La créole

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La Créole is an opéra comique in three acts of 1875 with music by Jacques Offenbach. The French libretto was by Albert Millaud, with additional material by Henri Meilhac.[1] It was one of three full-length stage works written almost simultaneously that year, the others being La Boulangère a des écus and Le Voyage dans la lune.[2]

Performance history[edit]

La Créole was premiered at the Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens, Salle Choiseul in Paris. The costumes were designed by Alfred Grévin. Although it ran for over sixty performances, it was rather coolly received due to its poor plot, and was not revived.[3]

The work was also performed in German in Vienna and Berlin in 1876 (as Die Creolin), in Polish in Lemberg the same year, in London and Brussels in 1877, and in Spanish in Mexico in 1885.[4] Adapted as The Commodore as a vehicle for Violet Cameron, the piece was seen in London and New York in 1886.[5]

A revival at the Théâtre Marigny starring Josephine Baker in the title role was produced on 17 December 1934, with the libretto revamped by Albert Willemetz and some changes to the music.[6]

More recently La Créole was revived from 13-18 January 2009 at the Atelier Lyrique de Tourcoing, conducted by Jean-Claude Malgoire,[7] and from November 2013 to January 2014 at the Espace Pierre Cardin by the not-for-profit association Tréteaux Lyriques.[8]

Although no complete recording is available, excerpts have appeared on the anthologies 'Offenbach au menu'[9] and 'Entre Nous'.[10]

Roles[edit]

Role Voice type Premiere cast, 3 November 1875,[3]
(Conductor: Jacques Offenbach)
Dora, daughter of the governor of Guadeloupe mezzo-soprano Anna Judic
Réné de Feuilles-Mortes soprano Anna Van Ghell
Antoinette soprano Luce Couturier
Maids of honour soprano Soll and Morena
Le Commandant de Feuilles-Mortes baritone Daubray
Monsieur de Frontignac tenor Henri Venderjench 'Cooper'
Saint-Chamas, officer on the commander’s ship baritone Lucien Fugère
Notaries baritone Homerville and Pescheux
Sailors, Women, Bridesmaids

Synopsis[edit]

1685, La Rochelle

Act 1[edit]

Just about to set off on a new voyage, the sea-captain Adhémar de Feuilles-Mortes plans to arrange the marriage of his ward Antoinette to his nephew René. Unfortunately Antoinette is not in love with René; her love is René’s friend the young lawyer Frontignac. Equally, René, a musketeer travelling between one exploit and the next, is desperate to see again a Creole girl whom he met while he was on Guadeloupe. But in spite of this his uncle Adhémar insists. However the admiral summons the commander to sea, and no sooner is he out of port and sight – presumably for a couple of years – than Antoinette, in collusion with René, marries her sweetheart Frontignac.

Act 2[edit]

Six months later, the commander returns from Guadeloupe with a new ward whom he intends for Frontignac. This new ward is Dora, the Creole whom René wanted to marry. So to avoid revealing the truth Antoinette and René pretend to be wed, while Frontignac pays court to the beautiful Creole. However, Frontignac allows himself to be caught in tête-à-tête with his wife, while René finally manages to convince Dora that she has not been deceived and he still loves her; she then swears her love for him. The commandant tries to join Frontignac and Dora but she refuses. Just then three canons sound, and a new order arrives for him to return to sea. He goes, taking all the young people with him, and all, including the notaries, set off.

Act 3[edit]

On board the ship: the commandant has received a letter from René Duguay-Trouin which must only be opened at a certain point at sea. When the commandant has been lulled to sleep by a berceuse, the young people manage to get hold of the letter and only give it back to him when he agrees to allow René to wed Dora. With a new wedding contract signed, the situation ends to everyone’s satisfaction.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lamb A. "Jacques Offenbach (List of stage works)". In: The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. London and New York: Macmillan, 1997.
  2. ^ Kracauer, Siegfried. Offenbach and the Paris of his time (translated by David, G. & Mosbacher E.). London: Constable, 1937.
  3. ^ a b Yon, Jean-Claude. Jacques Offenbach. Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 2000.
  4. ^ Loewenberg A. "Annals of Opera.” London: John Calder, 1978.
  5. ^ Gänzl K. "La Créole". In : The Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre. Oxford: Blackwell, 1994.
  6. ^ Traubner, R. Operetta — a theatrical history. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983, p. 71.
  7. ^ Letawe, Richard (March 12, 2009). "La Créole d’Offenbach à Tourcoing" (in French). Retrieved November 30, 2013. 
  8. ^ Aimar, Pierre (October 29, 2013). "La troupe des Tréteaux lyriques présente La Créole de Jacques Offenbach à l’espace Cardin de novembre 2013 à janvier 2014" (in French). Retrieved November 30, 2013. 
  9. ^ Laurent, F. Review of 'Offenbach au menu!' Maguelone CD MAG11188. Diapason, January 2012 (598), p93.
  10. ^ Milnes, R. Review of Entre Nous Opera Rara CD set. Opera, November 2007, 1388-90.