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Barbe-bleue (‘Bluebeard’)locked

  • Andrew Lamb

Extract

Opéra bouffe in three acts by Jacques Offenbach to a libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy ; Paris, Théâtre des Variétés, 5 February 1866.

Widowed for the fifth time, squire Bluebeard (tenor) sends his alchemist Popolani (baritone) to find a virtuous peasant girl to become wife number six. Popolani holds a raffle for the honour, but the winner is the promiscuous Boulotte (soprano). Meanwhile Count Oscar (baritone), court chamberlain to King Bobèche (baritone), has recovered the King’s 18-year-old daughter, Princess Hermia (soprano), abandoned as a baby and now living as the shepherdess Fleurette. In Act 2, in King Bobèche’s palace, the King attempts to persuade Princess Hermia to marry Prince Saphir (tenor), but she refuses until she discovers that the Prince is none other than her own shepherd lover. Boulotte soon proves too much for Bluebeard, but Popolani rebels at being required to dispose of yet another wife. It transpires that the previous five have merely been given sleeping draughts, and Popolani sets off with them from his laboratory to the palace, bent on revenge. In Act 3 the wedding procession of the Prince and Princess is under way in the palace when Bluebeard arrives, announces Boulotte’s demise, and claims the Princess for his next wife. Then Popolani arrives with the six wives, accompanied by five courtiers supposedly put to death for flirting with the Queen. The situation is resolved by marrying off the five ex-wives and five supposed lovers, leaving Princess Hermia to Prince Saphir, and Bluebeard to Boulotte....

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