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Bergers, Les (Crémieux & Gille / Offenbach)




Opéra comique in three acts premiered at the Bouffes-Parisiens on 11 December 1865.


In the style of a moral treatise, Les Bergers explores the theme of love’s sorrows in the light of three situations that correspond to three periods in pastoral literature. This genre, perfectly epitomised by the “idylls” of the ancient Greek poet Theocritus, had already been reappropriated on numerous occasions since the 15th century. In 19th-century France, it referenced a fourfold historicism, as Offenbach himself explained. A few days before the première of Les Bergers, the composer sent the director of the Figaro substantial notes on the opera, which appeared in the columns of the periodical: “The poem of our Bergers has three acts: this is a series of pastoral scenes framed by a very fine piece. That is my brave opinion of the work of my  collaborators H. Crémieux and Ph. Gille”. Offenbach went on to explain that he had treated each part of the work as a short self-contained opera. The first was a pastiche of opera seria. The second imitated the style of composers in the time of Louis XV: “We are swimming in Watteau” he wrote. And in the last, he was “striving to realize the music of Courbet”. Although the newspapers were quick to condemn the repetitive and, consequently, incoherent nature of the plot of this “rustic trilogy”, the critics were on the contrary impressed by Offenbach’s skill in using this structure to showcase different aspects of his inspiration. The reviews of the work were full of praise for the first act in particular, written in a style inspired by antiquity. This act is reminiscent of certain passages in La Belle Hélène, premiered a year before to great success.

    Image - 1
  • Page de titre du quadrille Les Bergers d’après Offenbach (Strauss)
  • Persons - 3
  • CRÉMIEUX, Hector (1828-1892)
  • GILLE, Philippe (1831-1901)
  • OFFENBACH, Jacques (1819-1880)
  • Themes - 2
  • Genre – Chanson et opérette sous le Second Empire
  • Lieux de musique – Bouffes-Parisiens