La fille de Madame Angot

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Scene from 1873 Paris production La fille de Madame Angot Paris 1873.jpeg
Scene from 1873 Paris production

La fille de Madame Angot (Madame Angot's Daughter) is an opéra comique in three acts by Charles Lecocq with words by Clairville, Paul Siraudin and Victor Koning. It was premiered in Brussels in December 1872 and soon became a success in Paris, London, New York and across continental Europe. Along with Robert Planquette's Les cloches de Corneville , La fille de Madame Angot was the most successful work of the French-language musical theatre in the last three decades of the 19th century, and outperformed other noted international hits such as H.M.S. Pinafore and Die Fledermaus .

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 19th and 20th-century 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.

Clairville (Louis-François Nicolaïe) French chansonnier and poet

Louis-François-Marie Nicolaïe, better known as Clairville, was a 19th-century French comedian, poet, chansonnier, goguettier and playwright.


The opera depicts the romantic exploits of Clairette, a young Parisian florist, engaged to one man but in love with another, and up against a richer and more powerful rival for the latter's attentions. Unlike some more risqué French comic operas of the era, the plot of La fille de Madame Angot proved exportable to more strait-laced countries without the need for extensive rewriting, and Lecocq's score was received with enthusiasm wherever it was played.

Although few other works by Lecocq have remained in the general operatic repertory, La fille de Madame Angot is still revived from time to time.


During the Second Empire, Jacques Offenbach had dominated the sphere of comic opera in France, and Lecocq had struggled for recognition. [1] Defeat in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 brought the Empire down, and Offenbach, who was inextricably associated in the public mind with it, became unpopular and went briefly into exile. [2] Lecocq's rise coincided with Offenbach's temporary eclipse. Before the war his only substantial success had been Fleur-de-Thé (Tea-flower) a three-act opéra-bouffe in 1868. [1] After moving to Brussels at the start of the war, Lecocq had two substantial successes there in a row. The first, the opérette Les cent vierges (The Hundred Virgins), ran for months at the Théâtre des Fantaisies-Parisiennes; [3] productions quickly followed in Paris, London, New York, Vienna and Berlin. [4] The success of this piece led Eugène Humbert, the director of the Brussels theatre, to commission another from Lecocq. [5]

Second French Empire government of France under Napoleon III, from 1852 to 1870

The Second French Empire, officially the French Empire, was the regime of Napoleon III from 1852 to 1870, between the Second Republic and the Third Republic, in France.

Jacques Offenbach German-French composer

Jacques Offenbach was a German-French composer, cellist and impresario of the romantic period. He is remembered for his nearly 100 operettas of the 1850s–1870s and his uncompleted opera The Tales of Hoffmann. He was a powerful influence on later composers of the operetta genre, particularly Johann Strauss, Jr. and Arthur Sullivan. His best-known works were continually revived during the 20th century, and many of his operettas continue to be staged in the 21st. The Tales of Hoffmann remains part of the standard opera repertory.

Franco-Prussian War Conflict between the Kingdom of Prussia and several other german kingdoms and (grand) duchies and the Second French Empire

The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the War of 1870, was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the German states of the North German Confederation led by the Kingdom of Prussia. Lasting from 19 July 1870 to 28 January 1871, the conflict was caused by Prussian ambitions to extend German unification and French fears of the shift in the European balance of power that would result if the Prussians succeeded. Some historians argue that the Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck deliberately provoked the French into declaring war on Prussia in order to draw the independent southern German states—Baden, Württemberg, Bavaria and Hesse-Darmstadt—into an alliance with the North German Confederation dominated by Prussia, while others contend that Bismarck did not plan anything and merely exploited the circumstances as they unfolded. None, however, dispute the fact that Bismarck must have recognized the potential for new German alliances, given the situation as a whole.

Possibly at Humbert's suggestion, [n 1] Lecocq's librettists set the piece in Directory Paris in the later years of the French Revolution, an unfamiliar setting for a comic opera. [5] Their characters, though essentially fictional, incorporate elements of real people from the Revolutionary period. The régime was headed by Paul Barras, who does not appear in the opera but is an offstage presence. Mademoiselle Lange was a prominent actress and anti-government activist, but there is no evidence that the historical figure was Barras's mistress as she is in the opera. [5] There was a real activist called Ange Pitou (fictionalised in a novel by Dumas), but he had no known connection with Mlle. Lange. The black collars, used as a badge by the conspirators in the opera, are a reference to a song by the historical Pitou, "Les collets noirs". [8] The heroine's mother, Madame Angot – the formidable market woman with aspirations – is fictional, but was not the invention of the librettists, being a stock character in stage comedy of the Revolutionary period. [9] [n 2]

French Directory Executive power of the French Constitution of 1795-1799

The Directory or Directorate was a five-member committee that governed France from 2 November 1795, when it replaced the Committee of Public Safety, until 9 November 1799, when it was overthrown by Napoleon Bonaparte in the Coup of 18 Brumaire, and replaced by the French Consulate. It gave its name to the final four years of the French Revolution. On the other hand, according to the mainstream historiography - for example F. Furet and D. Richet in “French Revolution” - with the aforementioned terms is indicated also the regime and the period from the dissolution of the National Convention of Tuileries Palace on 26 October 1795, which was superseded by the two new elected Councils, and the coup d’état by Napoleon. Only in 1798 the Council of Five Hundred moved to the Palais Bourbon.

French Revolution Revolution in France, 1789 to 1798

The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies beginning in 1789. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon who brought many of its principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Through the Revolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.

Paul Barras French politician

Paul François Jean Nicolas, vicomte de Barras, commonly known as Paul Barras, was a French politician of the French Revolution, and the main executive leader of the Directory regime of 1795–1799.

First performances

The opera was first presented at the Fantaisies-Parisiennes on 4 December 1872, and ran for more than 500 performances. [6] In Paris, where it opened on 21 February 1873 at the Théâtre des Folies-Dramatiques, it enjoyed a run of 411 performances, [3] and set box-office records for the receipts. [n 3] Productions quickly followed in theatres throughout France: within a year of the opening of the Paris production, the work was given in 103 French cities and towns. [5]

Théâtre des Folies-Dramatiques former theatre company in Paris, France

The Théâtre des Folies-Dramatiques was a theatre in Paris in the 19th and 20th centuries. Opened first in 1832 in the site of the old Théâtre de l'Ambigu-Comique on the Boulevard du Temple, under Frédérick Lemaître it became a noted venue for the genre of mélodrame.

Original cast

Pauline Luigini and Mario Widmer, the original Clairette and Ange Pitou M-Luigini-and-M-Widmer.jpg
Pauline Luigini and Mario Widmer, the original Clairette and Ange Pitou
RoleVoice typePremiere Cast, 4 December 1872
(Conductor: Warnotz)
Mademoiselle Lange, actress and favourite of Barras mezzo-soprano Marie Desclauzas
Clairette Angot, betrothed to Pomponnet soprano Pauline Luigini
Larivaudière, friend of Barras, conspiring against the Republic baritone Charlieu/Chambéry
Pomponnet, barber of the market and hairdresser of Mlle Lange tenor Alfred Jolly
Ange Pitou, a poet in love with ClairettetenorMario Widmer
Louchard, police officer at the orders of Larivaudière bass Jacques Ernotte
Amarante, market womanmezzo-sopranoJane Delorme
Javotte, market womanmezzo-sopranoGiulietta Borghese (Juliette Euphrosine Bourgeois)
Hersillie, a servant of Mlle. LangesopranoCamille
Trenitz, dandy of the period, officer of the HussarstenorTouzé
Babet, Clairette's servant, cadetsopranoPauline
Guillaume, market mantenorOmetz
Buteaux, market manbassDurieux


Act 1

The scene of the opera is Directoire Paris, 1794; the Reign of Terror is over, but Paris is still a dangerous place for opponents of the government. The heroine is a charming young florist called Clairette. She is the daughter of Madame Angot, a former market woman of Les Halles, who was famous for her beauty, her amorous adventures and her sharp tongue. She died when Clairette was three, and the child was brought up by multiple adoptive parents from Les Halles, and given a fine education at a prestigious school.

Reign of Terror Period during the French Revolution

The Reign of Terror, or The Terror, refers to a period during the French Revolution after the First French Republic was established in which multiple massacres and public executions occurred in response to revolutionary fervor, anti-clerical sentiment, and frivolous accusations of treason by Maximilien Robespierre and his Committee of Public Safety.

Les Halles area of Paris, France; food market

Les Halles was Paris's central fresh food market. It was demolished in 1971 and replaced by the Forum des Halles, a modern shopping mall built largely underground and directly connected to the massive RER and métro transit hub of Châtelet-Les-Halles. The shopping mall welcomes 150,000 visitors daily.

A marriage with Pomponnet, a sweet and gentle hairdresser, has been arranged for her against her wishes, for she is in love with Ange Pitou, a dashing poet and political activist, who is continually in trouble with the authorities. His latest song lyric, "Jadis les rois", satirises the relations between Mlle. Lange – an actress and the mistress of Barras – and Barras's supposed friend Larivaudière. The latter has paid Pitou to suppress the song but Clairette gets hold it and, to avoid her marriage with Pomponnet, sings it publicly and is, as she expects, arrested so that her wedding is unavoidably postponed.

Marie Desclauzas and Paola Marie in the 1873 Paris production La-fille-de-Madame-Angot-1873-Desclauzas-and-Marie.jpeg
Marie Desclauzas and Paola Marié in the 1873 Paris production

Act 2

Lange summons the girl to learn the reason for her attack and is surprised to recognise her as an old schoolfriend. Pomponnet loudly protests Clairette's innocence and says that Ange Pitou is the author of the verses. Lange already knows of Pitou and is not unmindful of his charms. He has been invited to her presence and arrives while Clairette is there and the interview is marked with more than cordiality. The jealous Larivaudière appears meanwhile and, to clear herself, Lange declares that Pitou and Clairette are lovers and have come to the house to join in a meeting of anti-government conspirators to be held at midnight. Clairette discovers that she does not enjoy a monopoly of Pitou's affections, and that he is dallying with Lange.

The conspirators arrive in due time, but in the middle of proceedings, the house is surrounded by Hussars; Lange hides the badges of the conspirators, "collars black and tawny wigs", and the affair takes on the appearance of nothing more dangerous than a ball. The Hussars join gaily in the dance.

Act 3

To avenge herself, Clairette invites all of Les Halles to a ball, to which she lures Lange and Pitou by writing each a forged letter, seemingly signed by the other. At the ball Pitou and Lange are unmasked, Larivaudière is enraged, but realises he must hush matters up to save Barras from scandal. After a lively duet in which the two young women quarrel vigorously there is a general mêlée, ended by Clairette who extends a hand to her friend and declares that she truly prefers the faithful Pomponnet to the fickle Pitou. Remembering Madame Angot's amorous flights, Pitou remains hopeful that Clairette will take after her mother and may one day be interested in him again.

Source: Gänzl's Book of the Musical Theatre. [12]


In The Encyclopedia of Musical Theatre (2001), Kurt Gänzl describes Lecocq's score as "a non-stop run of winning numbers". He singles out in Act 1 Clairette's "sweetly grateful romance 'Je vous dois tout'"; Amaranthe's "Légende de la mère Angot: 'Marchande de marée'"; Pitou's "Certainement, j'aimais Clairette"; and the politically dangerous "Jadis les rois, race proscrite". Act 2 highlights include Lange's virtuoso "Les Soldats d'Augereau sont des hommes"; Pomponnet's "Elle est tellement innocente"; the duet of the old schoolfriends "Jours fortunés de notre enfance"; the encounter of Lange and Pitou "Voyons, Monsieur, raisonnons politique"; the whispered "Conspirators' Chorus"; and the waltz "Tournez, Tournez" that concludes the Act. From Act 3 Gänzl makes particular mention of the "Duo des deux forts"; the "Letter duet 'Cher ennemi que je devrais haïr'"; and the "Quarrel Duet 'C'est donc toi, Madam' Barras'". [6]

Kurt Gänzl New Zealand writer

Kurt-Friedrich Gänzl is a writer, historian and former casting director and singer best known for his books about musical theatre.

Poster from a children's production in Edinburgh, 1885 Fille de Madame Angot - Weir Collection.jpg
Poster from a children's production in Edinburgh, 1885

Act 1

Act 2

Act 3


Gänzl writes that together with Robert Planquette's Les cloches de Corneville , La fille de Madame Angot was "the most successful product of the French-language musical stage" in the last three decades of the 19th century. He adds, "Even such pieces as H.M.S. Pinafore and Die Fledermaus , vastly successful though they were in their original languages, did not have the enormous international careers of Lecocq's opéra-comique". [6]

The reviewer in La Comédie wrote of the original Brussels production, "It is a long time since we saw at the theatre a better piece; it is interesting, perfectly proper, and crisp." [13] The Paris correspondent of The Daily Telegraph also commented on the propriety of the piece, and remarked that its enormous success with a public used to broader entertainments at the Folies-Dramatiques was "the most eloquent possible tribute to the intrinsic beauty of the music". [14] In Le Figaro the reviewer reported "frenzied bravos" and numerous encores, and praised the music: "a succession of memorable songs, lively, falling easily on the ear, and certain to appeal to the lazy ear of a French audience." The critic judged that Lecocq's score approached, but rarely fell into, vulgarity, and contained strong contrasts to fit the characters and situations. He had reservations about the singers, noting but not wholly sharing the audience's enthusiasm for the two leading ladies. [15]

In Vienna, Eduard Hanslick praised the freshness of the music and congratulated the composer on having an unusually good libretto to work with. He considered Lecocq inferior to Offenbach in invention and originality, but superior in musical technique. [16] The Musical World praised the "dash and style" of the work, but thought the score less elevated in musical style than Fleur de thé and Les cent vierges. [7] The Athenaeum took a different view on the latter point, regarding the piece as in the true tradition of French opéra comique, as practised by Boieldieu, Hérold, Auber and Adam, rather than the less refined manner of Hervé and Offenbach. [17]

Revivals and adaptations

For fifty years after the premiere La fille de Madame Angot was revived continually in Paris. [5] Among the higher-profile productions were those at the Éden-Théâtre (1888), Théâtre des Variétés (1889) and Théâtre de la Gaîté (1898). The work finally entered the repertoire of the Opéra Comique in the 1918–1919 season, and remained there until after the Second World War. A 1984 revival was mounted in Paris at the Théâtre du Châtelet. [5] The work continues to be seen from time to time in the French provinces. Operabase gives details of a 2018 production at the Odéon in Marseille. [18]

Humbert successfully took the Brussels production to London in May 1873, after which managements there hastened to mount English translations of the piece: three different productions played in London in 1873, three more the following year and five in 1875. Some of Britain's leading theatrical figures were involved: H. J. Byron, H. B. Farnie and Frank Desprez all made adaptations of the text, and London stars including Selina Dolaro, Emily Soldene, Harriet Everard, Fred Sullivan, Richard Temple and Pauline Rita appeared in one or more of the productions. [19] By the turn of the century, British revivals had become few, and the last London production recorded by Gänzl and Lamb was at Drury Lane in 1919 during Sir Thomas Beecham's opera season. [19] [20]

In New York, as in London, the first production (August 1873) was given in the original by a French company. An English version followed within weeks. Another French production was staged in 1879, and the last revival in English recorded by Gänzl and Lamb was in August 1890. [19] Oscar Hammerstein I mounted a production in French at the Manhattan Opera House as part of a season of opéra comique in 1909. [21]

Productions were staged in translation in Germany (Friedrich-Wilhelmstädtisches Theater, Berlin, November 1873); Austria (Carltheater, Vienna, January 1874); Australia (Opera House, Melbourne, September 1874); and Hungary (State Theatre, Kolozsvár, March 1875). The piece was also translated for productions in Russian, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Swedish, Turkish, Polish, Danish and Czech. [6]

In the later decades of the 20th century, the music of La fille de Madame Angot became familiar to audiences in the US, Britain and Australia arranged as a ballet score for Léonide Massine. The first version of the ballet was given under the title Mademoiselle Angot in New York in 1943. Lecocq's music was arranged by Efrem Kurtz and Richard Mohaupt. [22] Massine created a new version of the work for Sadler's Wells Ballet in 1947, as Mam'zelle Angot , with a new score arranged from Lecocq's original by Gordon Jacob. The plot of the ballet follows that of the opera fairly closely. [23]

Notes, references and sources


  1. Another version of the genesis of the piece is that Koning suggested writing a new piece for Brussels, Siraudin had the idea of using Madame Angot as a theme and the libretto was then written by Clairville, although the other two were credited as co-authors. [6] A third version, current in the decade after the premiere, was that Lecocq and his collaborators unsuccessfully offered the piece to four managements in Paris – the Opéra Comique, the Variétés, the Bouffes-Parisiens and the Folies-Dramatiques – before turning to Brussels to have the work staged. [7]
  2. When the opera was first performed in non-Francophone countries the name Madame Angot meant nothing to the public: in London, critics remarked that in France the name was as well known as Nell Gwynne or Mrs Gamp was to British audiences. [10]
  3. A list of the gross takings of all stage productions in Paris during the two decades from 1870, published in 1891, showed La fille de Madame Angot as the most successful opera by any composer in that time, earning more than two million francs (about €8,826,363 in 2015 purchasing values). [11]

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  1. 1 2 Andrew Lamb. "Lecocq, (Alexandre) Charles", Grove Music Online, Oxford University Press. Retrieved 20 September 2018 (subscription required)
  2. Faris, p. 164; and Yon, p. 396
  3. 1 2 Kenrick, John "Stage Musical Chronology, 1870 to 1874", Musicals101. Retrieved 28 October 2018
  4. Gänzl and Lamb, pp. 330–331
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Pourvoyeur, Robert. "La fille de Madame Angot", Opérette – Théâtre Musical, Académie Nationale de l'Opérette. Retrieved 28 October 2018
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Gänzl, pp. 644–647
  7. 1 2 "Charles Lecocq", The Musical World, 10 December 1881, p. 797
  8. Amann, p. 122
  9. Lyons, p. 136
  10. "The Drama in Paris", The Era , 2 March 1873, p. 10; and "La fille de Madame Angot", The Pall Mall Gazette, 30 October 1873, p. 11
  11. "The Drama in Paris", The Era, 29 August 1891, p. 9; and Conversion, Historical currency converter. Retrieved 28 October 2018
  12. Gänzl and Lamb, pp. 337–341
  13. "Lyrical novelties at Brussels", The Musical World, 8 February 1873, p. 76
  14. "La fille de Mdme. Angot", The Musical World, 22 March 1873, p. 184
  15. Bénédict. "Chronique musicale", Le Figaro, 23 February 1873, p. 3
  16. Hanslick, Eduard. "Serious and buffo opera in Vienna", The Musical World, 15 December 1877, p. 836
  17. "La fille de Madame Angot", The Athenaeum, 24 May 1873, pp. 670–671
  18. "Performance search", Operabase. Retrieved 29 October 2018
  19. 1 2 3 Gänzl and Lamb, pp. 335–337
  20. "The Daughter of Madame Angot", The Musical Times, August 1919, p. 425
  21. "Light Opera Starts at the Manhattan", The New York Times, 17 November 1909, p. 12
  22. "Mademoiselle Angot", American Ballet Theatre. Retrieved 30 October 2018
  23. Craine and Mackrell, p. 291; and Royal Opera House programme, 23 February 1980