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Ô mon bel inconnu (Guitry / Hahn)

Date

1933.10.12

Description

Musical comedy in three acts premiered at the Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens.

Text

The hatter, Prosper Aubertin, dissatisfied with the daily grind of his bourgeois life, dreams of having extramarital affairs. However, he is annoyed to find propositions from his wife, daughter and maid among the replies to an anonymous personal ad he had placed in the agony column. To find out what these women really want, he invites them all to a villa in the south of France. “This is a bourgeois tragedy. This tragedy could have been called Know Thyself, and it could have ended very badly. As I was writing it in Alexandrines and before offering it to the Comédie-Française, I thought carefully for a good ten minutes… then I made it into a comedy”, joked Sacha Guitry. This musical comedy is the second lyric collaboration between the author and Reynaldo Hahn, after Mozart (1925). At this time, the composer was enjoying well-deserved fame in the light lyric genres: after Ciboulette (1923), he had scored success after success in the smaller theatres of Paris (Le Temps d’aimer, Une revue, Brummel) and Ô mon bel inconnu did not disappoint. Le Figaro singled out the “elegance of tone and distinction of form” so characteristic of Hahn in the interwar period, while regarding him as the rightful heir of André Messager. Le Ménestrel was just as enthusiastic: “The music of Monsieur Reynaldo Hahn fits the subject with a versatility and sureness of touch which are something of a miracle. It shows an incomparable refinement and tact and, at the same time, a wit which does not preclude emotion. It is enhanced by a brisk, punchy and transparent orchestration.” What more could anyone want? A perfect cast for the first performance: headed by Jean Aquistapace and livened up by Arletty in the role of Félicie.