Simanaitis Says

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BEAUMARCHAIS’ STORIES HAD good legs, operawise. Here in Part 2, we’ll continue with lives of the Almavivas and Figaros, sung to our favorite tunes.

La Mère Coupable, The Guilty Mother is a 20th-century opera by Darius Milhaud. Based on the last of Beaumarchais’ trilogy, it’s a sequel to Marriage.

Darius Milhaud, 1892–1974, French composer, a member of Les Six and teacher of Dave Brubeck.

Milhaud composed 15 operas, with La Mère Coupable being his penultimate one, premiered in 1966.

Mère picks up 20 years after Marriage, with Almaviva, his Countess, and son Chevalier Léon (actually not Almaviva’s, but …). Florestine is a ward of the Count (actually his daughter, but…). Figaro is Almaviva’s valet; he and Susanna are still married (Quelle soulagement!) And there’s Bégearass, an Irish schemer. Readers may recall Beaumarchais’s real-life revenge in naming this last character.

La Mère Coupable, by Darius Milhaud. Video of Theater an der Wien production from Opera Vid.

Even with Milhaud’s 20th-century tonality, it’s opera buffa and matters end happily: Bégearass gets out-schemed by Figaro. Leon’s and Florestine’s non-consanguinity is revealed. Secretly, they’re in love and you know another marriage is in store.

The Ghosts of Versailles, 1991, is an opera by John Corigliano commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera in 1980 in celebration of this company’s 100th anniversary.

John Corigliano, New York City-born, 1938, American composer, honored with the Pulitzer Prize, five Grammy awards, an Oscar, and the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition. Image from

Corigliano and his librettist William M. Hoffman picked up where Mère left off, sort of. There’s the usual bunch: Almaviva and the Countess, Figaro and Susanna, and now Léon and Florestine. Other characters include King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, a Suleyman Pasha—and Beaumarchais.

The Ghosts of Versailles, by John Corigliano. Video of trailer from LA Opera.

You can’t keep a good trilogy down. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2019

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