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Not In Front of the Waiter

or Under the Aspidistra

Music by Jacques Offenbach, Orchestration by Vilem Tausky
Book and Adaptation by Colin Graham; Lyrics by Viola Tunnard


THE occasion of the first performance of this gay and highly diverting half-hour piece was the Gala Midnight Matinée at Sadlers Wells in the summer of 1963, produced as a tribute to the work of Joan Cross and Ann Wood for the National School of Opera.

The plot is suggested by almost any farce of Georges Feydeau and the music, adapted from Offenbach's lesser-known operettas calls for the usual vocal quartet plus bass.

The latter is a waiter preparing to receive his guests in the private room of a Paris restaurant. Solange and Prosper enter and take a table next to an enormous aspidistra. From their (sung) conversation we gather they are both married, but not to one another. A few minutes later Hortense and Aristide come in and sit at an adjoining table. They are bent on a similar amorous escapade and are indeed the wife and husband of the first couple.

It is not long before all is discovered, the ladies rather exaggerating their astonishment and becoming bitterly distressed. During this time, the waiter has remained suitably silent, but when the remonstrations are at their peak he intervenes to say he has some information to impart of a kind that should put an end to the quarreling.

He then proceeds to reveal that from a strawberry mark on both ladies' shoulders, he has recognised them as the daughters he shamelessly abandoned in childhood. He pleads their forgiveness and recounts the sad story of how he was tempted from the straight and narrow path of dutiful paternity. At first the four of them listen to this revelation with incredulity, but the ladies soon begin to rejoice in having found not only a father, but each of them a sister and also a brother-in-law. Reconciliation abounds, and all join in a song in praise of family trees to which the aspidistra raises its head in acknowledgment.

Vocal Score on Sale


2 Flutes, 1 Oboe, 2 Bb Clarinets, 1 Bassoon; 2 Horns, 2 Bb Trumpets, 1 Trombone; Percussion; Strings.

NOTE: It is important, for the success of this piece, that the sub-title be included in programmes and all publicity.