Giroflé-Girofla

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Giroflé-Girofla is an opéra bouffe in three acts of 1874 with music by Charles Lecocq. The French libretto was by Albert Vanloo and Eugène Leterrier.[1]

Performance history[edit]

The opera was first presented at the Théâtre des Fantaisies Parisiennes, Brussels, on 21 March 1874. It opened at the Théâtre de la Renaissance, Paris, on 11 November 1874 with Jeanne Granier in the title role and Jolly returning to his creator's role from Brussels.[2] The first production at the Renaissance ran for over 200 performances up to the following October.[3] The Brussels company took Giroflé-Girofla to London where it had its first performance on 6 June 1874; an English version was premiered in London on 3 October 1874.[2]

Its popularity soon spread to Berlin in 1874, then Sydney, Buenos Aires, Prague, Vienna, Budapest and New York in 1875.[4]

Traubner states that Giroflé-Girofla "marked a sudden return to pure nonsense... Lecocq’s fertile invention (particularly in the ensembles) was formidable".[5]

Roles[edit]

Role Voice type Premiere cast, 21 March 1874
(Conductor: )
Giroflé / Girofla soprano Pauline Luigini
Aurore mezzo-soprano Mme Delorme
Paquita soprano Marie Blanche
Marasquin tenor Mario Widmer
Boléro d'Alcaras baritone Alfred Jolly
Mourzouk baritone Paul Giret
Pirate chief bass Leroy
Pedro mezzo-soprano J d’Alby
Godfather Durieu
Notary Achille
Tax collector Ernotte
Dancer Castelain
Best man Coclers
Distant cousins Laurent, Deschamps, Anna, Schmidt, Thérèse, Piton, Petronille
Pirates, Moorish soldiers, sailors, men and women, friends of Giroflé and Girofla, Moorish women

Synopsis[edit]

Setting : Spain around 1250

Act 1[edit]

Don Boléro, governor of the province, but governed by his domineering wife Aurore, has two identical twin daughters, Giroflé and Girofla (played by the same singer); so as to distinguish the pair, they are dressed respectively in blue and pink. Don Boléro is in debt to the Marasquin Bank in Cadiz, and therefore unable to raise an army against the marauding moor Mourzouk, attacking from Granada. Aurore has arranged advantageous weddings for the twins; Giroflé to the son of Marasquin and Girofla to the bachelor pirate, hoping thus to solve both the pressing problems.

Preparations for the weddings are taking place as the curtain rises, with the bridesmaids in the colours of each bride, while the two daughters ask their mother for marital guidance.

The apprentice chef warns the girls not to stray too far or the pirates who roam the coastline will seize them both and take them off to a harem. The son of Marasquin turns out to be nice young man; the moor, however, pleads a toothache and defers his appearance. But the marriage cannot be

postponed, and it is love at first sight for Giroflé, who hurries off with her new fiancé. Now a gang of pirates creep on and Girofla is seized. Pedro goes to protect her but they are bundled onto a ship bound for Constantinople. Boléro and Aurore are appalled, and worried about the reaction of the moor. Mourzouk arrives and demands his immediate wedding. Giroflé is told that she must wed a second time, and dons a pink ribbon...

Act 2[edit]

Giroflé is locked in her room while Aurore has to bluff the two husbands – they must wait until midnight to see her. Pedro has escaped from the pirates, and enters to say that Boléro's admiral Matamoros has them at bay, but refuses to finish them off until he gets paid. Boléro and Aurore exit to rob the treasury. Meanwhile, Giroflé joins her cousins to finish off the wedding buffet and they all run off, so that when her parents return they believe that pirates have taken her too. Midnight sounds and there is still no sign of Girofla.

Act 3[edit]

Marsasquin and Giroflé appear at breakfast after a nice wedding night. Boléro and Aurore reveal the sorry tale to Marasquin and that to save them all from the wrath of Mourzouk, he must allow Giroflé to also be Girofla. Mourzouk despite his fury is fobbed off again. But the moor is suspicious and swiftly returns to catch out the wily parents and insists on behaving as the rightful husband to Giroflé. As arguments rage, Pasquita brings news that the pirates are finally defeated and Girofla returns – so the weddings can recommence, to general rejoicing.

Influences[edit]

Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson saw the opera and fondly recalled it in his travel book Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (1879). In reference to a song from the opera he wrote:

"the words of a French song came back into my memory, telling of the best of our mixed existence:
‘Que t’as de belles filles,
Giroflé!
Girofla!
Que t’as de belles filles,
L’Amour les comptera!’
And I blessed God that I was free to wander, free to hope, and free to love."[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lamb, A.; Gänzl, K. "Charles Lecocq". In: The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. London and New York: Macmillan, 1997.
  2. ^ a b Gänzl, K.; Lamb, A. Gänzl's Book of the Musical Theatre. The Bodley Head, London, 1988.
  3. ^ Noel E & Stoullig E. Les Annales du Théâtre et de la Musique, 1er édition, 1875. G Charpentier et Cie, Paris, 1876.
  4. ^ Loewenberg A. Annals of Opera. London: John Calder, 1978.
  5. ^ Traubner, Richard. Operetta, a theatrical history. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1983.
  6. ^ From Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes by Robert Louis Stevenson, chapter "The Monks". The lyrics translate as:
    "How many beautiful daughters you have,
    Giroflé!
    Girofla!
    How many beautiful daughters you have,
    Love will count them."