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date: 22 November 2019

Mignonlocked

  • Elizabeth Forbes

Extract

Opéra comique in three acts by Ambroise Thomas to a libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré, after Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s novel, Wilhelm Meister Lehrjahre; Paris, Opéra-Comique (Salle Favart), 17 November 1866.

Mignon was an immediate success, in large measure because of the performance of Célestine Galli-Marié (who later created Carmen) in the title role. Although she did not have an outstanding voice, Galli-Marié was a fine singing actress and possessed exactly the waifish charm that the part required. In Goethe’s novel Mignon is not the main character, but Barbier and Carré, often blamed for their cavalier treatment of literary masterpieces (in Gounod’s Faust and Thomas’ Hamlet, for instance), here showed extremely sound theatrical judgment in their adaptation of a work not, on the surface, suitable as the basis of an opera libretto. Even the obligatory happy ending seems right in the context (in the novel Mignon dies; it was another nine years before ...

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