Ali-Baba (Lecocq)

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Poster for original production, 1887 Ali-Baba-Lecocq.jpg
Poster for original production, 1887

Ali-Baba is an opéra comique in four acts, first produced in 1887, with music by Charles Lecocq. The French libretto based on the familiar tale from the Arabian Nights was by Albert Vanloo and William Busnach. [1] After some initial success the work faded from the repertoire.

Opéra comique is a genre of French opera that contains spoken dialogue and arias. It emerged from the popular opéras comiques en vaudevilles of the Fair Theatres of St Germain and St Laurent, which combined existing popular tunes with spoken sections. Associated with the Paris theatre of the same name, opéra comique is not always comic or light in nature; Carmen, perhaps the most famous opéra comique, is a tragedy.

Charles Lecocq French musical composer

Alexandre Charles Lecocq was a French composer, known for his opérettes and opéras comiques. He became the most prominent successor to Jacques Offenbach in this sphere, and enjoyed considerable success in the 1870s and early 1880s, before the changing musical fashions of the late 19th century made his style of composition less popular. His few serious works include the opera Plutus (1886), which was not a success, and the ballet Le cygne (1899). His only piece to survive in the regular modern operatic repertory is his 1872 opéra comique La fille de Madame Angot. Others of his more than forty stage works receive occasional revivals.

Albert Vanloo Belgian opera librettist

Albert Vanloo was a Belgian librettist and playwright.


Performance history

Ali Baba was a popular subject for operas (Cherubini, 1833, Bottesini, 1871), pantomimes and extravaganzas in Paris and London during the nineteenth century. [2] Both librettists were experienced in opéra-bouffe and had previously worked with Lecocq, Busnach from 1866 with Myosotis, Vanloo starting in 1874 with Giroflé-Girofla ; the two men had met in 1868 when Vanloo had submitted an opéra-bouffe for consideration to Busnach who was at the time the director of the Théâtre de l'Athénée. [3]

Ali Baba character from the folk tale Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves

Ali Baba is a character from the folk tale Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. This story is included in many versions of the One Thousand and One Nights, which it was added to in the 18th century by Antoine Galland, who heard the story from a Syrian storyteller, Hanna Diyab. It is one of the most familiar of the "Arabian Nights" tales, and has been widely retold and performed in many media, especially for children, where the more violent aspects of the story are often suppressed.

<i>Ali Baba</i> (Cherubini) opera by Cherubini

Ali Baba, ou les quarante voleurs is a tragédie lyrique in four acts plus a prologue, with libretto by Eugène Scribe and Mélesville and music by Luigi Cherubini. The story is based on the tale Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. It was premiered by the Paris Opera in the Salle Le Peletier on 22 July 1833. It was Cherubini's last opera, though he lived for nearly a decade longer. It is also his longest opera, lasting for about three and a half hours at the premiere.

Giovanni Bottesini Italian composer, conductor, double bass player

Giovanni Bottesini, was an Italian Romantic composer, conductor, and a double bass virtuoso.

Originally intended for the Théâtre de la Gaîté in Paris, Lecocq's opera was premiered in a sumptuous production at an established home of operetta and revue in Brussels, the 2,500-seat Théâtre Alhambra, on 11 November 1887. [3] It opened at the Éden-Théâtre, Paris, on 28 November 1889 in three acts and nine tableaux with Morlet in the title role and Jeanne Thibault as Morgiane. [4] The Annales critic considered that the first act was the strongest of a dense score which had seven numbers from the first run in Brussels removed for the Paris production. [4]

Théâtre de la Gaîté (rue Papin) theater

In 1862 during Haussmann's modernization of Paris the Théâtre de la Gaîté of the boulevard du Temple was relocated to the rue Papin across from the Square des Arts et Métiers. The new theatre, built in an Italian style to designs of the architects Jacques-Ignace Hittorff and Alphonse Cusin, opened on 3 September.


The Éden-Théâtre was a large theatre in the rue Boudreau, Paris, built at the beginning of the 1880s by the architects William Klein and Albert Duclos (1842–1896) in a style influenced by orientalism. It was demolished in 1895.

In May 2014 the Paris Opéra-Comique mounted a new production directed by Arnaud Meunier and conducted by Jean-Pierre Haeck. [5]

Opéra-Comique opera company in Paris

The Opéra-Comique is a Parisian opera company, which was founded around 1714 by some of the popular theatres of the Parisian fairs. In 1762 the company was merged with, and for a time took the name of its chief rival the Comédie-Italienne at the Hôtel de Bourgogne, and was also called the Théâtre-Italien up to about 1793, when it again became most commonly known as the Opéra-Comique. Today the company's official name is Théâtre national de l'Opéra-Comique, and its theatre, with a capacity of around 1,248 seats, sometimes referred to as the Salle Favart, is located in Place Boïeldieu, in the 2nd arrondissement of Paris, not far from the Palais Garnier, one of the theatres of the Paris Opéra. The musicians and others associated with the Opéra-Comique have made important contributions to operatic history and tradition in France, and to French opera. Its current mission is to reconnect with its history, and discover its unique repertoire, to ensure production and dissemination of operas for the wider public. Mainstays of the repertory at the Opéra-Comique during its history have included the following works which have each been performed more than 1,000 times by the company: Cavalleria Rusticana, Le chalet, La dame blanche, Le domino noir, La fille du régiment, Lakmé, Manon, Mignon, Les noces de Jeannette, Le pré aux clercs, Tosca, La bohème, Werther and Carmen, the last having been performed more than 2,500 times.


Role Voice type Premiere cast, 11 November 1887 [6]
(Conductor: )
Morgiane soprano Juliette Simon-Girard
Zobéïde mezzo-soprano Duparc
Ali-Baba baritone Dechesne
Zizi tenor Simon-Max
Robbers, merchants, townspeople, old Turks; dancers


Setting : Bagdad

Act 1

In the shop of Cassim, Saladin, the chief clerk, woos Morgiane, the young slave of Ali-Baba. Despite his urging, she is unmoved. Their conversations are interrupted by an argument between Cassim and Zobéïde, his wife. The merchant is impatient to recover unpaid debt from his cousin Ali-Baba. Cassim tells his wife that if he does not receive the money owing, he will seize Ali-Baba's property. Poor Ali-Baba has returned to working as a wood-chopper and considers suicide, so desperate is his situation. Morgiane comes in and dissuades him; she reminds him how he saved her when she was a maltreated little girl. Alone again, Ali-Baba is disturbed by masked men on horseback. He conceals himself and his donkey and realizes that the men are a band of thieves. With the magic words "open sesame", the head of the gang gets the cave to open and his men take their booty to hide. Once the thieves have left, Ali-Baba says the same words and enters the cave. In the town square, cadi Maboul has seized pieces of furniture from the home of Ali-Baba at the request of Cassim, in spite of Zobéïde's protests. When the crowd hesitates to buy the property, the cadi suggests selling Morgiane. In time, Ali-Baba returns, enriched by what he has found in the cave. While Ali-Baba distributes gold, Cassim, amazed at this sudden affluence, suspects his wife of having given money to his cousin.

Act 2

Morgiane waits for her master at Ali-Baba's house, near Cassim's. He appears in sumptuous apparel and recounts to her how he has come by his wealth, unaware that Cassim is listening. In possession of the magic formula, Cassim rushes to gang's cave to help himself. As he is about to leave, he realizes that he has forgotten the magic words. Cassim is caught by the forty thieves and condemned to die. However, he manages to make a deal with Zizi, his former worker and now a member of the gang of thieves, who saves his life by disguising him and giving him a new name, Casboul, making him swear to forget his past life.

Act 3

Her husband not having come home, Zobéïde tells Ali-Baba about his disappearance. Ali-Baba realizes that Cassim went to the cave and goes looking for him, returning with his discarded clothes. Believing her husband dead, Zobéïde collapses in tears. Meanwhile, Kandgiar, the thieves' leader, roams the streets begging in order to track down the one who managed to raid his hidden treasure. Eventually he is given a coin which he recognizes as one he himself had stolen. Ali-Baba, who has given him this generous alm, is the guilty one. Kandgiar tells one of his men to mark with a cross Ali-Baba's home, so the gang can descend upon it the following night. Morgiane foils his plans by marking all the neighbouring houses with the same sign; despite trying again with a red cross, the thieves are again thwarted. Ali-Baba receives Zobéïde in his palace. She has always loved her poor cousin and suggests that they marry. Her husband, disguised as a secretary beside Zizi, witnesses this. Zobéïde and Ali-Baba agree to have their wedding that very evening, during the Feast of the Candles. That night, Kandgiar, disguised as a merchant, requests hospitality. Morgiane again senses a trap, guesses that the forty thieves are in the cellar, and alerts the cadi. The bandits are arrested and condemned to death, but Cassim, Zizi, and Kandgiar are still at large. The celebrations take place in the gardens of Ali-Baba. Kandgiar has commissioned a dancer to murder Ali-Baba. However, again Morgiane thwarts his plans and saves her master. Finally free of the thieves, Cassim returns to his former life, Ali-Baba asks for Morgiane's hand, and Zizi is forgiven.

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  1. Lamb, A.; Gänzl, K. "Charles Lecocq". In: The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. Macmillan, London and New York, 1997.
  2. Gänzl K. Ali Baba – in The Encyclopaedia of the Musical Theatre. Blackwell, Oxford, 1994.
  3. 1 2 Opéra-Comique Dossier Pédagogique: Ali-Baba (Anne Le Nabour (2013)
  4. 1 2 Noël E & Stoullig E. Les Annales du Théâtre et de la Musique, 15ème édition, 1889. G Charpentier, Paris, 1890, pp. 393–96.
  5. Opéra-Comique website, 2013/14 season
  6. Choudens vocal score, IMSLP pdf
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