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La Cour de Celimene



La Cour de Célimène

Ambroise Thomas

2 disc set

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In recent years, there has been increased interest in the works of Ambroise Thomas, particularly in his ambitious setting of Hamlet (1868), which was successfully revived at opera houses including London’s... read more

BUY TRACKS
Song title Time Format Price
playstop01 La Cour de Célimène Act I: Overture06:17
playstop02 La Cour de Célimène Act I scena I: Introduction: Bientôt elle arrive - scena II: Quand la blanche 07:49
playstop03 La Cour de Célimène Act I scena III: Dialogue: Il parait, chère soeur, que tu as 00:38
playstop04 La Cour de Célimène Act I scena III: Duo: Qui, c'est le plus grand des bonheurs - scena IV: Elle a raison 06:09
playstop05 La Cour de Célimène Act I scena IV: Couplets: Charmez, brillez, c'est de votre age 03:06
playstop06 La Cour de Célimène Act I scena IV: Trio: C'est un mariage 01:18
playstop07 La Cour de Célimène Act I scena IV: Dialogue: Ainsi, un fois mariés, tous es 00:47
playstop08 La Cour de Célimène Act I scena IV: Air: Que dites-vous? 04:49
playstop09 La Cour de Célimène Act I scena IV: Dialogue: Allons, rassurez-vous ? tant de passion - scena V: Madame la Comtesse? 00:34
playstop10 La Cour de Célimène Act I scena V: Air: Ce petit bonhomme! - scena VI: Je vais la revoir! 03:46
playstop11 La Cour de Célimène Act I scena VII: Dialogue: Ah, vous voila donc, chevalier? 00:44
playstop12 La Cour de Célimène Act I scena VII: Quartet: mais pardon ? - scena VIII: La voici! 05:40
playstop13 La Cour de Célimène Act I scena VIII: Dialogue: Eh bien! Monsieur, vous n'avez pas - scena IX: Mon mariga? 01:29
playstop14 La Cour de Célimène Act I scena IX: Couplet: Oh! 02:42
playstop15 La Cour de Célimène Act I scena IX: Dialogue: Ainsi, madame, apres m'avoir, de propos 00:49
playstop16 La Cour de Célimène Act I scena X: Finale: Quels fracas! - scena XI: La perfide - scena XII: Chevalier? 06:27
playstop17 La Cour de Célimène Act II scena I: Entr'acte: Dieu! Quel mortel ennui d'avoir 03:22
playstop18 La Cour de Célimène Act II scena I: Recitative: Que voulez-vous 08:18
playstop19 La Cour de Célimène Act II scena II: Dialogue: Ma soeur! Ma soeur! - scena III: Ah! Mon Dieu! 00:25
playstop20 La Cour de Célimène Act II scena III: Voila donc la cruelle - scena IV: Le voila, le voila! 05:40
playstop21 La Cour de Célimène Act II scena IV: Air Bouffe: Sur le terrain, tous deux enfin 06:18
playstop22 La Cour de Célimène Act II scena V: Dialogue: Ainsi, commandeur, vous voila contraint 00:23
playstop23 La Cour de Célimène Act II scena V: Trio: Nous pouvons arranger l'affaire 05:20
playstop24 La Cour de Célimène Act II scena V: Dialogue: Ainsi, noble baronne - scena VI: Le voici - scena VII: Arrivez donc 01:37
playstop25 La Cour de Célimène Act II scena VII: Duo: Aucun, et je proteste! ? 03:33
playstop26 La Cour de Célimène Act II scena VII: Dialogue: Et maintenant, chevalier - scena VIII: Baronne? 01:37
playstop27 La Cour de Célimène Act II scene 9-11: Finale: Que vois-je? 06:01

In recent years, there has been increased interest in the works of Ambroise Thomas, particularly in his ambitious setting of Hamlet (1868), which was successfully revived at opera houses including London’s Covent Garden, the New York Met, Barcelona and Paris. Ambroise Thomas’ other major success was Mignon (1866), which had more than 1,200 performances at the Opéra-Comique up to the end of the 19th century. Opera Rara now takes a further important step in the rediscovery of this fascinating figure, with a new recording of his 1855 opéra-comique La Cour de Célimène (Célimène’s Court). Set in 1750 in a château near Paris, the opera centres on young widowed Countess who has no fewer than fourteen suitors. The role was written for the legendary coloratura, Marie Miolan-Carvalho, who also created roles in four of Gounod’s operas, notably Marguerite in Faust, Juliette in Roméo et Juliette and the title-role in Mireille. Here, Laura Claycomb sings the Countess, with Alastair Miles, Joan Rodgers and Sébastien Droy at her side. Given the large cast, which includes 13 soloists from the Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, it is unsurprising that the work’s ensembles have been selected by scholars as highlights of a score that is sure to delight lovers of French opera.

Booklet includes complete libretto with English translation.

'This is one of Opera Rara's best!' - Charles H Parsons, American Record Guide

'Opera Rara once again places opera-lovers in its debt with this first-ever recording of an entirely forgotten opera-comique' - Opera News

Laura Claycomb (La Comtesse), Joan Rodgers (La Baronne), Alastair Miles (Le Commandeur de Beaupré), Sébastien Droy (Le Chevalier de Mérac), Nicole Tibbels (Bretonne), Philharmonia Orchestra, Andrew Litton – conductor

ACT ONE

The Overture takes us back in time, evoking the setting: A château in Paris in 1750. We are in the period of the regency.

The curtain opens on a classical garden with coppices to the right and left, a few trees and statues of mythological figures. The opening Morceau d’ensemble is hilarious and takes place in almost complete darkness throughout. As the twelve suitors of the Countess (nicknamed Célimène on account of her resemblance, no doubt, to Molière’s character of the same name) gradually appear to wait for her, they bump into each other in the dark. They are divided into three groups of four lovers—Youths, Adolescents and Old Men. Nicely rhymed, they seem to be unaware of how many they are and each thinks himself to be the favoured one:

The tension builds up for the arrival of the Countess, who eventually appears with a flurry of cadenza vocalise, in the company of maids-in-waiting and her confidante Bretonne. Her sister the Baroness, a woman whose morality is diametrically opposite to hers, enters from the other side. The ensemble continues, ending with the words ‘Quel espoir !’ (What hope!) from the suitors, and ‘Au revoir !’ from the Countess.

In the spoken dialogue with her sister-widow the Baroness, the Countess reveals a little about her insatiable desire to conquer men’s hearts: in part it is revenge against the male species in general, as her late husband caused her so much heartache with his infidelities.

The contrasting morals between the two sisters are further explored in the Duo which begins with words from the Countess: ‘Oui, c’est le plus grand des bonheurs que de régner sur mille cœurs’. [The greatest of pleasures is to reign over a thousand hearts!]

The Baroness clearly disapproves of her sister’s delight in being an incurable ‘allumeuse’. But what she thinks is ‘honneur’ her sister thinks of as ‘erreur’. The Countess then goes on to boast of her ability to attract lovers of all characters and of all ages. The Duo turns into a Trio as the Commander enters, singing to the Countess. He is engaged to her; but is it wise to marry someone who takes such an open delight in breaking hearts? ‘Oh yes’, he says, ‘he’s flattered!’ He sings in praise of her open coquettishness, never tarnished: all her desires, all her pleasures will bring him pleasure too. The ladies listen to him, evidently charmed, and the Countess warns him that, whatever happens, no-one, not even he, will steal her heart. This, says the commander, is a ‘marriage of convenience’: he likes living on the estate owned by the two sisters. His next Air is all about this beloved property: he tells them that separation from the estate would be bad for his health.

The following dialogue with Bretonne announces the arrival of the Countess’s latest young suitor: a real toy-boy in this case, a Gascon cadet known as the Chevalier. She hesitates for a moment, but in the end the temptation to have a little fun is too strong. Gallant dialogue with the Baroness leads to a Quartet where the young cadet meets the Countess again, with the Commander and the Baroness hiding unseen. The Countess is elegantly dressed for town, the besotted young cadet is very nervous and not at all confident in the ways of courtship. He is nonetheless convinced that the Countess has given him to believe that she wishes to marry him.

A few home truths about some goings-on in Aix, where they first met, come out in the following dialogue and, almost en passant, the Chevalier learns that, far from intending to marry him, she is to marry the Commander. The Countess denies having led him on: her loving smiles were merely a ‘headache’ she claims, and as for embracing: ‘she must have been asleep’.

In the energetic finale, the suitors reappear. They are horrified to have learnt of the Countess’s imminent wedding. They all seem to have been under the illusion that she loved each one of them! The Commander and the Chevalier argue with greater and greater vehemence as the music becomes more and more heated. A duel is called for and the twelve suitors divide into two groups to form seconds for the duellists.

ACT TWO

The scene is set in the Countess’s boudoir. A table on the left is covered with bouquets of flowers and opened love-letters. In the short recitative that serves as an introduction to Act II, the Countess seems tired of all her games and wants a few moments to herself.

In the following display Aria she pretends to address a lover kneeling in front of her. Never mind if he goes away, she remarks, another will soon take his place. She reflects before pretending to address a second lover: both of them are treated to a fine display of vocal fireworks.

Her maid Bretonne appears, and the countess gives her a heap of bouquets to perfume her room and some love-letters ‘to inflame her heart’, much to her delight. The Baroness rushes in to announce that the wounded are returning from the duel. In the Morceau d’ensemble which follows, the walking wounded utter cries of pain and at first accuse the Countess of being ‘proud, ungrateful, ungrateful and wilful’. She melts their anger away by parading around them seductively: to each she offers a word of consolation. Each one of them is delighted, believing himself at last to be the object of her love. The Countess asks what has happened to the Commander and the suitors tell her that he is seriously wounded. He enters, his clothes torn and dishevelled and his face bandaged in several places. Everyone laughs mockingly but then pretends to be moved by his misfortune.

The tottering Commander has a solution. It is a rather long-winded one; but it confirms our previous perception that it is property and the desire to live in his domaine enchantée that governs the Commander’s motives. His only way forward, shamed by the loss of the duel for the Countess, is to marry the Baroness. He lavishes flattery on the latter: his clumsy advances are welcomed by the company with choruses of praise for his gallantry!

The following dialogue is crucial, for the Countess has had a change of heart. Somewhat alarmed at having been forced by the Commander’s loss of the duel into a corner where she may have to marry the Chevalier, she demands that her sister inform the Chevalier that if he wants her hand in marriage he must apologise for earlier violent scenes and prepare for her reformed attitude (a remark made with an ironic sigh): the Countess will from henceforth be a sweet, good woman whose only desire is for constant love from a faithful husband. Enter the Chevalier who admits no hatred for the Commander whom he considered honourable and a gentleman. He is now intent only on exacting revenge from the hard-hearted Countess. When the Baroness, as the Countess has instructed her, suggests that he might find a gentle, loving woman instead, the Chevalier misunderstands her and, falling in love at once with the Baroness, assumes that she will marry him straightaway. He goes to collect his bags.

In the finale the Baroness is reduced to laughter as the Chevalier returns to see the Commander on his feet in front of her. Now she has two offers of marriage. The suitors enter and the chevalier is sporting for another duel: the commander has once again become a rival. The Countess enters holding a bouquet and offers her hand to the Chevalier. But he spurns it and instead takes the hand of the Baroness announcing that he will marry her after he has killed the Commander. The confused Countess then confesses her mistake, claiming that she had meant to offer her hand to the Commander: things have turned full circle and the first solution is adopted. The twelve suitors are annoyed: they confess that their aim was that she should never marry so that they could live eternally in hope. The Countess throws down her bouquet and each of the suitors takes a flower for their buttonholes.

It seems she will take the commander, for beside him, without her heart stolen, she can be free and happy.