Le voyage dans la lune (operetta)

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Le voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon) is an opéra-féerie in four acts and 23 scenes by Jacques Offenbach. Loosely based on the novel From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne, its French libretto was by Albert Vanloo, Eugène Leterrier and Arnold Mortier.

It premiered on 26 October 1875 at the Théâtre de la Gaîté. The production was revived at the Théâtre du Châtelet, on 31 March 1877.

History[edit]

Genesis[edit]

The idea for the work was presented to Jacques Offenbach while he was head (director) of the Théâtre de la Gaîté, but due to the need to raise the necessary money he did not take up the project. Eventually Albert Vizentini, the new directeur of the Gaîté, took up the idea, and Offenbach's contribution was limited to that of composer.[1]

Albert Vanloo and Eugène Leterrier, in association with Arnold Mortier (columnist at Figaro), wrote the libretto. They were hoping for a repeat of the success of the novels of Jules Verne (another, the novel Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingt jours, had been adapted for the stage at the Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin by Verne himself in 1874) and the public taste for grand spectacles.

A few days after the premiere of Voyage dans la Lune, Jules Verne complained about its similarities to his work : "Two days after the first production of Voyage à la lune [sic] the loans to the authors from "From the Earth to the Moon" as the point of departure and from "Centre of the Earth" as the dénouement seem to me incontestable.".[2] This dispute does not seem to have continued, or may have been settled amicably, for by 1877, Jacques Offenbach based his Le docteur Ox on another Jules Verne novel, with his agreement.

Production[edit]

Christian (Vlan) and Zulma Bouffar (prince Caprice) in Le voyage dans la Lune, in the charlatans scene.

The première of the opéra-féerie Voyage dans la lune occurred on 26 October 1875 at Théâtre de la Gaîté in Paris. The French correspondent for The Times wrote "The piece is, I think, a success, less great, probably, than that of [the 1874 play] Le Tour de Monde en Quatre-Vingt Jours,[3] but which will be marked."[4]

No expense had been spared on the scenery - the 24 majestic sets by Cornil, Fromont and Chéret replicated places (such as the Observatory of Paris, a high-furnace, a lunar passage or a volcano) and created original architectural conceits (such as a glass palace or mother-of-pearl galleries). The use of "trucs", trap-doors and artifices accentuated the surprise-effects on the spectators. The producers even borrowed a dromedary from the Jardin d'Acclimatation. The 673 costumes were designed by Alfred Grévin, and the two ballets choreographed by M. Justament. The principal roles were taken by Zulma Bouffar (in the principal boy role of Prince Caprice - reviews stated she "sang with esprit and acted with intelligence and finesse"[5]), Christian (Vlan), Pierre Grivot (Microscope), Tissier (Cosmos) et Mlle Marcus (Fantasia). At the première, the Ronde des Charlatans, interpreted by Zulma Bouffar and Christian, won an encore.

The success of the show, whose première raised 3,898 francs, led to the theatre's receipts passing 10,018 francs with its seventh performance.[6] Le Voyage dans la Lune left its mark on the year in which it first appeared : seven Parisian winter revues in 1875-1876 made reference to it (Voyage de la Lune à Paris, Mme Angot dans la Lune, Le Voyage du Soleil, Les Voyageurs pour Belleville, Les Voyageurs pour la Lune, Allons voir la Lune, mon gars !, La Lune à Paris).[7]

The rôle of Caprice was portrayed by Mme Peschard from 16 December 1875 until 16 February 1876, since Zulma Bouffar had to honour a two-month engagement at Saint Petersburg. From 28 February 1876, the rôle of Popotte returned to Thérésa. For her, Jacques Offenbach added four airs to the score. Le Figaro noted : "Thérésa and her songs produced a great effect. There were two especially, in the third act, that she detailed with an exquisite finesse and art."[8]

Le Voyage dans la Lune was also put on in London, at the Alhambra Theatre, on 15 April 1876, and Vienna, at the Theater an der Wien, on 16 April 1876.[9]

The last performance at the Théâtre de la Gaîté occurred on 25 April 1876 after 185 performances and 965,000 francs in ticket receipts.[10]

Revival[edit]

The work was revived at the Théâtre du Châtelet from 31 March 1877[11] with most of the original cast. After two months, with ticket receipts of 226,457 francs, its 247th and last performance night was on 31 May 1877.[12]

Roles[edit]

Role Voice type Premiere cast, 26 October 1875
(Conductor: Albert Vizentini)
Cast (Châtelet), 31 March 1877
(Conductor: )
King Vlan baritone Christian Christian
Cosmos bass Tissier Tissier
Prince Quipasserparla tenor Habay Habay
Microscope tenor Pierre Grivot Guillot
Cactus tenor Laurent Courtès
Cosinus Étienne Scipion Jacquier
Parabase Legrenay Beuzeville
Phichipsi Colleuille Colleuille
Rectangle Jules Vizentini Guimier
Oméga Mallet Auguste
Coefficient Chevalier Prudhomme
A-Plus-B Henry Panot
A guard É. Scipion Jacquier
A bourgeois J. Vizentini Jacquier
A poet Chevalier Chevalier
A male forge-worker Barsagol Thuillier
Grosbedon Chevalier Prudhomme
The commissaire bass Gravier
A slave merchant Van-de-Gand Gillot
A Sélénite Bousquet
Prince Caprice soprano Zulma Bouffar Zulma Bouffar
Princess Fantasia soprano Noémie Marcus Lynnès
Queen Popotte mezzo-soprano Adèle Cuinet Marcelle
Flamma soprano Blanche Méry Noel
Adja soprano Maury Géron
Phoebé Dareine Lévy
Stella Davenay Alice Régnault
A forge worker (female) Z. Bied Rébecca
Hyperba Baudu Durand
Microma (or Ita) Blount Capiglia
Bella Godin
Citizens, Courtiers, Astronomers, Blacksmiths, Artillery men, Moon-Dwellers, Counsellors,
Maids of Honour, Guards, Stockbrokers and Speculators

Synopsis[edit]

Act 1[edit]

1st scene: Prince Caprice

On some part of the Earth, on a large square in the capital, king Vlan is preparing a festival in honour of his son, prince Caprice, who has returned from a long journey undertaken for his education. On Caprice's arrival, king Vlan cedes him the crown, but Caprice refuses it, not wanting to govern or to marry but instead to have liberty, movement, air, space... The moon, then rising, gives him an idea for his next destination. He thus asks his father to get him to this unknown and unexplored place. Vlan gives in and asks Microscope, the kingdom's greatest scholar, to find a way of getting there. Microscope replies that this mission regards the Observatory.

2nd scene: At the Observatory

Questioned, the astronomers do not reply and demand a commission. Furious at this evasion, Caprice crosses them off and proposes to do the same to Microscope if he does not find a way to the moon. Microscope arranges that they meet 8 days later in his forge, and says he will find a way to the moon in the interim.

3rd scene: At the forge

The forge-workers finish their work when Vlan and Caprice arrive 8 days later. Microscope unveils his means of getting to the moon : a shell launched by a cannon. Due to the probability that the mission will go wrong, Microscope is forced to accompany Caprice. Vlan accedes to his son's insistent demands and also joins them on the trip.

4th scene: The departure

Vlan, Caprice and Microscope get into the shell. The artillery-men light the fuse and, with a huge detonation, the shell hurtles towards the moon.

Act 2[edit]

5th scene: The moon

Hearing mysterious voices, we see a town with strange architecture.

6th scene: The arrival

The "sélénites" (moon-dwellers) fearfully observe a black point in the sky, and one asks another if it may be something sent by the "terriens" (Earth-people) to exterminate them. Cosmos, king of the moon, and his counsellor Cactus calm their people - science has proved that the Earth is uninhabited. With a horrendous crash, the shell crash-lands on a house and Vlan, Caprice and Microscope get out, as the "sélénites" hide. The 3 men get observe what seem a desolate planet, and their mood blackens, since only apples remain for provisions. Some "sélénites" get up, and Cosmos reappears to ask the "terriens" where they have come from. Their insolent reply makes him condemn them to prison, but Cosmos's wife Popotte and daughter Fantasia arrive. It is Fantasia's birthday, and she asks her father to take pity on the prisoners and free them as her birthday present. Cosmos accepts and proposes that the "terriens" visit his palace.

7th scene: The glass palace

Cosmos and Cactus show Vlan, Caprice and Microscope the moon's civil service. On the moon, working for the king is not a happy job and if there are no candidates the fattest person is picked.

8th scene: The mother-of-pearl galleries

Caprice courts Fantasia, but she does not understand, not knowing what love is, since it does not exist on the moon other than as a disease - when one wants to have a child, one asks oneself if there is an area of commerce in which it can prosper.

9th scene: The park

Caprice, despairing of princess Fantasia and her inability to love him, eats an apple. The princess, astonished by his absence, goes to look for him. Attracted by this fruit (unknown to her), she tastes it. Calling it a "charming gift that she formerly ate on the Earth", she immediately falls in love with Caprice, sending the palace into an uproar.

10th scene: The roaming shadows

11th scene: Cosmos's gardens

Grand ballet of the Chimères.

Act 3[edit]

12th scene: The consultation

The kingdom's doctors examine Fantasia, shut up in her chamber, mad with love. She escapes and finds Caprice. To save her, Caprice suggests making Cosmos amorous by giving him an apple-based drink. Due to her incurable sickness of love, Cosmos proposes to sell Fantasia, as is the habit on the moon when a woman ceases to please. Caprice promises Fantasia that he will buy her.

13th scene: The women market

On the moon, the women market is the equivalent of the stock-market. Microscope is charged by Caprice with buying the princess and, visiting Quipasseparla ("Who Goes There", king of the stock-market), he negotiates with him just in case the 'stock-price' goes up. Quipasseparla does not accept and is intoxicated to prevent him from participating in the sale. Vlan and Caprice arrive, dressed as charlatans. They suggest an elixir that will, among other things, slim down fat people. This elixir is very precious, and only a king is worthy of it, so Cosmos is its happy beneficiary. Cosmos tastes it and panics, believing himself poisoned - in fact, they have made him discover alcohol. Quipasseparla wins Fantasia at the sale.

14th scene: The land of the paunchy

Quipasseparla and his harem arrive in the land of the paunchy where they stop at an inn. Microscope arrives, followed by Popotte, who is in turn by Cosmos, who has fallen madly in love with her. Popotte does not return his love and so he had made her drink the elixir that will make her fall in love, but Microscope happens to be passing at that moment and she has instead fallen in love with him! Vlan and Caprice arrive in search of Fantasia. Vlan stops for dinner, whilst Caprice finds Fantasia again and flees with her. Furious at being in love and at being trumped by his wife, Cosmos arrives... The inn goes mad, Vlan and Microscope are unmasked despite their fake paunches. The royal guards go in pursuit of Caprice and Fantasia and bring them back. Quipasseparla renounces the princess. Winter immediately follows summer in this country and so they only get back to the capital under the snow.[13]

15th scene: 50 degrees below zero

Grand ballet of the snowflakes: this scene gave rise to the popularity of snow dances, the most famous of which is that in The Nutcracker.[14]

Act 4[edit]

16th scene: The imprisonment of the apple-bearers

The moon-women discover love, but king Cosmos does not hear of it. Vlan, Caprice and Microscope are brought before a court and condemned "to pass five years inside an extinct volcano, where they will be wholly deprived of any kind of nourishment".

17th scene: The glacier

Brought to the top of the volcano, they take their places in a basket with Cosmos to be lowered into the crater.

18th scene: The crater

Arriving at the bottom, Popotte cuts the cord, reproaching her husband for want to cause Microscope to perish. Fantasia is found to have stowed away in the basket, wanting to die with Caprice. In this desperate situation, Cosmos promises the prisoners their liberty if they can find a way out.

19th scene: The interior of the volcano

They search for a way out amidst rumbles and detonations. The volcano begins to erupt.

20th scene: The eruption

21st scene: The rain of ash

22nd scene: The volcano's summit after the eruption
Caprice, Fantasia, Cosmos and Vlan lying on the ground, having fainted. Microscope has hidden in a crevice, and wakes them. Popotte rushes to them - they are saved.

23rd scene: Le clair de terre (The earth-light - a pun on clair de lune (moonlight))

Musical numbers[edit]

Overture[15]

Act 1[edit]

1. Chorus: 'Quelle splendide fête' (Chorus.)

2. Couplets du roi Vlan: 'Vlan, Vlan, je suis Vlan' (Vlan, Chorus.)

3. Chorus: 'Rataplan, rataplan' (Chorus, Vlan, Microscope.), Couplets of prince Caprice: 'Ah ! j'en ai vu!' (Caprice, Chorus.)

4. Romance de Caprice: 'Ô reine de la nuit' (Caprice.)

5. Chorus des astronomes: 'Les cieux!' (Chorus TB.)

6. Chorus des forgerons: 'À l'ouvrage!' (Chorus.)

7. Valse chantée: 'Monde charmant que l'on ignore' (Caprice.)

8. Final: 'En route pour la lune!' (Chorus, Microscope, Vlan, Caprice.), Chorus des artilleurs: 'Nous sommes les petits artilleurs' (Chorus, Vlan, Microscope, Caprice.)

Entr'acte

Act 2[edit]

9. Chorus (derrière le rideau): 'Ah !' (Chorus.)

10. Chorus: 'C'est un point noir' (Chorus.)

11. Rondo de l'obus: 'Dans un obus qui fend l'air' (Caprice, Microscope, Vlan.)

12. Couplets de Fantasia: 'Tu devais le jour de ma fête' (Fantasia.)

13. Chorus et marche: 'Salut à notre roi' (Chorus.)

14. Entrée des conseillers

15. Madrigal: 'Je regarde vos jolis yeux' (Caprice.)

16. Morceau d'ensemble: 'Ne jamais rien faire' (Flamma, Chorus, Cosmos, Popotte, Microscope, Vlan.)

17. Duo des pommes: 'Mon Dieu ! qu'ai-je ressenti là?' (Fantasia, Caprice.)

18. Ballet des chimères

Entr'acte

Act 3[edit]

19. Chorus des gardes: 'Je suis le garde' (Chorus.)

20. Couplets de demoiselles d'honneur: 'Elle disait: ah! viens encore' (Flamma, Chorus SA.)

21. Ariette de la princesse: 'Je suis nerveuse' (Fantasia.)

22. Chorus du marché: 'C'est le marché' (Chorus.)

23. Rondo de Quipasseparla: 'Le prince Quipasseparla' (Quipasseparla, Chorus.)

24. Chorus: 'Ah ! quelle musique' (Chorus.), Ronde des charlatans: 'Ohé, ohé petits et grands' (Caprice, Chorus.)

25. Adieux des demoiselles d'honneur: 'Adieu notre compagne!' (Chorus, Fantasia, Cactus, Popotte, Quipasseparla.), Scène de la vente

26. Final de la neige: 'Courons tous' (Chorus, Quipasseparla, Fantasia, Caprice, Popotte, Vlan, Cosmos.)

27. Ballet des flocons de neige

Entr'acte

Act 4[edit]

28. Ronde des pommiers: 'Holà ! que chaque fillette' (Chorus SA.)

29. Chorus du tribunal: 'Voici le tribunal' (Chorus.)

30. Le volcan (melodrama)

31. Clair de terre (finale): 'Terre! Terre!' (Chorus.)

Recordings[edit]

Extracts are available on :

  • Entre Nous : Celebrating Offenbach - David Parry - Opera Music 2007 (Ouverture, Ariette de la Princesse, Final de la neige, Ronde des Charlatans)[16]
  • Offenbach Romantique - Marc Minkowski - Archiv Produktion 2006 (Ballet des Flocons de neige)
  • Can Can - Antonio de Almeida - Philips 1987 (Ouverture, Ballet des Flocons de neige)
  • Offenbach au menu - Quatuor gastronomique - Maguelone 1993 (Duo des pommes)[17]

Libretto[edit]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Sur le plateau, souvenirs d'un librettiste, Albert Vanloo, librairie Ollendorff, s. d. cited in Jacques Offenbach, Jean-Claude Yon, Editions Gallimard, 2000.
  2. ^ BNF, Département des Manuscrits, N.A.Fr.17.004, ff 278-280 cited in Jacques Offenbach, Jean-Claude Yon, Editions Gallimard 2000
  3. ^ SIC : Le Tour du Monde en Quatre-Vingts Jours
  4. ^ The Times – N° 28,457 – Wednesday, October 27, 1875.
  5. ^ Le Figaro, 28 October 1875, Courrier des Théâtres
  6. ^ Le Figaro, 3 November 1875, Courrier des Théâtres
  7. ^ Le Figaro, 3 February 1876, Courrier des Théâtres.
  8. ^ Le Figaro, 29 February 1876, La Soirée Théâtrale
  9. ^ Le Figaro, 19 April 1876, Courrier des Théâtres
  10. ^ Le Figaro, 26 April 1876, Courrier des Théâtres
  11. ^ Le Figaro, 1 April 1877, La Soirée Théâtrale
  12. ^ Le Figaro, 2 June 1877, La Soirée Théâtrale
  13. ^ The Scène de la vente in the third act parodies the number of the same name in the opéra-comique La dame blanche, written in 1825 by Boieldieu : Source - Jacques Offenbach, Jean-Claude Yon, Editions Gallimard 2000
  14. ^ Victoria & Albert Museum, Diaghilev Exhibition, January 2010
  15. ^ The air Scintille, diamant ! from the Contes d'Hoffmann has its origins in the Ouverture from Voyage dans la Lune. This apochryphal number of the Contes d'Hoffmann was written in 1905 for its Berlin production. Source - http://www.forumopera.com/opera-n18/hoffmann.htm Forum Opéra
  16. ^ Milnes, R. Review of Entre Nous Opera Rara CD set. Opera, November 2007, 1388-90.
  17. ^ Laurent, F. Review of 'Offenbach au menu!' Maguelone CD MAG11188. Diapason, January 2012 (598), p93.
Sources