Naughty Marietta is an operetta in two acts, with libretto by Rida Johnson Young and music by Victor Herbert. Set in New Orleans in 1780, it tells how Captain Richard Warrington is commissioned to unmask and capture a notorious French pirate calling himself "Bras Priqué" – and how he is helped and hindered by a high-spirited runaway, Contessa Marietta. The score includes many well-known songs, including "Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life".
Naughty Marietta had its first performance on October 24, 1910, in Syracuse, New York, and opened on Broadway on November 7, 1910, playing for 136 performances at the New York Theatre. It enjoyed revivals in 1929 at Jolson's 59th Street Theatre and in 1931 at Erlanger's Theatre. The operetta became Victor Herbert's greatest success.
A film version of Naughty Marietta was released by MGM in 1935 starring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. A television version of the operetta was broadcast live in the United States on January 15, 1955, starring Patrice Munsel and Alfred Drake.
In eighteenth century New Orleans, the townspeople go about their daily business in the Place d'Armes ("Clear Away!"). Étienne Grandet, the son of the colony's acting governor, has just returned from a trip to France, and the young ladies warn him that the pirate Bras Priqué has been attacking ships bound for New Orleans; the town fountain is supposedly haunted by the ghost of a woman he killed. Étienne, unknown to all but his father and his quadroon slave mistress Adah, is really Bras Priqué. He gives his father a share of the profits from his crimes, and his father keeps his identity secret.
A band of American woodsmen, farmers, and Indians, led by Captain Dick Warrington and his lieutenant, Sir Harry Blake, "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp" into town. They vow to capture Bras Priqué and seek the governor's signature on a warrant for his arrest. They also hope to find wives among the casquette girls, who should arrive in New Orleans any day. These French girls have been granted dowries by the King of France and sent to the New Orleans to marry the colonists. Lieutenant Governor Grandet, Étienne's father, refuses to sign the warrant. He knows Étienne has imprisoned the real governor on a Caribbean island. Étienne seeks to establish Louisiana as a dictatorship under his own command, separate from both France and the burgeoning United States of America.