Le Cygne is a one-act ballet, with choreography by Mariquita, a scenario by Catulle Mendès, and music by Charles Lecocq. It was first staged at the Opéra-Comique, Paris on 20 April 1899. It is loosely based on the classical myth of Leda and the Swan.
Pierrot has happened across Leda bathing in the river Eurotas. He falls in love with her, and returns at dawn the next day hoping to catch sight of her again. A little faun, seeing the boy's sadness, offers him wine, fruits, and flowers, and summons nymphs and dryads from the adjoining laurel grove. They dance round him while he plays on a pipe, but he remains inconsolable. When music is heard in the distance announcing the arrival of Leda, with her attendants, he drives away the nymphs, dryads, and faun, and conceals himself among the flowers. Leda prepares for her morning bath, expressing the hope that she will again meet the beautiful swan – Zeus in disguise – who often meets her at this spot. She and her women undress and plunge into the river; the swan appears, gliding towards Leda. The attendants raise their cloaks to hide from view the embrace with which the queen welcomes the bird; but Pierrot has seen all, and, furious with jealousy, he strikes the swan with his stick, inflicting a mortal wound, from which the bird soon dies, singing before he expires.
Struck with remorse, Pierrot runs to hide himself in the laurel grove, but Leda wounds him with an arrow. She then orders her attendants to place the swan on a litter of branches and flowers; the funeral procession moves off, leaving Pierrot alone, weeping despairingly. The faun returns and advises him to impersonate the swan. He is white like his dead rival, and his wide sleeves resemble wings. If the moon goddess Selene would only bring on a momentary eclipse of the sun the deception could be easily carried out. The sky darkens; Leda and her women return, and are astonished when another swan comes gliding on the river towards the queen. Night comes on suddenly, but soon daylight returns, and in a final apotheosis there appear huge eggs, from which hatch three little Pierrots with swans' wings on their backs.
The reviewer for The Era found the story ingenious, but too sexually explicit for the respectable audiences of the Opéra-Comique. He thought Lecocq's music "tuneful enough, but commonplace, jingling—by no means in harmony with M. Mendes' light, poetical, fantastic theme". The choreography and staging were praised.
Pierrot is a stock character of pantomime and commedia dell'arte whose origins are in the late seventeenth-century Italian troupe of players performing in Paris and known as the Comédie-Italienne; the name is a diminutive of Pierre (Peter), via the suffix -ot. His character in contemporary popular culture—in poetry, fiction, and the visual arts, as well as works for the stage, screen, and concert hall—is that of the sad clown, pining for love of Columbine, who usually breaks his heart and leaves him for Harlequin. Performing unmasked, with a whitened face, he wears a loose white blouse with large buttons and wide white pantaloons. Sometimes he appears with a frilled collaret and a hat, usually with a close-fitting crown and wide round brim, more rarely with a conical shape like a dunce's cap. But most frequently, since his reincarnation under Jean-Gaspard Deburau, he wears neither collar nor hat, only a black skullcap. The defining characteristic of Pierrot is his naïveté: he is seen as a fool, often the butt of pranks, yet nonetheless trusting.
The ballet, The Afternoon of a Faun, was choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky for the Ballets Russes, and was first performed in the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris on 29 May 1912. Nijinsky danced the main part himself. The music is Claude Debussy's symphonic poem Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune. Both the music and the ballet were inspired by the poem L'Après-midi d'un faune by Stéphane Mallarmé. The costumes and sets were designed by the painter Léon Bakst.
Catulle Mendès was a French poet and man of letters.
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.
Cendrillon (Cinderella) is an opera—described as a "fairy tale"—in four acts by Jules Massenet to a French libretto by Henri Caïn based on Perrault's 1698 version of the Cinderella fairy tale.
Le cygne, pronounced [lə siɲ], or The Swan, is the 13th and penultimate movement of The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns. Originally scored for solo cello accompanied by two pianos, it has been arranged and transcribed for many instruments but remains best known as a cello solo.
Le Réveil de Flore, is a ballet anacréontique in one act, with choreography by Marius Petipa and music by Riccardo Drigo, to a libretto written by Petipa and Lev Ivanov. First presented by the Imperial Ballet at Peterhof Palace on 6 August [O.S. 25 July] 1894.
Irina Kolesnikova is a Russian ballet dancer. She is the prima ballerina of the St Petersburg Ballet Theatre.
The Dying Swan is a solo dance choreographed by Mikhail Fokine to Camille Saint-Saëns's Le Cygne from Le Carnaval des animaux as a pièce d'occasion for the ballerina Anna Pavlova, who performed it about 4,000 times. The short ballet follows the last moments in the life of a swan, and was first presented in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1905. The ballet has since influenced modern interpretations of Odette in Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake and has inspired non-traditional interpretations as well as various adaptations.
La fille de Madame Angot 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.
The Medici Fountain is a monumental fountain in the Jardin du Luxembourg in the 6th arrondissement in Paris. It was built in about 1630 by Marie de' Medici, the widow of King Henry IV of France and regent of King Louis XIII of France. It was moved to its present location and extensively rebuilt in 1864-66.
Giroflé-Girofla is an opéra bouffe in three acts with music by Charles Lecocq. The French libretto was by Albert Vanloo and Eugène Leterrier. The story, set in 13th century Spain, concerns twin brides, one of whom is abducted by pirates. The other twin poses as both brides until the first is rescued. The composer chose an extravagantly far-fetched theme to contrast with his more realistic and romantic success La fille de Madame Angot premiered the previous year.
Pearl Argyle was a South African ballet dancer and actress. Remembered today primarily for her extraordinary beauty, she appeared in leading roles with English ballet companies in the 1930s and later performed in stage musicals and in films.
Gustave Cloëz was a French conductor who was particularly active at the Paris Opéra-Comique in the mid-20th century, and made a significant number of recordings, often accompanying major singers of the time.
Ali-Baba is an opéra comique in three 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. After some initial success the work faded from the repertoire.
Surcouf is a French opéra comique in three acts and a prologue, music by Robert Planquette, libretto by Henri Chivot and Alfred Duru, premiered on 6 October 1887 at the Théâtre des Folies-Dramatiques in Paris. It ran for a modestly successful 96 performances.
L'égyptienne is an 1890 operetta in 3 acts and 11 scenes by Charles Lecocq, to a libretto by Henri Chivot, Charles Nuitter and Alexandre Beaumont. The operetta was publicized as an "opérette militaire". It premiered 8 November 1890 at the Folies-Dramatiques, Paris. The Revue d'art dramatique noted that the production took place at the reopened Eden Théâtre, now transformed into an opera house. The reviewer of the Courrier de l'art commented that Lecocq was no longer producing operettas with the frequency of the past and was more selective in choice of material. The piece was not a success and ran for 22 performances.
Plutus is a three-act opéra comique by Charles Lecocq, with a libretto by Albert Millaud and Gaston Jollivet. It was first presented at the Opéra-Comique, Paris, on 31 March 1886; it was not a success and was taken off after eight performances. This was the first and last opera Lecocq wrote for the Opéra-Comique.
La belle au bois dormant is an opéra comique in three acts with music by Charles Lecocq and words by Albert Vanloo and Georges Duval. It is a retelling, with modifications, of the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty. The princess wakes from her long sleep and falls in love not with Prince Charming but with his companion, but all is well in the end.
Juliette Darcourt, also seen as Juliette d'Harcourt, was a French actress and singer on the Paris stage.