Véronique (operetta)

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Véronique is an opéra comique or operetta in three acts composed by André Messager. The French libretto was by Georges Duval and Albert Vanloo. Véronique is Messager’s most enduring operatic work and was widely performed in France, London and elsewhere in the fifty years after its premiere.[1]

Performance history[edit]

1898 Paris theatre poster showing Florestan courting Véronique

Véronique was first performed at Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens, Paris, on 10 December 1898.[2] Messager's most successful operetta, it was revived frequently in France during the first part of the 20th century. Revivals played at the Théâtre des Folies-Dramatiques on 30 January 1909, the Théâtre de la Gaîté-Lyrique on 1 March 1920, for which Messager composed a new waltz[3] (with Edmée Favart, Périer and Tarriol-Baugé),[4] and at the Théâtre Mogador on 17 April 1943 (with Suzanne Baugé, Maurice Vidal and Hélene Lavoisier), in a grand production that, according to Richard Traubner, "overpowered its fragility".[5]

After a one-off charity performance at the Opéra-Comique on 7 February 1925 with Favart, Baugé and Tarriol-Baugé, conducted by Albert Wolff,[6] the work received its first production at the Opéra-Comique in 1978-79 (with Danielle Chlostawa and François le Roux) and 1980-81 (with Marie-Christine Pontou and Gino Quilico). More recently it was mounted at the Théâtre du Châtelet in January 2008, directed by Fanny Ardant.[7]

The opera was given in Vienna and Cologne (as Brigitte) in 1900, then Riga in 1901, Berlin in 1902; Lisbon in 1901, Geneva in 1902, London in 1903, and Milan in 1904 (in Italian) and Bucharest in 1907.[8] In 1903 Lady Gladys de Grey brought a French cast to give Véronique at the Coronet, Notting Hill Gate.[9]

Louis Beydts's 1931 opérette Moineau has many reminiscences of Véronique, including a swing song which almost quotes Messager.[10]

Adaptations in England and America[edit]

Véronique was produced in French at the Coronet Theatre in 1903. It then was given in English at the Apollo Theatre in London beginning on May 18, 1904, where it enjoyed a run of 496 performances, and in New York opening in October 1905. The London production was produced by George Edwardes and had an English adaptation by Henry Hamilton and lyrics by Lilian Eldée, with alterations and additions by Percy Greenbank. It starred Rosina Brandram, in her last role (later replaced by Lottie Venne), as Ermerance, Sybil Grey as Aunt Benoît, Lawrence Rea (later replaced by Hayden Coffin) as Florestan, George Graves (later replaced by John Le Hay) as Coquenard, Kitty Gordon as Mdme. Coquenard, and Ruth Vincent in the title role.[11][12][13] Costumes were by Percy Anderson.[11] It also toured in Britain and America and was revived, including a production at the Adelphi Theatre. The New York production featured Vincent, Rea, Gordon and Le Hay.

With the success of the London run of Véronique, chef Auguste Escoffier created a new dish for London's Carlton Hotel: Sole Véronique.[9]

Roles[edit]

Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 10 December 1898
(Conductor: André Messager)
Evariste Coquenard, Captain in the National Guard and a florist baritone Paul Regnard
Agathe Coquenard, his wife soprano Anne Tariol-Baugé
Florestan, Vicomte de Valaincourt baritone Jean Périer
Hélène de Solanges, a maid of honor at the Bourbon Court/Véronique soprano Mariette Sully
Ermerance, Countess de Champ d'Azur/Estelle, her aunt mezzo-soprano Léonie Laporte
Aunt Benoît mezzo-soprano Bonval
Denise, her niece, fiancée of Séraphin soprano Madeleine Mathyeu
Monsieur Loustot, baron de Merlettes tenor Maurice Lamy
Séraphin, Hélène and Ermerance's groom tenor Brunais
Octave, Florestan's friend
Felicien, Florestan's friend
Céleste soprano Maud d’Orby
Sophie soprano Landoza
Héloise soprano Lérys
Irma soprano Raymonde
Elisa soprano Raimond
Zoe soprano Fritigny
An orderly of the national reserve, waiters, florists, and others.

Synopsis[edit]

Souvenir programme of the 300th performance at the Apollo Theatre, 1905

The action takes place in and around Paris during the reign of Louis Philippe, in 1840.

Act 1[edit]

A florist's shop under the sign of the ‘Temple de Flore

The lifestyle of Vicomte Florestan, a dashing but feckless young aristocrat, has left him in severe debt. His uncle, fed up with paying off Florestan's debts, has made him promise to get married or go to prison as a bankrupt. Florestan has chosen the arranged marriage; he will be presented to Hélène de Solanges, the wealthy heiress chosen as his fiancée, that evening at a court ball. Florestan has been having an affair with Agathe Coquenard, the wife of the owner of the florist shop where the action takes place. Old Monsieur Coquenard, who flirts with the flower shop girls, is hoping that, despite his incompetence with a sword, his nomination to be a captain in the Garde Nationale will arrive soon.

Just arrived in Paris, Hélène (who has never met Florestan) and her aunt, the Countess Ermerance de Champ d’Azur, now visit the shop to buy their corsages for a ball the countess is giving to celebrate her niece's engagement. Hélène is not pleased to be entering an arranged marriage. Their servant Séraphin is also eagerly anticipating his marriage and wants to slip away to his wedding feast. Florestan arrives at the shop (guarded by Loustot to ensure he does not run off) and flirts with the shop girls. Hélène and Ermerance overhear a conversation where Florestan breaks off his liaison with Agathe, in the process learning that he is Hélène's intended husband. When Florestan complains that he must leave Agathe for a simple girl from the provinces, Hélène vows to take revenge on him, although she finds him handsome.

To celebrate the last day of his bachelorhood, Florestan invites the entire staff of Coquenard’s shop for a party in Romainville. Hélène and Ermerance disguise themselves as working girls using the names Véronique and Estelle. Coquenard finally receives his national guard nomination, and in his excitement he hires Véronique and Estelle as shop assistants. "Véronique" succeeds in gaining Florestan's attention, to the annoyance of Madame Coquenard, whose husband also shows interest in the new flower girl. Florestan invites Véronique and Estelle to join the party.

Act 2[edit]

The Tourne Bride restaurant in Romainville later that day

Séraphin and his bride Denise are celebrating their wedding in a rustic setting. Monsieur Coquenard meanwhile flirts with Hélène's aunt, and Loustot is much taken by Agathe. The vicomte passionately expresses his love for Véronique, who gently mocks him, feigning shyness. Following a donkey ride and courting on a swing, Florestan decides that he is in love with Véronique and that he won't attend the ball that night; he sends away the carriages. Séraphin now recognizes ‘Véronique and Estelle’, but they order him to keep quiet.

Now, to complete the trick, Hélène and Ermerance borrow their servant's cart to return to Paris, leaving a letter for Florestan from Véronique apologizing for her departure and suggesting that they might meet again soon. He swears that he will go to prison rather than risk marriage with his unknown fiancée. Loustot arrests him.

Act 3[edit]

A salon in the Tuileries.

Ermerance reflects on her wooing by Coquenard, while Hélène anticipates seeing Florestan again and being introduced to him as herself. Captain Coquenard and his wife have mysteriously been invited to the court ball. They meet Estelle and Véronique, and realize who they are. Agathe tells Hélène that, in love with Véronique, Florestan decided on jail rather than marry a stranger. Hélène swiftly pays off his debts to effect his release.

When he arrives at the ball, Agathe mocks Florestan and reveals to him that Véronique is Hélène, but his embarrassment makes him reject Hélène. There is soon a reconciliation however, and in general rejoicing the marriage is sealed.

Musical numbers[edit]

Programme from revival at the Adelphi Theatre
Act I
  • Ouverture
  • Choeur "Quelle fraîcheur délicieuse" et couplets d'Agathe
  • Trio : (Hélène, Ermerance, Séraphin) "Ah! la charmante promenade"
  • "Bonjour, Monsieur Séraphin" (Séraphin, choeurs)
  • Air (Florestan) "Vrai Dieu! mes bons amis"
  • Couplets (Loustot) "Quand j'étais Baron de Merlettes"
  • Quatuor "Alors tout est fini" (Hélène, Ermerance, Florestan, Agathe)
  • "Petite dinde! Ah quel outrage" (Hélène)
  • "Mes voitures sont à la porte"
  • "Allure martiale, Energique maintien" (Florestan)
  • "Pardon, je suis indiscrète… Depuis c’matin, cherchant d’l’ouvrage" (Véronique, choeurs)
  • Ensemble, "C'est Estelle et Véronique" (Hélène) et Final I
Act II
  • Choeur - Ronde du Tourne Bride (Agathe)
  • Duetto de l'âne (Florestan et Véronique)
  • Duo de l'escarpolette (Florestan et Véronique)
  • Ronde "Lisette avait peur du loup" (Agathe)
  • Couplets ‘Une grisette mignonne’ (Florestan)
  • Choeur
  • La lettre "Adieu je pars" (Florestan), et Final II "Puisque l'ingrate Véronique"
Act III
  • Choeur "Chut, chut, faisons silence", et Romance "D’un magasin la simple demoiselle" (Ermerance)
  • Couplets "Voyons ma tante" (Hélène)
  • Choeur et duo (Agathe, Coquenard) "Aux Tuileries"
  • Quartuor "Oh! Ciel" (Hélène, Agathe, Ermerance, Coquenard)
  • Couplets "Ma foi, pour venir de province" (Agathe)
  • Duetto "Eh bien! par ordre, procédons" (Hélène et Florestan)
  • Final III

Recordings[edit]

John Le Hay as Coquenard

Extracts were recorded in 1907 by Jean Périer and Anne Tariol-Baugé, the original Florestan and Agathe. There are also celebrated recordings of extracts by Yvonne Printemps, with Jacques Jansen and orchestra directed by Marcel Cariven, reissued on Gramo LP, DB 5114.

Complete recordings:

Messager: Véronique - Studio Orchestra

  • Conductor: Pierre Dervaux
  • Principal singers: Géori Boué (Véronique/Hélène), Roger Bourdin (Florestan), Geneviève Moizan (Agathe), Max de Rieux (Loustot), Marcel Carpentier (Coquenard), Mary Marquet (Estelle/Ermerance), Robert Destain (Séraphin)
  • Recording date: 1955
  • Label: Accord 4658642 (CD)[14]

Messager: Véronique - Lamoureux Concert Association Orchestra

  • Conductor: Jules Gressier
  • Principal singers: Nadine Renaux (Agathe), Freda Betti (Estelle/Ermerance), Aimé Doniat (Séraphin), Michel Roux (Coquenard), Martha Angelici (Véronique/Hélène), Camille Maurane (Florestan), Claude Devos (Loustot)
  • Recording date: circa 1962 (PL21100 1953)
  • Label: Pathé (LP)

Messager: Véronique - Lamoureux Concert Association Orchestra

  • Conductor: Jean-Claude Hartemann
  • Principal singers: Andréa Guiot (Agathe), Denise Benoit (Estelle/Ermerance), Jacques Pruvost (Séraphin), Jean-Christophe Benoit (Coquenard), Mady Mesplé (Véronique/Hélène), Michel Dens (Florestan), Anne Tallard (Denise)
  • Recording date: January 1969
  • Label: EMI (CD)

Film version[edit]

A film of the operetta (in French) was made by Robert Vernay in 1949, with Giselle Pascal, Jean Desailly, Pierre Bertin and Noël Roquevert among the cast.[15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wagstaff, John. "Véronique", The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, ed. Stanley Sadie. Macmillan, London and New York, 1997 ISBN 0-333-73432-7
  2. ^ Amadeus Almanac, amadeus online (in Italian), accessed 23 November 2009
  3. ^ Nichols, R. The Harlequin Years: music in Paris 1917-1929. Thames & Hudson, London, 2002.
  4. ^ Gänzl, Kurt and Andrew Lamb, Gänzl's Book of the Musical Theatre. The Bodley Head, London, 1988.
  5. ^ Traubner, Richard. Operetta — a theatrical history. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1983.
  6. ^ Wolff, Stéphane. Un demi-siècle d'Opéra-Comique 1900–1950. André Bonne, Paris, 1953.
  7. ^ Laurent, F. Cahin caha [review of Véronique]. Diapason, 556, March 2008, 50.
  8. ^ Loewenberg, A. Annals of Opera. London, John Calder, 1978.
  9. ^ a b Webber, Christopher. "Guilty Pleasures – the charm of Véronique". Buxton Festival programme, 2009.
  10. ^ Caubert, A. Portrait - Notes for INA memoire vive CD 064, Paris, 2006.
  11. ^ a b The Play. Vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 25–52, London: Greening & Co., Ltd., 1904
  12. ^ Jowers, Sidney Jackson and John P. Cavanagh. "Theatrical costume, masks, make-up and wigs: a bibliography and iconography". Taylor & Francis, 2000 ISBN 0-415-24774-8 (cast replacements from 300th performance noted on p. 19)
  13. ^ Sydney Higgins, in "The Golden Age of British Theatre" states that Isabel Jay played the title role in 1905, but this is dubious, as Vincent was still playing the role at the production's 300th performance, as shown by the theatre programme.
  14. ^ Walker, Raymond. Review of 1955 recording at MusicWeb International
  15. ^ Information about 1949 film version from the IMDB

External links[edit]