How could anyone resist an opera that opens with a tragicomic funeral for a deceased parrot held by the pupils of a girls’ convent school? The girls – this is a French convent so they know a thing or two – decide that their beloved pet must be replaced in some form and select the hopelessly innocent young man Valentin to be the happy recipient of all the doting attention they used to lavish on the parrot.
In the experienced hands of director Martin Duncan (Il Turco in Italia, Garsington Opera 2011), we present a new translation of this enchanting work by conductor David Parry. Full of intoxicating melody and sparkling wit, this continuation of our Offenbach thread is the “Mozart of the Champs-Élysées” at his most charming.
Deep distress reigns among the boarding girls at the Convent of Saint-Rémy. They have gathered for the funeral of their beloved pet parrot, Vert-Vert. Valentin, who lives in the convent, gives the oration. No sooner has Binet, the gardener, buried Vert-Vert, than the girls, led by Mimi and the two sisters, Emma and Bathilde, decide they must find a replacement immediately. Mimi secretly loves Valentin and suggests that he should fill the post. Valentin is cajoled into accepting, even to the extent of taking the parrot’s name, and is led away in triumph.
Mimi’s secret is not the only one: Emma and Bathilde are secretly married to two young dragoon offices, D’Arlange and Bergerac. As Binet stands over the parrot’s grave, bemoaning the fickleness of human nature, D’Arlange startles him by jumping over the wall. He demands that Binet fetch his wife, Bathilde. Reluctantly Binet agrees. The couple’s tender encounter is disturbed all too soon by the doorbell ringing. As he jumps back over the wall, D’Arlange swears that the two sisters will soon be rescued: he has a plan…
An agitated Mademoiselle Paturelle enters. She too is secretly married, to the dancing master, Baladon. He complains of his frustration at the severe limits this secrecy puts on their married life. Mademoiselle has a plan: they will meet that evening in the garden. She gives him a key to the gate…
Bathilde conveys the dragoons’ plan to Emma and Mimi, who, in her excitement, reveals her secret passion to the giggling sisters: Vert-Vert is a child, they exclaim. Not any more, Mimi reflects when left alone, only to be interrupted by a flustered Binet: Vert-Vert and he are to travel by barge to visit Vert-Vert’s aunt. Everyone gathers to bid the travellers farewell. Mimi secretly resolves to follow them…
At the Lion d’Or in Nevers, their garrison town, the dragoons have gathered to welcome a famous singer, La Corilla. When she arrives, she delights them with an impromptu performance. D’Arlange and Bergerac flirt with her, but are frustrated by the theatre director, demanding a rehearsal. The tenor Bellecour arrives, voiceless and full of cold. He has been thrown into the Loire by an idiot manservant who claimed that his master was a superior singer to him, the great Bellecour. The idiot manservant and his master appear – none other than Binet and Vert-Vert.
Cancellation looming, the theatre director demands financial compensation and storms off to calculate his losses. Vert-Vert is persuaded to sing and enchants the company, especially La Corilla. But he has no money; so Binet is escorted to the magistrate, leaving Vert-Vert alone with La Corilla. She has a plan: he will sing in Bellecour’s place. D’Arlange and Bergerac return to find La Corilla fully occupied with Vert-Vert.
The shunned officers discover Mimi, disguised as a dragoon: she is looking for Vert-Vert. D’Arlange has a plan: Mimi will lead them and a company of dragoons secretly into the convent to rescue their wives and in return they will deliver Vert-Vert to her. They swear soldierly allegiance. The officers arrange an impromptu drinking party for the actors and the new star, Vert-Vert…
Meanwhile, back at the convent, the girls have a dancing class with Baladon. Mademoiselle has been told that Mimi is in the infirmary and sends one of the girls to fetch her, but of course she cannot be found.
Amidst the general consternation, Mimi coolly reappears: she invents a transparent lie about being at the bottom of the garden, and is only saved by the arrival of Vert-Vert and Binet, who invent a transparent lie about being held by thieves in a cave. But Vert-Vert cannot resist revealing shocking details of his adventures. Under cover of the ensuing fuss Mimi manages to apprise Emma and Bathilde of the rescue plan before Mademoiselle shepherds her flock away. Mimi and Vert-Vert are finally left alone together.
Later, in the garden, the scene is set for an unexpectedly large number of couples to meet secretly. In the darkness confusion reigns, until the dragoons’ rescue plan swings into action…
7, 9, 14, 19, 24, 26 June and 3, 9 July 2014
Monday 9 June – 4.45pm
CAST & CREATIVE TEAM
Conductor David Parry
Director Martin Duncan
Designer Francis O’Connor
Valentin/Vert-Vert Robert Murray
Baladon Geoffrey Dolton
Binet Mark Wilde
Bellecour Alessandro Fisher
D’Arlange Quirijn de Lang
Bergerac Andrew Glover
Friquet Henry Neill
Maniquet Jack Gogarty
La Corilla Naomi O’Connell
Mademoiselle Paturelle Yvonne Howard
Mimi Fflur Wyn
Bathilde Raphaela Papadakis
Emma Katie Bray
Garsington Opera Orchestra & Chorus
Sung in English
Start time: 6.15pm
End time: 10.15pm
The 2014 Season is sponsored by JLT