Gillette de Narbonne

Poster by Paul Maurou for the original production.

Gillette de Narbonne is an opéra comique in three acts, with music by Edmond Audran and words by Alfred Duru and Henri Chivot. It is based on a fabliau from The Decameron and depicts a rejected bride posing as another woman to deceive her husband into consummating their marriage.

The first performance was on 11 November 1882 at the Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens, Paris, where it ran for 122 performances, until the following March. Productions followed in London, where the piece failed to run, and Berlin, where it was more successful.

Background and first performance

In the 1850s the Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens had been celebrated for its association with Jacques Offenbach.[1][2] It had declined in the 1860s, but under a new director, Louis Cantin, appointed in 1877, it made a strong recovery.[3] In 1880 Cantin staged Louis Varney's Les mousquetaires au couvent which played for more than 250 performances – a very good run for the time – followed by Edmond Audran's La mascotte, which was given more than 450 times in 1881 and 1882. The replacement for La mascotte, Varney's Coquelicot, made little impression, and Cantin turned again to Audran and his regular librettists, Alfred Duru and Henri Chivot.[2][4]

The authors based their plot on the story from The Decameron on which Shakespeare based All's Well That Ends Well.[2] They wrote for a cast largely familiar from their earlier work, including the mezzo-soprano Marie Montbazon, the tenor Charles Lamy and the baritone Louis Morlet.[2]

The opera premiered on 11 November 1882. Without rivalling the exceptional success of La Mascotte, Gillette de Narbonne performed satisfactorily at the box office, running for 122 performances from November until the following March.[5]

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