Les cloches de Corneville
(known in English as The Chimes of Normandy
or The Bells of Corneville
) is an operetta
Operetta is a genre of light opera, light in terms both of music and subject matter. It is also closely related, in English-language works, to forms of musical theatre.-Origins:...
in three acts, composed by Robert Planquette
Jean Robert Planquette was a French composer of songs and operettas.Several of Planquette's operettas were extraordinarily successful in Britain, including Les cloches de Corneville , the length of whose initial London run broke all records for any piece of musical theatre up to that time, and Rip...
to a French libretto by Louis Clairville and Charles Gabet based on a play by Gabet.
In 1876, the director of the Théâtre des Folies-Dramatiques
The Théâtre des Folies-Dramatiques was a theatre in Paris in the 19th and 20th centuries. Opened first in 1832 in the site of the old Théâtre de l'Ambigu-Comique on the Boulevard du Temple, under Frédérick Lemaître it became a noted venue for the genre of mélodrame.In 1862, the theatre moved to the...
, Louis Cantin, hired Planquette to compose the operetta, which had originally been intended for Hervé. Despite initially mixed reviews (the storyline was criticized for its similarity to La dame blanche
La dame blanche is an opéra comique in three acts by the French composer François-Adrien Boieldieu. The libretto was written by Eugène Scribe and is based on episodes from no less than five of the works by Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott, including his novels The Monastery, Guy Mannering, and The...
Martha, oder Der Markt zu Richmond is a 'romantic comic' opera in four acts by Friedrich von Flotow, set to a German libretto by Friedrich Wilhelm Riese and based on a story by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges....
), it became probably the most popular French operetta of all time, with hit productions in London and elsewhere. Les cloches de Corneville
was Planquette's first full operetta score and has been praised for its fine melodies, rhythmic variety, good choral writing and complex orchestral colour (although Planquette may not have done the orchestration himself).
Les cloches de Corneville
was first produced in Paris at the Théàtre des Folies-Dramatiques, opening on April 19, 1877, and ran for 408 performances.
The operetta was then produced as The Chimes of Normandy
at the Fifth Avenue Theatre in New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...
, beginning on October 22, 1877. There was also another New York run in 1878. Later productions included one as The Bells of Corneville
at the Victoria Theater, New York, beginning on April 21, 1902.
In London, it played at the Folly Theatre
The Folly Theatre was a London theatre of the late 19th century, in William IV Street, near Charing Cross, in the City of Westminster. It was converted from the house of a religious order, and became a small theatre, with a capacity of 900 seated and standing. The theatre specialised in presenting...
, with an English libretto by H. B. Farnie and Robert Reece
Robert Reece was a British comic playwright and librettist active in the Victorian era. He wrote many successful musical burlesques, comic operas, farces and adaptations from the French, including the English-language adaptation of the operetta Les cloches de Corneville, which became the...
, opening on February 28, 1878 (transferring to the Globe Theatre
The Globe was a Victorian theatre built in 1868 and demolished in 1902. It was the third of five London theatres to bear the name. It was also known at various times as the Royal Globe Theatre or Globe Theatre Royal. Its repertoire consisted mainly of comedies and musical shows...
on 31 August 1878 as The Chimes of Normandy
), outlasting H.M.S. Pinafore
H.M.S. Pinafore; or, The Lass That Loved a Sailor is a comic opera in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and a libretto by W. S. Gilbert. It opened at the Opera Comique in London, England, on 25 May 1878 and ran for 571 performances, which was the second-longest run of any musical...
by running for a world record-setting 705 performances (holding this record until Dorothy
Dorothy is a comic opera in three acts with music by Alfred Cellier and a libretto by B. C. Stephenson. The story involves a rake who falls in love with his disguised fiancée.It was first produced at the Gaiety Theatre in London on in 1886...
in 1886). Violet Cameron and Shiel Barry starred as Germaine and Gaspard. At the same time, the production toured the provinces, starring Florence St. John
Florence St. John , was an English singer and actress of the late Victorian and Edwardian eras famous for her roles in operetta, musical burlesque, music hall, opera and, later, comic plays.-Life and career:...
as Germaine, who then joined the London cast late in the run, making her West End
West End theatre is a popular term for mainstream professional theatre staged in the large theatres of London's 'Theatreland', the West End. Along with New York's Broadway theatre, West End theatre is usually considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English speaking...
The work remained popular thereafter; it was translated into several languages and enjoyed numerous productions worldwide. In 1917 it was produced in Britain as a silent feature film (under its French title) directed by Thomas Bentley. It continued to be performed into the 1940s in Britain and the 1960s in France, and it still receives some productions today.
Roles and role creators
||Premiere Cast, 19 April 1877
| Serpolette, the good-for-nothing
A soprano is a voice type with a vocal range from approximately middle C to "high A" in choral music, or to "soprano C" or higher in operatic music. In four-part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part, which usually encompasses the melody...
Juliette-Joséphine Simon-Girard was a French soprano, principally in operetta. Her father was Philippe Lockroy, an actor at the Comédie Française, and her mother was Caroline Girard, of the Opéra-Comique.-Career:...
| Germaine, the lost Marchioness
| Henri, the Marquis of Corneville
The tenor is a type of male singing voice and is the highest male voice within the modal register. The typical tenor voice lies between C3, the C one octave below middle C, to the A above middle C in choral music, and up to high C in solo work. The low extreme for tenors is roughly B2...
| Jean Grenicheux, a fisherman
Nicolas-Marie Simon Simon-Max, born Reims in 1852, died 1923, was a French tenor, mainly active in Paris in the field of opera-bouffe.After musical studies in Reims he made his debut in 1875 at the Théâtre de la Renaissance as Janio in La reine Indigo then on 9 September that year at the Théâtre...
| Gaspard, a miser
Baritone is a type of male singing voice that lies between the bass and tenor voices. It is the most common male voice. Originally from the Greek , meaning deep sounding, music for this voice is typically written in the range from the second F below middle C to the F above middle C Baritone (or...
| The bailiff
| Jeanne, belle of Corneville
| Manette, belle of Corneville
| Suzanne, belle of Corneville
|Villagers and attendants of the Marquis
Act I - Scene I - A wooded trail near Castle Corneville
The miserly old farmer Gaspard is despised in the village of Corneville for his cruel treatment of his niece, Germaine. He wants to force her to marry the elderly sheriff, because the sheriff has become suspicious of Gaspard and threatens to investigate his suspicions. But Germaine feels obligated to Jean Grenicheux, an aristocratic young fisherman, who claims that he once rescued her from drowning. Gaspard has a maid named Serpolette, whom he found as a child abandoned in a field. She has grown into a pert beauty and is the object of gossip by the local women, who call her good-for-nothing. She too is enamored of Grenicheux.
A stranger dressed as a sea captain arrives, whom Germaine attempts to turn away from the castle, saying it is haunted and telling him that the castle's bells will only ring again when the rightful master returns. The stranger is actually Henri, the Marquis de Corneville (just returned from exile), who recalls his childhood and a young girl who fell into the sea. He pulled her out and never saw her again. He has come to retake his castle and fields.
Act I - Scene II - The market of Corneville
At the market, twice a year, one can hire domestic servants or coachmen. Germaine, Serpolette and Grenicheux all engage themselves to the mysterious Henri, hoping to escape the sordid plans of old Gaspard.
Act II - A large hall in Castle Corneville
Marquis Henri brings his new employees to the castle at night and reveals his true identity. He tries to reassure them about the ghosts. He has resolved to restore his immense castle, which was badly neglected in his absence. He discovers a letter in the castle stating that the infant Vicomtesse de Lucenay was at one time in danger and so was entrusted to Gaspard to be brought up under a false name. Everyone thinks this must refer to Serpolette. Henri also finds himself becoming attracted to Germaine. She tells him the story about how Grenicheux saved her, and how she feels obligated to marry him. Henri realizes that Germaine is the girl that he himself had rescued and that Grenicheux’s claims to have done so are false.
Meanwhile, old Gaspard had purposely fostered rumors that the cellars of the castle are haunted, because he has hidden treasures of his former masters there. He arrives at night in a boat to visit his gold, thinking the castle is empty. Henry and the others, clad in suits of armor, jump out, ring the bells of the castle and capture the old trickster. The shock drives the old man mad.
Act III - The grounds of Castle Corneville
After the renovation of the castle and the ringing of the bells, Henri is recognized as the rightful master of the Castle of Corneville. He gives a feast for the whole village, and his guests rejoice. Gaspard, who has lost his reason, wanders from group to group, singing. Serpolette is assumed to be the Vicomtesse of Lucenay, because the page from the birth register of the village (noting the births of Serpolette and Germaine) has disappeared (Gaspard had stolen it). Grenicheux has become factotum to the Vicomtesse Serpolette and is now courting her.
Henri has fallen in love with Germaine, although she is only a servant in his household. He orders Grenicheux to confess his deception, but not to reveal the name of the actual rescuer. Germaine overhears their conversation. Henri asks Germaine to be his wife, but she demurs, believing that a servant cannot marry a Marquis. Gaspard, recovering his senses, remorsefully declares that his pretended niece is the rightful Vicomtesse de Lucenay (and Serpolette only a gypsy orphan), and so the Marquis may wed Germaine. Henri forgives Gaspard, Serpolette takes Grenicheux, and all ends happily, as the bells of Corneville are set ringing.
Musical numbers (original French version)
- 1. – Chœur, Chanson des on-dit: "On dit, on dit, charmante femme"
- 2. – Rondeau de Serpolette "Dans ma mystérieuse histoire"
- 3. – Chanson du mousse (Grenicheux)
- 4. – Duo (Germaine et Grenicheux) "Même sans consulter mon coeur"
- 5. – Légende des cloches "Nous avons hélas perdu d'excellents maîtres" (Germaine et Chœur)
- 6. – Rondeau-valse "J'ai fait trois fois le tour du monde" (Henri)
- 7. – Ensemble "A la perruque d'un bailli"
- 8. – Couplets de Grenicheux "Je ne sais comment faire";
- 9. – Final de l'acte I: Scene du marche, choeur des servantes, des domestiques.
- 10. – Chœur "À la lueur de ces flambeaux"
- 10b. – Air de Germaine: "Ne parlez pas de mon courage"
- 10c. – Chanson du Serpolette
- 11. – Chanson du Bailli: "J'avais perdu la tête"
- 12. – Chanson d'Henri et choeur: "Sous des armures à leurs tailles"
- 13. – Ensemble et couplets "Vicomtesse et Marquise" (Serpolette, Henri, chœurs)
- 14. – Duo Germaine-Henri "C'est elle et son destin"
- 15. – Chœur et quintette "Gloire au valeureux Grenicheux"
- 16. – "C'est là, c’est là qu'est la richesse" (Gaspard, Grenicheux) et final II.
- 16a – Entr'acte et danse
- 17. – Chanson des gueux (Gaspard)
- 18. – Chœur et chanson: "R’gardez par-ci r'gardez par-là" (Serpolette, Grenicheux)
- 19. – Chanson du cidre, Serpolette et choeur: "Vive le cidre de Normandie"
- 20. – Rondeau-valse de Grenicheux: "Je regardais en l'air"
- 21. – Duo Germaine-Henri "Une servante, que m'importe"
- 22. – Final de l'acte III
Musical numbers (English adaptation)
Act I - Scene 1 - A forest near the village of Corneville.
- No. 1 - Opening Chorus - "All who for servants are enquiring, just look at us if you'd be hiring..."
- No. 2 - Rondeau - Serpolette - "I may be Princess, leastways Madam, that from my style at once is seen..."
- No. 3 - Barcarolle - Grenicheux - "On billow rocking, at tempest mocking, gallant sailor boy, ocean's thy home..."
- No. 4 - Duo - Germaine and Grenicheux - "'Twas but an impulse, that I own, (and wrong perhaps the troth then spoken)..."
- No. 5 - Legend of the Bells - Germaine and Chorus - "Yes! that castle old by wizard is enchanted..."
- No. 6 - Valse-Rondo - Henri - "With joy my heart has often bounded, when one plank parted death and me..."
- No. 7 - Finale to First Tableau - "Such conduct is quite sad, and in one about to marry..."
Act I - Scene 2 - The Fair of Corneville.
- No. 8 - Couplets - Grenicheux - "Tho' they may not pursue me, this quarrel will undo me..."
- No. 9a - Finale Act I (first part) - "Come! farmer small or with big rental, if first class servants you would find..."
- No. 9b - Finale Act I (conclusion after dialogue) - "Tell me, girl, what may be your name?..."
Act II - A Hall in the Chateau of Corneville.
- No. 10 - Entr'Acte and Opening Chorus - "Let our torches light up the gloom. We're not frighten'd like simple yeomen..."
- No. 10bis - Air - Germaine - "From pallid cheek you may be telling, with fear, not courage, now I thrill..."
- No. 10c - Trio, and Song - Serpolette, with Grenicheux and Bailli - "I'll shut my eyes..." & "Not a ghost at all! ..."
- No. 11 - Buffo Song - Le Bailli - "Oh dear! oh dear! that riot and that rabble, never was Bailli so beset before! ..."
- No. 12 - Recit. and Air - Henri and Chorus - "Nay! no phantom they knights of old, my ancestors their leal watch silent keeping..."
- No. 13 - Ensemble and Couplet - Serpolette and others - "What's she saying? ... 'Twas I, 'twas I, these papers cannot lie! ..."
- No. 14 - Duo - Henri and Germaine - "'Tis she! a happy fate hath brought her to me, who all in vain had sought her! ..."
- No. 15 - Chorus and Quintette - "As he's looking somewhat pale, put, oh, put him into mail! ..."
- No. 16 - Finale Act II - "Love, honor, happiness, moon of honey, what are they all compar'd to gold? ..."
Act III - A Park, with a statue and shrubbery.
- No. 16a - Entr'acte and Dance
- No. 17 - Song of the Beggars - Gaspard - "Aye, aye, aye! the good old times have come back again..."
- No. 18 - Chorus and Song - Serpolette and Grenicheux - "There she goes, with horses prancing! ..."
- No. 19 - Cider Song - Serpolette and Chorus - "Normandy pippin's good all over; where is the girl wont have a slice? ..."
- No. 20 - Song - Grenicheux - "That night I'll ne'er forget, in the late sun ray glowing ..."
- No. 21 - Duet - Germaine and Henri - "My lord, my lord! My silly heart is beating, for oh! I feel I am your thrall! ..."
- No. 22 - Finale Act III - "Old man! I pardon thee with greatest pleasure, if thou didst finger and hoard up my gold..."
- No. 23 - Introduced Extra Song - (singer unspecified) - "There's magic music in my bosom beating..."
First sound film
The first historical experiment in synchronizing sound and motion pictures in 1894 featured one of the songs from the operetta. "The Song of the Cabin Boy," (Chanson du mousse
), the barcarolle
A barcarole is a folk song sung by Venetian gondoliers, or a piece of music composed in that style...
(No. 3), was played on the violin by William Kennedy Laurie Dickson. It may be viewed online as Dickson Experimental Sound Film
The Dickson Experimental Sound Film is a film made by William Dickson in late 1894 or early 1895. It is the first known film with live-recorded sound and appears to be the first motion picture made for the Kinetophone, the proto-sound-film system developed by Dickson and Thomas Edison...
- Orchestre du Théâtre National de L'Opéra-Comique
- Conductor: Jean Doussard
Jean Doussard is a French conductor.He was born in Saint-Melaine-sur-Aubance. Doussard began his studies at the Music Conservatory of Angers, and later at the Paris Conservatory, where he was a pupil of Jean Fournet, Paul Van Kempen, and Ferdinand Leitner...
- Principal singers: Mady Mesplé
Mady Mesplé is a French opera singer, the leading high coloratura soprano of her generation in France, sometimes heralded as the successor to Mado Robin.-Biography:...
(Germaine), Bernard Sinclair (Henri), Charles Burles
Charles Burles is a French lyric tenor, primarily associated with the French repertory, both opera and operetta.Burles was born in Marseille, France,where he studied voice with Léon Cazauran. He made his stage debut in 1958, in Toulon...
(Grenicheux), Christiane Stutzmann (Serpolette), Jean Giraudeau (bailiff), and Jean-Christophe Benoit (Gaspard).
- Recording date: June 1973 and released on LP by EMI
The EMI Group, also known as EMI Music or simply EMI, is a multinational music company headquartered in London, United Kingdom. It is the fourth-largest business group and family of record labels in the recording industry and one of the "big four" record companies. EMI Group also has a major...
; Released on CD August 5, 2002
- Label: Angel Records - B00005A9OA (CD)
- Conductor: Pierre Dervaux
Pierre Dervaux was a French operatic conductor, composer, and pedagogue. At the Conservatoire de Paris, he studied counterpoint and harmony with Marcel Samuel-Rousseau and Jean and Noël Gallon, as well as piano with Isidor Philipp, Armand Ferté, and Yves Nat...
- Principal singers: Huguette Boulangeot (Germaine), Ernest Blanc
Ernest Blanc was a French opera singer, one of the leading baritones of his era in France.Born in Sanary-sur-Mer, Ernest Blanc studied at the Music Conservatory of Toulon with Sabran, from 1946 to 1949. He made his debut in Marseille, as Tonio, in 1950...
(Henri); Jean Giraudeau (Grenicheux); Colette Riedinger (Serpolette), André Balbon (bailiff) and Louis Musy
Louis Musy was a French operatic baritone and stage director principally active at the Paris Opéra-Comique...
- Recorded at Universal (Decca
Decca Records began as a British record label established in 1929 by Edward Lewis. Its U.S. label was established in late 1934; however, owing to World War II, the link with the British company was broken for several decades....
) Studios, Antony
-Personalities:Antony was the birthplace of:* Nicola Sirkis singer with the French band Indochine* Agnès Jaoui screenwriter, film director and actress* Laurent Lafforgue , mathematician-International relations:...
, France 1955
- Mono (2CD set) Discovery/Accord Operette Series 465 861-2
Score and libretto