Opera Scotland

Étoile L'étoile; The Star (The Lucky Star; The Horoscope)

Music

Alexis-Emmanuel Chabrier (born Ambert, 18 January 1841; died Paris, 13 September 1894)

Text

Eugène Leterrier and Albert Vanloo.

Source

Original

 

Premières

First performance: Paris (Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens), 28 November 1877.

First UK performance: London (Savoy Theatre), 7 January 1899.

First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (George Square Theatre), 6 February 1974.

Scottish Opera première: N/A.

 

Background

Chabrier followed his family’s demands by training initially as a lawyer before joining the civil service. The lure of music was too strong, however, and he eventually took up composition full time. He was still an amateur when he produced L’ étoile, which is one of the most delightful of French operettas, and a work of astonishing quality. It has a riotously nonsensical plot the equal of anything in Offenbach, but its music also has a subtlety and charm that other operettas rarely approach, and it is beautifully orchestrated.

 

Main Characters

King Ouf I, of the Thirty-Six Kingdoms (tenor)

Siroco, his Court Astrologer (bass)

Hérisson de Porc-Epic, Mataquin’s roving ambassador (baritone)

Tapioca, Hérisson’s Private Secretary (bass)

Lazuli, a pedlar (mezzo-soprano)

Laoula, daughter of King Mataquin (soprano)

Aloès, wife of Hérisson (mezzo-soprano)

 

Plot Summary

The people of the Thirty-Six Kingdoms are uneasy because of rumours that the King is wandering around in disguise in an attempt to root out slander. They are right, but he has not, as yet, found any. King Ouf’s birthday is approaching, and his present to himself is usually an execution. To this end, he is now prowling the town in disguise on the lookout for a suitable victim, and the lack of candidates is a great annoyance. To encourage his astrologer to keep on providing good news, he has decreed that Siroco will be executed fifteen minutes after the King dies. Meantime Ouf has decided that it is time he produced an heir, to which end he wishes to marry Laoula, daughter of his neighbour King Mataquin. Hérisson has been sent by Mataquin with his entourage incognito to prepare for this marriage, but Laoula is not yet aware of the reason for the visit. To improve the disguise, she is being introduced as Hérisson’s wife, while Aloès is passed off as Tapioca’s spouse. Aloès is happy with this arrangement, but the princess is not. Lazuli, a young pedlar, deeply smitten at his first sight of Laoula, follows them, and settles to sleep outside their inn. The two diplomats leave to present their credentials, whereupon Laoula and Aloès come out for an adventure. They wake Lazuli and introduce themselves as shop-girls. Lazuli declares his love, but when the men return and their ladies are sent back inside, Lazuli is infuriated to hear that Laoula is the ambassador’s wife. His fury is such that he insults everyone he meets, including the newly arrived Ouf, who is delighted, and gleefully sentences the pedlar to death by impalement. Siroco then announces that he has quickly cast Lazuli’s horoscope – it is so closely linked with the King’s that Ouf will die 24 hours after the execution (and Siroco fifteen minutes after that). The first act ends with Lazuli being led off to the palace for his own protection.

Lazuli is duly treated to every luxury by way of food and drink provided by the court ladies. However he discovers when he tries to leave that he is in effect under house arrest. He tells Ouf and Siroco that he will continue to risk his neck trying to escape unless he gets his girl. They agree, though since she is married he will also need to fight a duel with the husband. When the embassy party arrive at court, Laoula is appalled to discover the reason for the visit. Ouf has Hérisson arrested, to prevent the duel. He then lets Lazuli and his lady escape by boat. However Hérisson escapes from his confinement, and he and the King argue, since the royal betrothal is no longer possible. Laoula is now brought in – royal snipers, on Hérisson’s orders, fired at the boat, and Lazuli, wounded, fell in the lake and drowned. This news appals Ouf and Siroco, since their own deaths must inevitably follow.

Twenty hours duly pass, and king and astrologer are depressed as they enter their final four hours of life. They console themselves with liberal quantities of yellow chartreuse. While they are briefly absent in the cellars, Lazuli arrives, suffering nothing worse than a severe chill. He hides when they return, having now progressed to the green chartreuse. When their stocks again require replenishment, Lazuli is able to reveal himself to Laoula and Aloès and they plan an elopement. As Ouf returns, Lazuli leaves, and Ouf is able to realise, slowly, that his remaining hour of life is enough to marry Laoula and ensure the succession. The princess is unenthusiastic. When Lazuli is recognised and arrested, it seems the wedding can go ahead with the king no longer threatened with immediate death. But Lazuli declares that being deprived of Laoula will surely be the death of him. Ouf relents, allows Lazuli and Laoula to marry and makes Lazuli his heir. The diplomatic mission of ambassador Hérisson has succeeded at last.

The Cast

Adza
 a maid of honour
Aloès
 wife of Hèrisson
Asphodèle
 a maid of honour
Chief of Police
 
Hérisson de Porc-Epic
 the Roving Ambassador from Mataquin
King Ouf I
 of the Thirty-Six Kingdoms
Koukouli
 a maid of honour
Laoula
 daughter of King Mataquin
Lazuli
 a pedlar
Oasis
 a maid of honour
Patacha
 a citizen
Sinnia
 a maid of honour
Siroco
 Ouf's Court Astrologer
Tapioca
 Hérisson's private secretary
Youca
 a maid of honour
Zalzal
 a citizen

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