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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.
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.
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.
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.
You can’t keep a good trilogy down. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2019