A Festival Double Bill
La Princesse Jaune & La Colombe
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921) & Charles Gounod (1818–1893)
Sung in French, with English side-titles (La Princesse Jaune), Sung in English with side-titles (La Colombe)
About the show
This year’s Festival Double-Bill consists of two light, brisk confections which sparkle with all the wit and romance of 19th century France.
Saint-Saëns’ La Princesse Jaune is a satire on the 19th century fad for all things Japanese.
Gounod’s La colombe is an opera comique based on the poem La Faucon by Jean de la Fontaine.
There will be a pre-opera talk at 6.15pm in the Pavilion Arts Centre before each evening performance.
La princesse jaune
Léna enters the study of her cousin, Kornélis, to find it strewn with books, papers, and Kornélis’s half-finished artistic works, many of which reflect his interest in Japan. Léna starts to clean up everything for him and notes that he must have stayed up working all night. She finds a poem that confirms her suspicion that he is in love with the Japanese woman painted on the panel hung in the cabinet. Exasperated, she admits her secret love for her cousin and expresses her jealousy for having to compete with a mere image for her cousin’s affections.
Kornélis returns to his room, absorbed in his thoughts. Léna asks him why he is so preoccupied. Kornélis evades her questions, but admits to his love for Japan and his desire to go there. An argument erupts when Léna finds a small bottle that Kornélis brought back with him that morning, and of which he refuses to reveal the contents.
Léna contemplates her cousin’s behaviour and begins to fret more and more over his obsessions. She wonders whether or not she should give up on him.
Kornélis continues to fixate on Japan and on ‘Ming’, as he calls the girl in the picture. He takes out his bottle of potion, supposedly from the Orient, and drinks it. The potion contains opium, and Kornélis continues his obsessive behaviour in a drugged state.
Léna returns to Kornélis’s room and finds him sinking into hallucinations. The Dutch cabinet transforms into a Japanese interior and Kornélis declares his passionate love to the woman who he thinks is Ming but is in fact a surprised Léna. She rejects his advances before fleeing the room in fear of more erratic behaviour. Kornélis eventually collapses on an armchair, where Léna finds him on her return. He awakes and she angrily reproaches him for his wild behaviour and his madness for loving a woman who only exists in his imagination. As she rants, Kornélis becomes aware of how much he actually loves Léna. He offers an apology, and they admit their love for one another.
Mazet, servant of the penniless Horace, is feeding his master’s beloved pet dove he is feeding, when Maitre Jean, butler of Countess Sylvie, arrives meaning to buy the bird for her. Mazet explains that the dove cannot be used as a messenger but that he will try to convince his master to sell it. In spite of the poverty in which he lives – and in spite of his love for Sylvie – Horace cannot give up the bird. Maitre Jean suggests that Sylvie tries to buy the dove herself; she hesitates, but, thinking jealously about the magnificent parrot of her rival in society, Amynte, finally accepts the butler’s idea. Once alone, Sylvie expresses her confidence in the power of love which will bring Horace to leave her the bird. Horace is ecstatic that Sylvie is visiting and she announces right away that she will stay for dinner.
Maitre Jean has volunteered to prepare the meal and sings about the art of cooking. Mazet returns from the market empty handed, because the suppliers refuse to give credit to Horace. After a long discussion with Maitre Jean, on the best way of serving different plates, which are obviously impossible to prepare in such circumstances, Horace and Mazet set the table and decide to kill the dove to offer a meal. In the meantime, Sylvie is overcome with tender thoughts for Horace. They sit down to have dinner and, as Sylvie is about to ask for the dove, Horace reveals to her that it was killed. Mazet appears with a roasted bird; however, to everybody’s reassurance, it’s not the dove, but Amynte’s parrot that had escaped a little earlier. Sylvie is delighted to learn that Horace’s dove is still alive, because it will always remind her of his love.
La princesse jaune
Northern Chamber Orchestra
Violin I - Nicholas Ward, David Routledge, Sarah Whittingham, Paula Smart, Karen Mainwaring, Deidre Ward
Violin II - Simon Gilks, Rebecca Thompson, Sarah White, Catherine Studman, Shirley Richards
Viola - Mike Dale, Raymond Lester, Jacq Anthony, Daniel Sanxis
Cello - Jeanette Lander, Barbara Grunthal, Amanda Turner
Double Bass - Jamie Manson, Sian Holland
Flute - Conrad Marshall, Nichola Hunter
Oboe - Christine Swain, Jane Evans
Clarinet - Elizabeth Jordan, Daniel Bayley
Bassoon - Simon Davies, Rachel Whibley
Horn - Naomi Atherton, Diane Harper, Jenny Cox, Peter Richards
Trumpet - Tracey Redfern, Helen Quayle
Trombone - Tim Chatterton, Jonathan Parkes, Les Storey
Timpani - John Melbourne
Percussion - Joy Powdrill