Opera Scotland

Vivandière La vivandière

Music

Benjamin Godard (born Paris, 18 August 1849; died Cannes, 10 January 1895)

Text

Henri Cain.

 

Premières

First Performance (incomplete): Brussels (Théâtre de la Monnaie), 21 March 1893.

First Performance (completed): Paris (Opéra-Comique), 1 April 1895.

First Performance in UK: Liverpool (Royal Court Theatre), 10 March 1896.

First Performance in Scotland: Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 25 April 1896.

Scottish Opera première: N/A.

 

Background

La vivandière was the last of Godard's six operas, and the only one to enjoy any great success, continuing in performance, at least in France, until the First World War. However Godard himself died before finishing it, and the orchestration was completed by Paul Vidal.

The work is a comedy, but the subject matter is quite serious. It is set in the Vendée, in the extreme west of France, during one of the most notoriously violent episodes of the French Revolution, amounting essentially to a period of civil war. Given the great success that Zélie de Lussan had recently enjoyed as Marie in Donizetti's Daughter of the Regiment, it is perhaps not surprising that this piece should have been mounted as a vehicle for her. However, if Marie is a vivandière, cheerfully doing the soldiers' laundry and other tasks, she is also a form of pet or mascot. Marion is a more serious and sentimental character, more the 'Mother of the Regiment' - she comforts the young homesick soldiers, reading to them the letters which they cannot read for themselves. Her role is still rather less serious than that of another vivandière character from twentieth century drama - Brecht's Mother Courage.

 

Main Roles

Marion, a vivandière (soprano).

Marquis de Rieul, an elderly aristocrat (bass).

Joanne, his ward (soprano).

Georges de Rieul, his elder son (tenor).

Captain Bernard (baritone).

Sergeant La Balafré (bass).

 

Plot Summary

The action occurs in the Vendée region of Western France, during the Revolution. An army has been sent to subdue the rebellion in support of the old régime, which, historically, was suppressed with great ruthlessness. The Marquis has become estranged from Georges, who supports the revolution and has joined the army. The matter of the plot concerns the actions of Marion to bring about a happy ending, allowing Georges to be reconciled with Joanne. After the revolt is subdued and the Marquis captured, she also engineers his escape, his survival then being confirmed by the arrival from Paris of news of a general amnesty. The soldiers are generally depicted as comic or sentimental figures (rather as in the popular Donizetti work).

The Cast

André
 younger son of the Marquis
Bernard
 a captain
Georges de Rieul
 son of the Marquis, a soldier
Joanne
 ward of the Marquis
La Balafré
 a sergeant
Lafleur
 a soldier
Marion
 a vivandière
Marquis de Rieul
 

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