La fée Urgèle

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La fée Urgèle, ou Ce qui plaît aux dames (The Fairy Urgèle, or What Pleases Women) is an opéra comique (specifically a comédie mêlée d'ariettes) in four acts by the composer Egidio Duni. The libretto, by Charles-Simon Favart, is based on Voltaire's Ce qui plaît aux dames and Chaucer's The Wife of Bath's Tale.

Performance history[edit]

The opera was first performed at the Théâtre Royal de la Cour at Fontainebleau on 26 October 1765. The elaborate medieval staging cost 20,000 livres according to Grimm in his Correspondance littéraire. It was revived at the Comédie-Italienne on 4 December 1765 and given over 100 times in the following years, popularizing medieval settings for other operas such as Richard Coeur-de-lion and Aucassin et Nicolette.

Roles and role creators[edit]

  • The Fairy Urgèle (soprano), Marie-Thérèse Laruette
  • Marton (soprano), Marie-Thérèse Laruette
  • Robinette (soprano), Marie Favart
  • Thérèse (soprano), Marie Favart
  • An old woman (soprano), Marie Favart
  • Robert, a knight tenor, Clairval (Jean-Baptiste Guignard)
  • La Hire, Robert's squire (basse-taille), Joseph Caillot
  • Queen Berthe (soprano), Eulalie Desglands
  • Denise (spoken), Catherine Foulquier, 'Catinon'
  • The Lady-Attorney General of the Court of Love (spoken), Mlle Catinon
  • Old Lady-Councillors of the Court of Love (spoken ?), Gabriel-Éléonor-Hervé Dubus de Champville, 'Soli', and Antoine-Étienne Balletti (travesti)
  • The usherette (?), Mlle Léonore
  • Philinte, shepherd (tenor), M. Lobreau
  • Licidas, another shepherd (tenor), Nicolas Beaupré
  • Lisette, shepherdess (soprano), Mlle Adélaïde
  • The chief huntsman (spoken ?), Jean-Baptiste Dehesse (fr)


Robert is a knight imprisoned in a 7th-century French court controlled by women. He must answer the question: what gives the most pleasure to women? He is obliged to agree to marry an old woman who is then transformed into the beautiful Marton.


  • Original libretto: La fée Urgele, ou Ce qui plait aux dames, Comédie en quatre actes mêlée d'ariettes, Paris, Veuve Duchesne, 1766 (accessible for free online in books google).
  • Antoine de Léris, Dictionnaire portatif historique et littéraire des théatres, ... (second edition, revised, corrected and considerably augmented), Paris, Jombert, 1763.
  • Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). "26 October 1765". Almanacco Amadeus (Italian).
  • Cook, Elisabeth (1992), 'Fee Urgèle, La' in The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, ed. Stanley Sadie (London) ISBN 0-333-73432-7