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Grande Duchesse de Gérolstein, La (Meilhac & L. Halévy / Offenbach)




Opéra bouffe in 3 acts, first performed on 12 April 1867 at the Théâtre des Variétés in Paris.


After the success of La Belle Hélène (1864) and La Vie parisienne (1866), Offenbach was at his height when he began work on La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein. Again he collaborated with Meilhac and Halévy, who set the piece in the imaginary duchy of Gérolstein around 1720. The war, generated by Baron Puck and General Boum to occupy the mind of the grand duchess until she finds a husband, serves as a pretext for denouncing a geopolitical situation in which Europe’s contours were constantly being redrawn. The conspiracy trio (Act II) thus uses a subtext that ridicules the current diplomatic situation, while Act III parodies the codes of grand opera à la Meyerbeer. In letting his heroine take the initiatives to find herself a husband, Offenbach showed himself to be a feminist ahead of his time. The grand duchess’s aria “Ah! que j’aime les militaires”, expressing her love for the military, sums up the main theme of the plot. This was potentially shocking, but the audience of the time, also fond of military intrigues, found itself hooked. Begun in Étretat in the summer of 1866, the score was completed in Nice the following winter. The press followed the mounting of the work daily, reporting on the various wage negotiations, pointing out passages likely to irritate the censors, and generally preparing for what was to be the theatrical event of the year. The opera was premièred during the Exposition Universelle of 1867, which meant that many political leaders and crowned heads attended the performances at the Théâtre des Variétés. Thus, Napoleon III, Tsar Alexander II, King Wilhelm I of Prussia, Otto von Bismarck, Adolphe Thiers and others applauded a work in which they themselves were parodied. Barely three years later they were reunited in another theatre – that of the Franco-Prussian War!

    Images - 10
  • Baron en Baron Grog (La Grande Duchesse de Gérolstein d'Offenbach)
  • Henri Couder en Général Boum (La Grande Duchesse de Gérolstein d'Offenbach) par Durandeau
  • Hortense Schneider dans La Grande Duchesse de Géroldstein
  • José Dupuis en Fritz (La Grande Duchesse de Gérolstein d'Offenbach)
  • La Grande Duchesse de Gerolstein d'Offenbach (carte Guérin-Boutron)
  • Scène de La Grande Duchesse de Gérolstein d'Offenbach (gravure)
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    Persons - 3
  • HALÉVY, Ludovic (1834-1908)
  • MEILHAC, Henri (1831-1897)
  • OFFENBACH, Jacques (1819-1880)
  • Themes - 2
  • Genre – Chanson et opérette sous le Second Empire
  • Lieux de musique – Théâtre des Variétés