THE BELLS OF CORNEVILLE
An Opéra-comique in 3 acts, 4 scenes; Music by Robert Planquette;
adapted and arranged by Max Morris
New Libretto and Lyrics by Geoffrey Wilson (from the French of Gabet and Clairville)
Théàtre des Folies-Dramatiques, Paris - 19 April, 1877
St. James Theatre, New York - 30 November, 1878 (21 perfs)
Folly Theatre, London - 28 February, 1878
(Late 17th century France)
In rural Normandy, during the reign of Louis XIV, lives a miserly farmer called Gaspard. Two girls, about the same age, belong to his household - Germaine, his supposed niece and likely to inherit his money, and Serpolette, a waif he has adopted, details of whose birth remain a mystery. Gaspard wants Germaine to marry the Bailie, the chief local official. She, however, has vowed to wed no one but the man who has recently rescued her from drowning. Grenicheux, a feckless young fisherman, takes credit for the deed and Serpolette becomes vexed when he starts paying more attention to Germaine. A colourful stranger arrives in Corneville. His sea captain's uniform conceals the fact that Henri is the son of the Marquis of Corneville, exiled twenty years previously. Germaine tells him of the legend of the long closed-up chateau, reputedly haunted. Its bells will only peal forth again when the rightful master returns.
At the hiring fair, Henri takes into his service Germaine, Serpolette and Grenicheux, all eager to get away from Gaspard. Along with them, some of his crew and the coerced Bailie, Henri enters the chateau by night. Then he reveals he is the lawful owner of Corneville. A portfolio of papers seems to prove that Serpolette is really a Viscountess, heiress to the Lucenay fortune. Henri becomes convinced that Germaine is the girl he rescued from drowning. Shortly afterwards Gaspard arrives in what he thinks is a still, empty chateau to gloat over the gold he has hidden there. It is he who has made the villagers believe that the chateau is haunted. Suddenly Henri and his companions, clad in armour, frighten Gaspard out of his wits. A month later Henri is established in the remodelled chateau. He orders Grenicheux to own up to Germaine that he did not save her but not to reveal the name of her true rescuer. Germaine overhears. When Henri asks her to marry him, she replies that she feels a marquis should not marry his servant. Fortunately Gaspard recovers his reason and produces a paper he has stolen which proves Germaine is the Lucenay heiress and Serpolette only a Gypsy foundling. Henri is delighted no barrier of rank remains and that he is free to marry Germaine. He forgives the now abject Gaspard as Serpolette accepts her fate and agrees to make do with Grenicheux, on her terms. The Bells of Corneville can therefore ring out once more.
CAST - (in order of appearance)
GERTRUDE … Peasant girl … (Soprano)
JEANNE … Peasant girl … (Soprano)
MANETTE … Peasant girl … (Soprano)
SUZANNE … Peasant girl … (Soprano)
SERPOLETTE … a waife adopted by Gaspard … (Mezzo-soprano)
THE RECORDER … (Tenor)
AN ASSESSOR … (Baritone)
THE NOTARY PUBLIC … (Baritone)
GRENICHEUX … a ne'er-do-well youth … (Tenor)
GERMAINE … Gaspard's pretended niece … (Soprano)
HENRI … Marquis of Corneville … (Baritone)
GASPARD … a miserly farmer … (Bass)
THE BAILIE OF CORNEVILLE … (Bass)
Chorus of peasant girls and men, servants, coachmen, maids, villagers of Corneville and sailors.
New English translation by Geoffrey Wilson.
a. Chorus … "Now to the fair" … Gertrude, Jeanne, Manette, Suzanne, Serpolette and Chorus
b. Solo … "They say" … Serpolette, with Recorder, Assessor, Notary Public and Chorus.
- Solo … "Perhaps I am a Royal foundling" … Serpolette
- Solo … "Light Breezes Blowing" … Grenicheux
- Duet "Though when he saved me" Germaine and Grenicheux
- Solo … "Corneville's ancient sires" … Germain with Chorus
- Solo … "I've ploughed the seas" … Henri
- Ensemble … "Oh, what a great disgrace" … Germaine, Serpolette, Grenicheux, Gaspard, Bailie and Chorus
- Solo … "I'm in a pretty pickle" … Grenicheux
- Finale … "The time has come" … All
a. Chorus … "Now aloft we carry our flares" … Germaine, Henri and Sailors
b. Trio … "Let's close our eyes" … Serpolette, Grenicheux and Bailie
c. Solo … "Courage! Let's be brave" … Serpolette, with Grenicheux and Bailie
- Solo … "I tried my best to be heroic" … Germaine
- Solo … "My head, my wig" … Bailie
- Solo … "Ancestors of Mine" … Henri, with Germaine, Serpolette, Grenicheux and Bailie
- Solo … "Do we hear right?" … Serpolette, with Germaine, Grenicheux, Henri and Bailie
- Duet … "At last kind Fate" … Germaine and Henri
- Chorus … "Hail Our Volunteer" … Germaine, Serpolette, Grenicheux, Henri, Bailie and Sailors
- Finale … "There in That Cupboard" … All
Entracte and Dance
- Solo … "Here's A Merry Ditty" … Gaspard
- Chorus and Solo … "Have You Seen?" … Serpolette and Chorus
- Solo … "Apples Are Full Of Juice" … Serpolette, with Chorus
- Solo … "The Raging Sea" … Grenicheux
- Duet … "The Girl You Saved" … Germaine and Henri
- Finale … "Though You Have Played" … All
Scenes and Settings:
Period: 1685, during the reign of Louis XIV.
Act 1 The market place of Corneville, Normandy. Morning.
Act 2 The hall in the Château of Corneville. The same night.
Act 3 The park of the Château. One month later.
(Total number of books=17)
2 Violins I
1 Bass Trombone
1 Violin II
1 Clarinets I/II
1 Horns I/II
1 Conductor Score
1 Double Bass
1 Trumpets I/II
- annotated vocal score
1 Flutes I/II (1 doubles Picc)
1 Trombones I/II
The original scoring is for 2 Flutes (one doubling piccolo), Oboe, 2 Clarinets, Bassoon, 2 Horns, 2 Trumpets, 3 Trombones, Tympani, Percussion, and Strings. The stage bells are in G and D.