Opera Scotland

Postilion of Longjumeau Le Postillon de Longjumeau; The Postilion of Longjumeau

Music

Adolphe-Charles Adam (born Paris, 24 July 1803; died Paris, 3 May 1856).

Text

Adolphe de Leuven & Léon-Lévy Brunswick.

Source

Original

 

Premieres

First Performance: Paris (Opéra-Comique), 13 October 1836.

First Performance in UK: London (St James's Theatre), 13 March 1837.

First Performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (Royal Lyceum Theatre), 10 December 1892.

Scottish Opera premiere: N/A.

 

Background

Adam studied at the Paris Conservatoire under Boïeldieu, and was a prolific composer in a variety of styles, but particularly of opéra comique. His first opera was staged in 1824, and his first success followed in 1829. He then worked briefly in London, and on his return enjoyed one of his greatest successes with a little comedy Le Chalet, loosely based on a singspiel by Goethe from 1780, which Donizetti also used as the source for his comic opera Betly shortly afterwards. Le Chalet retained its popularity for several decades. Le postillon de Longjumeau followed a couple of years later. It is a charming comedy of manners, in spite of the fundamentally unattractive aspects of the hero's behaviour, and its success has been even longer lasting, at least in France. Chapelou's opening song has remained widely popular, including an imitation of his post-horn and soaring up to high D.

Adam's best known score is for the ballet Giselle, composed in 1841, and never out of the repertoire since. Attempts at composition of grand opera and at operatic management were considerably less successful, losing him considerable sums of money.

 

Characters

Chapelou, a coachman (tenor)

Madeleine, Chapelou's wife (soprano)

Rose (soprano)

Marquis de Courcy, head of the Opéra (tenor)

Bijou, Chappelou's friend (baritone)

Bourdon (bass)

 

Plot Summary

Le postillon satirizes manners, both of society and of the opera house. It is set in 1756, starting in the village of Longjumeau. Chapelou is the local coachman, and at the outset he marries Madeleine, the inn-keeper. The villagers ask him to sing, and, with a show of reluctance, he lets them hear his favourite song about a postilion's life. It so happens that the Marquis de Courcy, head of the Paris Opéra, is passing through the village, and hears him sing. On the spot, he offers Chapelou a career on the stage, but only on condition that he comes away immediately. He leaves word with Madeleine, via his friend Bijou, that he will be back within a few days. While Madeleine is upset at this betrayal by her new husband, Bijou himself, also the possessor of an excellent voice, decides to head for Paris as well.

Ten years pass, and Madeleine, having inherited a fortune following the death of her aunt, is able to go to Paris under an assumed name, Madame de Latour, to search for her long-absent husband. A rehearsal is under way at the Opéra. Chapelou is principal tenor and Bijou is leader of the chorus. For professional purposes, they have adopted the professional names of St Phar and Alcindor, respectively. The performance is to be given in honour of the recently arrived beauty Madame de Latour, both the Marquis and St Phar having fallen in love with her. After the rehearsal St Phar and Madame meet up, and the tenor proposes to her, and is accepted. Not wishing to become a bigamist, St Phar arranges for Bijou to impersonate a priest for the wedding ceremony. However Madame arranges for Bijou to be locked up and ensures a real priest is on hand to perform the ceremony.

The Marquis does remember that St Phar is already married, but since he wants Madame himself, he is happy to let matters continue, anticipating that the next day he can have St Phar arrested. St Phar is blissfully happy until Bijou escapes from his captivity and reveals to him the truth - that this marriage was performed by a genuine priest. Madeleine now reverts to her country clothes and manners, and alone with her husband, in a darkened room, confuses him completely by switching from her country voice to her grand voice and back. When the Marquis arrives with the police to have Chapelou taken away for execution (bigamy being a capital offence), it is time for Madeleine to reveal the truth and bring about the happy ending.

The Cast

Bijou
 a blacksmith
Bourdon
 
Chapelou
 a postilion
Madeleine
 an inn-keeper
Marquis de Courcy
 head of the Opéra

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