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Mam'zelle Nitouche (Meilhac & Millaud / Hervé)

Date

1883.1.26

Description

Comédie-Opérette in three acts and four scenes

Text

“It was with Mam’zelle Nitouche that Les Variétés closed their theatre year; it is with Mam’zelle Nitouche that Les Variétés are opening their new season…” (Le Figaro, 29 August 1883). There is no doubt that with 212 performances, Hervé’s operetta in three acts and four scenes largely dominated the 1883 season at the Théâtre des Variétés. This probably would not have been possible without Anna Judic (1849-1911), the star for whom the work was written. Premiered on 26 January of the same year to a libretto by Meilhac and Millaud, it was a phenomenal success. Célestin, an organist at the Couvent des Hirondelles by day, becomes Floridor, an operetta composer, by night. He helps Denise de Flavigny, the pride and joy of the convent, to practise her canticles. However, she prefers to sing Floridor’s songs, found among Célestin’s things. When her parents order her to return to Paris to be married, she takes the opportunity to stop off on the way to see the show written by Floridor who, on the evening of the premiere, has lost his lead actress. The crisis is averted, however, as the nun takes on the title role and creates a sensation under the name of Mam’zelle Nitouche. Ensuing events lead Nitouche and Célestin/Floridor to disguise themselves as army recruits. They end up back at the convent, nonetheless, where Denise/Nitouche agrees to marry the fiancé picked out for her who has, in the meantime, fallen in love with Nitouche. The story is partly inspired by Hervé’s own life, since he started out working as both organist and operetta composer. The composer’s musical intelligence is evidenced by his skill in combining different genres. The operetta contains religious and military music, bawdy songs and regimental songs which provide a great deal of humour, and confirm Hervé’s status as the father of operetta.