After defeat in the Franco-Prussian War (1870) ended Napoleon II's reign, Offenbach's popularity declined in Paris, and he toured Britain and the United States. He continued producing new operettas in Paris, but most of the decade would pass before he enjoyed another hit.
Madame Favart was first staged at the Théâtre des Folies-Dramatiques in Paris on 28 December 1878, starring Juliette Simon-Girard in the title role and Simon-Max as Hector de Boispréau. It played for about 200 performances, which was very successful. The work was very popular in the 19th century, not only in France.
An English version, adapted by H. B. Farnie, opened at the Strand Theatre in London on 12 April 1879 starring Florence St. John in the title role, Claude Marius (1850–1896) as Favart, and Walter H. Fisher, then Henry Bracy (1846–1917) as Hector. The production famously ran for 502 performances, which was extraordinarily successful for the time. The work was frequently revived, including a production at the Theatre Apollo in 1911.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere Cast, December 28, 1878,
(Conductor: Jacques Offenbach)
|Madame Favart, an actress||soprano||Juliette Simon-Girard|
|Charles-Simon Favart, her husband, a playwright||baritone||Lepers|
|Hector de Boispréau||tenor||Simon-Max|
|Major Cotignac||bass||François-Louis Luco|
|Suzanne, his daughter||soprano||Marie Gélabert|
|Marquis de Pontsablé||tenor||Édouard Maugé|
|Biscotin, an inkeeper||bass||Jean-Baptiste Octave|
|Sergent Larose||tenor||Jules Speck|
|Travellers, Guests, Officers and Soldiers, Fifes and Cantinières, Cooks, Inn waiters, the cast of 'La Chercheuse d’esprit'|
- Place: France
- Time: 18th century
It is a fantasy plot built around the real-life celebrated French actress Marie Justine Benoîte Duronceray (1727–1775), her playwright-manager husband Charles-Simon Favart (1710–1792) and the actress-admiring general Maurice de Saxe (1696–1750), who also appears in the verismo opera Adriana Lecouvreur.
Hector, a clerk, loves Suzanne, but her father, Major Cotignac, wishes her to marry a cousin. However, he agrees that if Hector can obtain the position of police lieutenant, he may marry Suzanne. Mme. Favart had been imprisoned in a convent by the old Marshal de Saxe, whose advances she has refused. Biscotin, an innkeeper, is hiding Favart, who fled to escape imprisonment himself. Mme. Favart succeeds in escaping from the convent in disguise. She comes to the inn and meets her old friend Hector. Hector is unable to obtain the police appointment, but Mme. Favart goes to the Governor, pretending to be Hector's wife, and secures the position for Hector. Hector, Suzanne and the Favarts go to Douai, where the Favarts wait for an opportunity to escape into Belgium.
At a party thrown by Hector as the new police lieutenant, the Governor arrives and flirts with Mme. Favart, thinking her to be Hector's wife. He arrests Suzanne, believing her to be Mme. Favart and sends her to the Camp of Marshal de Saxe. Mme. Favart arrives at the Camp and gives a performance. She receives a bouquet from the King with a note attached requesting the resignation of the Governor. Favart is appointed the as manager of the Opéra-Comique, and Mme. Favart becomes the prima donna there.
List of musical numbers
- Trio and couplets (Suzanne, Hector, Favart)
- Couplets, "Dans une cave obscure" (Favart)
- Chorus and scena (Mme Favart)
- Couplets (Mme Favart)
- Couplets, "Ma mere aux vignes m'envoyit" (Mme Favart)
- Escape trio (Favart, Hector, Suzanne)
- Finale (Couplets and stretta)
- Romance, "Suzanne est aujourd'hui ma femme" (Hector)
- Chanson de l'échaudé, "Quand du four on le retire" (Favart)
- Couplets (Pontsablé)
- Quartet (Suzanne, Hector, Mme Favart, Favart)
- Minuet and rondo, "Je passe sur mon enfance" (Mme Favart)
- Romance, "Quand il cherche dans sa cervelle" (Favart)
- Chorus and Tyrolienne (Mme Favart, Hector)
- Couplets (Suzanne, Hector)
- Air (Mme Favart)
- Chorus and duet (Mme Favart, Favart)
- Amadeus Almanac, accessed 26 September 2008
- Kracauer, Siegfried. Jacques Offenbach and the Paris of his Time, (trans. Gwenda David and Eric Mosbacher). New York: Zone Books, 2002
- Lamb, Andrew, "Madame Favart" in The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, ed. Stanley Sadie, London, 1992 ISBN 0-333-73432-7
- Google Book search