Music with Ease > 20th Century Opera > Louise - Charpentier
An Opera by Gustave Charpentier
A musical romance in four acts, libretto and music by Gustave Charpentier.
The opera was produced at the Opéra Comique, Paris, February 2, 1900. The part of Louise was created by Miss Rioton, who then sang for the first time in an open house; that of Julien by Marechal; that of the father by Fugere, and that of the mother by Mme. Deschamps-Jehin.
The story is simple. Louise, a working girl, loves Julien, an artist. Her father puts no trust in an artist of irregular life, so Louise leaves her family. The lovers are happy, but Louise is remorseful. She grieves for her father and reproaches herself for ingratitude. Finally she returns home. But free forgiveness does not make up for the freedom she has lost. Paris the city of pleasure tempts her again, and again she succumbs. Her family realizes that she is forever lost to the home.
Charpentier himself described his work to F. de Menil. When asked why he called his opera a musical romance, he replied: "Because in a romance there are two entirely distinct sides, the drama and the description, and in my Louise I wish to treat these different sides. I have a descriptive part, composed of decoration, scenic surroundings, and a musical atmosphere in which my characters move; then I have the purely dramatic part, devoted wholly to the action. This is, therefore, a truly musical romance." When asked whether the work were naturalistic, realistic, or idealistic, he answered: "I have a horror of words that end in istic. I am not a man of theories. Louise, as everything that I do, was made by me instinctively. I leave to others, the dear critics, the care of disengaging the formulas and the tendencies of the work. I have wished simply to give on the stage that which I have given in concert; the lyric impression of the sensations that I reap in our beautiful, fairy-like modern life. Perhaps I see this as in a fever, but that is my right for the street intoxicates me. The essential point of the drama is the coming together, the clashing of two sentiments in the heart of Louise -- love, which binds her to her family, to her father, the fear of leaving suffering behind her, and, on the other hand, the irresistible longing for liberty, pleasure, happiness, love, the cry of her being, which demands to live as she wishes. Passion will conquer because it is served by a prodigious and mysterious auxiliary, which has little by little breathed its dream into her young soul -- Paris, the voluptuous city, the great city of light, pleasure, and joy, which calls her irresistibly towards an undaunted future."