. It is thoroughly Donizettian in style, and although he does not share the Italian's structural command he was equally capable of writing good tunes. The Preludio to Act 3 is rather more than that, a delicate nocturne featuring a brooding solo for french horn. The original zarzuela version featured a Spanish serenata for Pascual in the original Act 2, but Arrieta did away with this in the revision and apart from Roque's new seguidillas and the sleepy tango which follows there is little Spanish flavour to distinguish Marina from many another Italian piece of the period. Roque apart, the major characters converse musically at least in the purest Italian!
Yet despite its musical and theatrical limitations, Marina obstinately refuses to lie down and die. The effective choral writing plays its part, but above all the opera's appeal is due to the vocal fireworks Arrieta offers his soprano and tenor. Jorge in particular has attracted great singers from Tamberlick himself through Hipólito Lázaro down to the late Alfredo Kraus. "Costa la de Levante" has been called the Spanish equivalent of Otello's entrance in Verdi's masterpiece, a claim which is justified by its need for clarion delivery and stratospheric security; Marina's aria "Pensar en él" is a scarcely less effective showpiece for an agile lyric soprano; Roque's popular songs in Act 3 are equally attractive.
Act 1 - First light in Lloret de Mar, a seaside village on the Costa Brava. After a Preludio which presents the main themes of the opera, fishermen out to sea are heard singing a song to the dawn (Coro: "Ya la estrella precursora"). Marina, orphaned daughter of a merchant captain, awaits the return of Jorge, the man who took her in after her father's death. She is in love with him, but as he is older and her guardian, she has never dared tell him the truth (Barcarola: "Brilla el mar engalanado"). She confesses all to her friend Teresa in the sweetly poised Aria: "Pensar en él", swiftly followed by its Cabaleta: "Ya sus ojos divisan la playa" when Teresa tells her that Jorge's ship has been sighted.
Another ship's captain Alberto, Teresa's father and a friend of Marina's, tells the girls he is sailing away that evening. Marina asks him to give her a letter he had kept from her father, which she would like to have as a memento. Alberto gladly agrees, but their fond farewells are misinterpreted by Marina's jealous suitor, the ships' fitter Pascual, who considers himself virtually engaged to her. In a duet Pascual tells her roughly that his clumsy ways stop him expressing his love for her, whilst she admits the young man's efforts fail to move her (Dúo: "Yo tosco y rudo trabajador"). In exasperation she tells Pascual to ask her guardian for her hand - if Jorge agrees, then she will marry him. In reality of course, she hopes that this will force Jorge into revealing his own feeling for her.
The men and women of the village describe Jorge's landing (Coro: "Pronto en los brazos") and soon enough he arrives with an enthusiastic greeting to his beloved sea coast (Solo: "Costa la de Levante"). He recalls his beloved Marina in a gentle Aria: "No es verdad que con la ausencia" ¹ before asking where she has gone? The villagers explain that she has gone to the church to pray for his safe return, and as she runs in he praises her devotion to him in a lilting Siciliano: "Al ver en la inmensa") whilst Marina prays that her feeling for him may be returned.
Pascual loses no time in telling Jorge that he intends to get married, and the older man heartily tells him that he has had the same thought, so why don't they marry on the same day? Pascual names Marina, to Jorge's shock and consternation. Marina is equally hurt that Jorge apparently wants to marry someone else, whilst Jorge's cynical boatswain Roque comments on the ironies of the situation - anyone who embarks with a woman goes by boat to hell (Cuarteto: "Alma mía, que has soñado"). Pascual takes the tearful Marina away to give the news to his mother, and Jorge is left with Roque to bemoan the apparent fickleness of women (Dúo final: "¡Feliz morada, donde nací!").
Act 2 - The fitter's yard on the seashore, noon. Pascual's workers sing happily as they work (Coro: "Marinero, marinero"). Their master gives them his news, and a holiday to prepare for the wedding (Dúo y coro: "Esta mano que la brea"). Marina is hardly able to conceal her distress, and though the workers can see that all is not well with the girl, they congratulate her all the same, finish their work and leave ("La novia no parece muy satisfecha"). After they have gone Marina pours out her heart in a delicate Romanza: "¡Oh! grato bien querido". Alberto reassures her that he will send her father's letter before he leaves, and repeats that she can rely on his affection - though once again the jealous Pascual misinterprets his concern and cuts him short rudely.
Act 3 - A bodega near the beach, that evening. After a poetic orchestral Preludio Jorge, Roque and a group of young sailors are discovered dinking themselves stupid to drown their sorrows (Escena y brindis: "A beber, a beber y a ahogar"). The sailors leave, and a tearful Jorge tells Roque he can't stand any more. Marina appears, and Jorge asks her savagely if she knows the ungrateful woman who robbed him of his heart? Marina still fails to realise the cause of his pain, but remains deeply hurt by her inability to dry his tears. He taunts her by asking her bitterly whether she loves him, whilst Marina asks Roque what woman can possibly have reduced Jorge to this state? The boatswain is too sozzled to fully realise what is going on (Terceto: "No sabés tú que yo tenía").
Roque falls asleep and the other two leave, just before Pascual appears with a group of friends with the idea of serenading his bride-to-be. Roque is disturbed by the noise, grabs the guitar and sings some suggestive seguidillas with the men which steal the moody fitter's thunder (Seguidillas: "La luz abrasadora"). The boatswain and his friends tell Pascual they're going off to sleep - but not before they finish proceedings up with a lively Tango: "Dichoso aquél que tiene".
Pascual intercepts a sailor bringing the letter from Alberto to Marina, and seeing it is a declaration of eternal love, he leaps to the obvious conclusion, denounces Marina bluntly, breaks off the engagement and rushes away cursing into the night.
As he leaves Jorge appears, and soon understands Pascual's mistake and the innocent identity of the letter writer. When he hints he will be leaving tomorrow, Marina can no longer avoid telling him the identity of the man she really loves, and in a brief duet they admit their love for one another (Dúo: "Piensa en el que amante"). Roque ushers on the townsfolk, who ask Marina what is going on - is there to be a wedding or not? She replies that "only the bridegroom has changed" and leads the village in the joyful Rondo-final: "Rayo de luz encantadora". ²