The Game of Love
Music by Jacques Offenbach, musical arrangements and additional music by Nancy Ford, book and lyrics by Tom Jones.
Based on The Last Affairs of Anatol by Arthur Schnitzler.
First presented 15 June, 1965 - No Broadway or West End presentation.
Late 19th Century Vienna, a waltz, a kiss, a sigh - Tom Jones and Nancy Ford have wedded Offenbach and original music to the wise and witty Anatol plays by Arthur Schnitzler and have created a confection as list a a Viennese pastry. Anatol, a Viennese man about town, celebrates his life's passion - women - as he rendezvous with five special loves on a journey of self-discovery.
Anatol is a handsome and experienced late 19th-century Viennese man about town with a fondness for everything female. With the assistance of his wily friend (and our narrator) Max, Anatol’s merry rendezvous with five very special women are recounted before our delighted eyes as our hero discovers love is indeed a game with amusing, bemusing rules.
The play begins on an almost bare stage, save for a few visual reminders of turn of the century Vienna evoked both scenically and by our narrator, Max, as he steps out of the darkness describing a romantic world and time gone by. He also introduces us to his good friend Anatol, “our hero, … like the town, gallant and debonair.” Anatol admits to being a hopelessly romantic.
His first lady love is Cora, a woman older than Anatol, more experienced and self-assured, who he suspects is cheating on him because Anatol says, “No woman involved in a love affair has a sick aunt!” He plots with Max to utilise some recently acquired lessons in hypnosis to get her to admit her faithlessness. Cora willingly agrees to be hypnotized and then she claims to be completely under his spell and willing to answer any question he asks. Max and Anatol debate how to frame the question properly which will force Cora to reveal whether or not she has been true to Anatol, but every suggestion Max makes Anatol rejects, leading Max to protest that Anatol is afraid and unwilling to learn the truth. Anatol wakes his lady love with passionate kisses without ever asking her directly if she has cheated on him, because “Is it a sham, who is the tiger, and who is the lamb?” They embrace as the lights fade.
The lights now come up on Sacha’s Restaurant, the most elegant in Vienna, where two music hall entertainers, Fritz and Annie, entertain the guests with a light hearted song and dance routine which refutes English, French and Italian music for the good old oompah-pah of Bavaria. Max explains to the audience that Sacha’s was the restaurant for the “elegant, rich and gay” of Vienna and a place for “the playboy to play.” Anatol and three waiters are in a private dining room, where Anatol is confiding to them that this evening’s dinner will end with him breaking off his current affair and that he must soon become “a bit of a cad.” He also confesses that he is bored with this arriving woman and has been seeing another behind her back, but can’t bring himself to break up with her, so he’s been eating two dinners all week long. He also tells Max that he and the young woman had agreed weeks ago that when the affair became stale they would simply tell each other and part as friends, but he’s been unable to tell her. Anticipating that the young lady will be devastated by his news, he arranges with the waiters to have one of them wait until the champagne is served and then come in playing a long, sad waltz on the violin. He cautions them to continue playing no matter how emotional the young lady becomes.
Annie arrives, and we see that she is the young woman “artiste” who had been entertaining the diners earlier. She is young and a bit dim, though with a sunny disposition. She loves to eat, and barely acknowledges Max or Anatol before sitting down to eat bread, celery and radishes. She then proceeds to gobble down oysters as she tells Anatol that this will be their last supper together because she is throwing him over for a new, but poor man, with whom she has fallen madly in love. While Max chokes back tears of merriment at this turn of events, Anatol becomes indignant that Annie has decided to leave him before he can leave her. She explains to Anatol that because her new man is poor, she knows she will be leaving behind a life of rich decadence, especially bemoaning the loss of her beloved oysters on a nightly basis. She becomes so emotional that a waiter enters playing a sad waltz, as instructed earlier. The head-waiter now bursts into the room with the champagne, and when Anatol tries to dismiss them both, the musician winks and only plays louder. Anatol murmurs “damn” aloud as Annie bids a sad adieu to oysters and champagne, telling Anatol that every time in the future that she drinks beer or eats cheap cabbage stew she will think of him. Infuriated and frustrated, Anatol tells Annie that he too has been deceiving her with another woman. She departs in a huff, but not before grabbing a handful of cigars for her new lover before grandly sweeping off the stage.
The next scene begins with Max flinging a handful of confetti in the air to simulate snow as some street peddlers sing setting the scene for us as he announces to the audience, "The Christmas Gift". Enter Gabrielle, a beautiful young woman of obvious wealth and breeding, carrying gift packages and looking for a cab. Anatol appears and tries to help her with them. At first she rebuffs him, but it soon becomes clear they have some history, although she is married and has children. He asks her to help him select a special gift, and she assumes it is for a woman, another of his conquests. It is clear that she is jealous. He reminds her that she could have stayed with him rather than marrying a man she didn’t love and shunting children off on their nanny. He tells Gabrielle that he and his new woman live in a “little world” far removed from one of wealth and social status, where they share a simple love. Gabrielle, clearly saddened but touched by his story, takes a bouquet of flowers she has been carrying and insists Anatol give them to his new love, and to tell her it was a gift from one “who might have been as happy as you if only she’d had the courage.” She departs, and Anatol sadly confesses to a passing peddler that he has no room, no special place to go. He tries to give away the bouquet to the peddler, but Max comes in and purchases the flowers, walks to the vase on the piano, and puts them in. We are left wondering what might have been as the music concludes and the lights fade out on the spot-lit bouquet of flowers.
Max again appears and informs the audience that after having tried every other sensation, Anatol has now been tempted by “moderation,” meaning he intends to marry.
The Wedding Morning reveals a gloomy and inebriated Anatol in a foul mood. Max arrives, hoping to get some help with what colour flowers to buy his bridesmaid wedding partner, only to find another woman in Anatol’s bedroom. Even Max is shocked, since the wedding is only hours away. Anatol explains that at the pre-wedding party the night before, he’d kissed his fiancée good night and “it was like ice,” so as the snow begins to fall, Anatol walks to the famous Redoute dance hall, with its beautiful women, savouring his last night of freedom. He sings about all the beautiful women there just waiting for their lovers when he espies Illona, a former lover, whom he has told he was going out of town on a long trip in order to avoid her and get engaged. They spend the night together in a haze of “happiness and champagne.” She scolds him for not writing a single letter while away and tells him she will never let him out of her sight again.
Max and Anatol try to distract Illona, an actress, by asking what her favourite scene in her new play is. She announces that it’s the one in which she kills her lover with a letter opener and then cuts him into tiny pieces and mails him out parcel post. Illona relishes wreaking violent revenge on any lover who would dare to deceive her. Illona announces she is happily settling in for a long day of drinking coffee and cuddling with Anatol while the rain comes down. They counter by telling Illona that they must get dressed for a wedding that is only hours away, and then say that they are both the best men. Max manages to escape, but Illona refuses to let Anatol out of her sight.
Anatol insists that he must attend the wedding, but promises to meet her right afterward. While he is dressing, Illona begins to question Anatol as to where he went and what he did on his trip out of town. From his evasive answers she suspects he has tried to get rid of her, as he did once before. She vows never to let him leave her again, and he says he can’t promise that, that he might marry one day. At that moment, he appears dressed as a bridegroom, and Illona goes berserk, attempting to get to the bridal bouquet he is holding over his head.
Max comes back into the room, and in frustration, Illona tears his bouquet for the bridesmaid to shreds. She continues to demolish methodically the entire room, breaking and ripping everything she can get her hands on, all the while threatening to get vengeance on them all. Franz, Anatol’s manservant, enters the room, calmly stepping over piles of debris to announce to Anatol that his carriage is ready. Max promises to stay behind and take care of Illona, who Anatol concludes is “still wild about me.” Illona tells Max that she intends to go and stop the wedding, but Max convinces her that her best revenge is to wait, because, knowing Anatol as they both do, he is sure he will return to her soon, since deceiving his bride is inevitable and only a matter of time.
Illona relishes the thought of how she’ll make him suffer and beg when he does come back. Illona sweeps out of the room as the music and mood suddenly become quite melancholy. Max laments the end of their youthful romantic adventures. “Only Time Will Tell” Max cautions as the scene ends.
In the final scene, Anatol is now 52 years old, and has invited Max to meet him at an old café on the outskirts of Vienna, after many years of being apart. Anatol tells Max he needs him to hear his heart’s last will and testament as he renounces love. Yet, he tells Max the story of how he recently spied a beautiful young singer, Annette, walking with her young poet lover, Flieder. Their eyes meet, and Anatol knows that Annette yearns for him. But, he says sadly to Max, he will not bother or even envy the young their love. Max and Anatol remind themselves that the dizzying heights of young love are not for the older and wiser, such as themselves. Anatol says he misses "the exquisite pleasure of one last sorrow,” though, as they hear noise in the background.
It is the aging dandy Baron Diebel and his entourage from the Redoute, coming closer. The Baron invites Anatol and Max to join them, because once they were the greatest lovers in Vienna, and he is sending the beautiful young singer Annette out to them, because she wants to meet Anatol. The Baron claims that he is really a very moral and prim man despite his great love of women, wine and song. Max goes in to the party with the Baron as Annette approaches Anatol and boldly flirts with him. She claims that although she loves Flieder, she also needs to be with people and to “throw herself into life” and to be wild and bold. Anatol cautions Annette that “to love a great many is to love no one at all.” He tells her “I needed to be in love” too, and that being a lover was once his “art.” Annette tries to tempt Anatol to go with her to the forest to a place he once knew where lovers “can hear each other’s heartbeats.” She tries to convince him to make love to her but Flieder, her young poet lover, comes looking for her.
Despite Annette’s urging Anatol to come away with her and her promise “ to make him young again,” Anatol hands Annette over to Flieder and she takes him to the garden and the stream in the forest, because she needs to make love. As the young couple departs, Annette flings a primrose at Anatol’s feet which he picks up and, standing centre stage, sticks in his lapel. Max sings a reprise of “The Game of Love” as all the various women from Anatol’s past appear and begin to circle around him, joining in the song. The lights fade.
2 principal men, 5 principal women, chorus of 4 men who double.
- Anatol - charming, civilized, into romantic trouble; - baritone
- Annette - a beautiful young girl, playful
- Annie - a giddy music hall singer, loves food
- Baron Diebel - an aging Casanova, free spirited
- Cora - an experienced woman
- Flieder, a young poet *
- Franz, Anatol's manservant/ butler*
Fritz, Franz, the Baron and Flieder play a variety of ensemble roles: peddlers, waiters, servants. They are also recommended to change the sets and props
- Fritz - a music hall singer
- Gabrielle - a secretly discontented married lady
- Illona - a famous actress, insecure, romantic
- Max - his friend, clever, mirthful, sentimental; - baritone
- In Vienna - Max
- I Love To Be In Love - Anatol, Max
- The Hypnotism Song - Cora, Anatol, Max
- The Music Of Bavaria - Annie, Fritz
- Finishing With An Affair - Anatol, Waiters
- The Oyster Waltz - Annie, Waiters
- Come Buy A Trinket - Peddlers
- There's A Room - Anatol, Gabrielle
- Anatol's Last Night - Anatol
- Love Conquers All - Illona, Anatol, Max
- Listen To The Rain - Illona
- Seasons - Max
- It's For The Young - Anatol, Max
- Menage-A-Trois - Baron Diebel
- There's A Flower I Wear - Annette
- The Game Of Love - All
piano, violin, cello