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Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein, La (‘The Grand-Duchess of Gerolstein’)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, 12 April 1867.

The action takes place around 1720 in the mythical Grand-Duchy of Gerolstein. The army commander-in-chief is the blustering General Boum (baritone) (‘A cheval sur la discipline’), and the soldiers under his command are very much of interest to the young Grand-Duchess (soprano) (‘Ah! que j’aime les militaires!’). In reviewing her troops (‘Ah, c’est un fameux régiment’) she takes a fancy to a handsome recruit named Fritz (tenor). She promotes him first to the rank of corporal and then, to overcome his friendship with a peasant girl named Wanda (soprano), to that of lieutenant and then captain. Meanwhile the Court Chamberlain, Prince Puck (baritone), is seeking a match for the Grand-Duchess with one Prince Paul (tenor), but she has eyes only for Fritz. When Fritz overhears the General’s military plan of campaign, she invites him to take part in discussions. For his contribution he is elevated rapidly to the ranks of general and, finally, commander-in-chief in place of Boum, being invested with the Grand-Duchess’s family sabre (‘Voici le sabre de mon père’). In Act 2 Fritz returns victorious from battle. The Grand-Duchess now seeks, through indirect references, to declare her love for him (‘Dites-lui qu’on l’a remarqué distingué’), but he is too stupid to understand. When he persists in seeking to marry Wanda, the Grand-Duchess joins a conspiracy being hatched by Baron Puck, General Boum and Prince Paul to assassinate Fritz. In Act 3 Baron Grog (baritone), an emissary from Prince Paul, seeks to press the claims of Prince Paul but succeeds only in deflecting the Grand-Duchess’s passion to himself. To get Grog to stay at court, the Grand-Duchess agrees to marry Prince Paul, and withdraws the threat to assassinate Fritz, who is allowed to marry Wanda. The Grand-Duchess marks her wedding night with a drinking-song (‘Il était un de mes aïeux’) based on the ballad of the King of Thule from Goethe’s ...

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