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date: 18 November 2019

Mère coupable, La (‘The Guilty Mother’)locked

  • Christopher Palmer

Extract

(‘The Guilty Mother’)

Opera in three acts, op.412, by Darius Milhaud to a libretto by Madeleine Milhaud after Pierre-Augustin Beaumarchais ’ play; Geneva, Grand Théâtre, 13 June 1966.

The play is the last in the cycle that includes Le barbier de Séville and Le mariage de Figaro. The characters are older, wiser and, according to the composer, ‘perhaps more human’. Beaumarchais introduced a villain, Begaers (baritone), who tries to make his fortune by ruining Count Almaviva (baritone) and is finally worsted by Figaro (baritone). The libretto contrasts drama between Rosine (soprano) and Begaers with wit in the characters of Suzanne (mezzo-soprano) and Figaro and features a love affair between Léon (tenor), son of Rosine and Chérubin (who does not appear in the opera), and Florestine (coloratura soprano), Almaviva’s illegitimate daughter.

Milhaud was convinced that the play would adapt well to operatic treatment, but his touch was a little on the heavy side. His strengths were acerbic and violent rhetorical grandeur on the one hand and sustained lyrical sweetness on the other: ...

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