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Passionnément (Hennequin & Willemetz)





Act one
William Stevenson is an American millionaire of a puritanical and Prohibitionist bent, married to the beautiful Ketty, ex-star of the New York theatre. He has sailed to France aboard his yacht, the Arabella, which is about to reach the Normandy coast. Julia, the chambermaid, has just broken up with Harris, the yacht’s captain; she longs to experience the thrill of true love in France. Stevenson has come to meet Robert Perceval, a young man who is to sell him some land he has inherited in Colorado. Unlike Stevenson, Perceval does not know that the subsoil of this terrain is full of oil. Stevenson distrusts the French, whom he regards as seducers and consumers of beautiful women. He forbids his wife to meet any of them, and, as a precaution, compels her to appear in public disguised in a white wig and blue glasses, so that she will be taken for his elderly and dignified spouse, and enforces this condition by making her swear on the Bible. When Perceval comes to the appointment on the rich American’s boat, he is followed by his mistress Hélène Le Barrois, whose husband is blissfully unaware that he is a cuckold; she makes a scene with her lover, wishing to be introduced to Ketty, whom she regards as a rival. The latter duly appears – in her blue glasses and white wig – and intro-duces herself as Mrs Stevenson, the only woman on board. Hélène, embarrassed by her former suspicions once she has met this venerable lady, returns to shore. The business deal between Robert and Stevenson goes smoothly. Robert invites the American and his wife to dinner the next day at his home, the Villa des Roses, to sign the contract. But as he is leaving, he happens upon Ketty without her disguise. It is love at first sight. Ketty passes herself off as Stevenson’s niece – inventing the name of Margaret – and adds that he jealously keeps her shut up on board. She makes him swear on the Bible that he will never try to see her again. But once Robert has left the boat, Ketty-‘Margaret’ discovers that the book on which her husband made her swear, and on which she in her turn made Robert swear, is in fact merely a copy of La Garçonne (The Bachelor Girl), the then-scandalous novel by Robert Margueritte, published in 1922.

Act two
At the Villa des Roses, Robert dines with Stevenson and Ketty, but his thoughts are wholly of Margaret. He even decorated his house with a multitude of bouquets of marguerites. Ketty is touched, and begins to fall in love with Robert. However, she tells him that Margaret has left for England that very day. As the sale contract is about to be signed, Captain Harris and Julia appear: the Arabella has been damaged and the Stevensons must spend the night at Robert’s house. Perceval receives a note signed by Margaret which advises him to refuse the sale because Stevenson is trying to cheat him... and Robert is still more touched. He postpones his decision, and Stevenson, furious, gives him until the next day to make up his mind. Then he leaves for the Casino to join a compatriot and friend of his. Julia suggests Ketty-‘Margaret’ should yield to her love for the hand-some Frenchman, who, for his part, tries to guess the future by playing at ‘she loves me, she loves me not’ with the marguerites that have bloomed in his home. Hélène arrives to spend the night with Robert and makes a jealous scene for him. Do not all these marguerites prove his love for an-other woman, whose name must necessarily be Marguerite? But suddenly Hélène’s husband Le Barrois appears on the scene – someone has told him his wife is unfaithful to him, and he has not gone to Paris as he had told her. Just as she was looking forward to spending two whole days in Robert’s arms, Le Barrois has come to confront her. Robert gets rid of Hélène by hiding her in Mrs Stevenson’s room, while the deceived husband accuses Robert of having seduced his wife. The door to Mrs Stevenson’s room opens and ‘Margaret’ appears. She reassures M. Le Barrois: she is Robert’s mistress and has been coming to join him every evening in his villa for the past three months. Le Barrois apologises profusely and beats a hasty retreat. As does Hélène, who has slipped out through the window of Ketty’s room... The two lovers now find them-selves alone. They proceed to declare their love ‘passionately’ to each other and will make love – equally passionately – all night long.

Act three
In the morning, Julia is delighted to see her mistress so happy, and hopes she too will find amorous fulfilment. When Robert wakes up, ‘Margaret’ has gone (to become Mrs Ketty Stevenson again). Julia does not betray her. Robert is troubled, but the arrival of Hélène – for a final break-up scene – convinces him that ‘Margaret’ was real enough: it was Hélène’s husband – a piquant detail! – who confirmed his wife’s suspicions about her lover Robert. For Le Barrois really did see the beautiful ‘Margaret’ in Robert’s home. Stevenson returns from the Casino in an advanced state of intoxication. His friend Clark got him drunk, and – oh miracle! –Stevenson has become altruistic and generous. Teetotalism and Prohibition are now things of the past... Julia, whom he has hitherto despised, suddenly becomes the exclusive object of his attentions. The millionaire even takes a liking to Robert and confesses the real value of the land he wanted to buy from him – now it is Robert who will become the Oil King!Seeing Stevenson is in such a good mood, Robert asks him for Margaret’s hand. Naturally, Stevenson replies that has no niece... and when Ketty reappears without wig or glasses, he realises ‘Margaret’ is his wife. Robert is flabbergasted. Since Ketty and Robert obviously love each other ‘passionately’, Stevenson magnanimously proposes a divorce and grants Perceval his wife’s hand in marriage. From now on, he says, he only wants everyone’s happiness – he will also hasten to ensure Julia’s – and concludes by thanking the wine of France for making a new man of him.

    Persons - 3
  • HENNEQUIN, Maurice (1863-1926)
  • MESSAGER, André (1853-1929)
  • WILLEMETZ, Albert (1887-1964)
  • Work - 1
  • Passionnément (Hennequin & Willemetz / Messager)
  • Study - 1
  • Mirambeau, Christophe – A few remarks about Passionnément