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Offenbach
Mesdames de la Halle
Operetta in 1 Act. (1858)
Libretto by Armand Lapointe.
English Version by George Hauger.

SYNOPSIS
The impoverished drum major, Raflafla, courts and flatters each in turn of the three middle-aged and, it must be said, distinctly plain market women, Madou, Beurrefondu and Poiretapée, hoping one of them will pay off his debts. Unfortunately each of them is as poor as he is, and in any case they find his attentions unwelcome because all three are enamoured of the young cook’s boy, Croute-au-Pot. He in his turn is in love with Ciboulette, the youngest and prettiest stall-holder in the market. She returns his feelings, but as she is only eighteen she can not marry without the consent of her parents. This is a major problem as she was separated from them when she was only three months old and has no idea who her parents are. By a strange coincidence both Madou and Beurrefondu lost a daughter at about the same time, and each becomes convinced she is Ciboulette’s long lost mother. A violent quarrel breaks out between them, and the Magistrate arrives to try and restore the peace. He asks Ciboulette if she has any clue to her parents’ identity. The only thing she has is a letter from her father, written when she was a baby. When it is read out it becomes clear that her real parents are, in fact, Poiretapée and Raflafla. These two are very dubious about their sudden reunion, as neither is the young and attractive person the other once loved. But at least they can give their blessing to the union of Ciboulette with Croute-au-Pot, who, we hope, will live happily ever after.

(Note: The farcical nature of the plot is emphasised by the fact that the three market women are played by men, and the object of their affections, Croute-au-Pot, is played by a woman.)






2 flutes (1 picc.), 1 oboe, 2 clarinets, 1 bassoon,
2 horns, 2 trumpets, 1 trombone,
percussion,
strings.

Orchestration

The market place in Paris, at the time of Louis XV

Setting

Drummers, market folk, customers, soldiers. (SATB) 40%
(Version without chorus also available)


Chorus

Biscuit seller (soprano)
Pea seller (mezzo)

Magistrate (bass)
Old clothes seller (tenor)

Lesser Roles

Ciboulette (soprano)

Croute-au-Pot (mezzo)

Poiretapée (tenor)
Madou (baritone)
Beurrefondu (baritone)
Raflafla (tenor)

Major Roles