Les Cloches de Corneville, Robert Planquette

Title Les Cloches de Corneville
English Title The Bells of Corneville
Composer Robert Planquette
Librettists Clairville and Ch. Gabet
Language French, Dutch translation available
Genre Opéra-comique, light opera (three acts)
First performance 19 April, 1877, Théâtre des Follies-Dramatiques, Paris
Time of action 1687, during the reign of Louis XIV
Place of action

The village of Corneville, Normandy.

  1. First tableau: a path in the forest
    Second tableau: the market-place of Corneville
  2. A hall in Corneville Castle
  3. The park of Corneville Castle
Main parts
  • Germaine, soprano
  • Serpolette, soprano
  • Henri de Corneville, bariton-Martin, i.e. high baritone
  • Grenicheux, tenor
  • Gaspard, bass or baritone
  • Bailiff, bass or baritone
Prominence of chorus Very large
Orchestra 2 flutes, 1 oboe, 2 clarinets, 1 bassoon, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani/tubular bells/percussion, strings
Special demands A ballet by Planquette (La Cueillette des Pommes – The Apple Harvest) may be introduced if desired
Full score and orchestral parts Full score and orchestral parts available
Level Not difficult
Length 3 acts, about 2½ hours in all

This is one of the best-known French operettas. It contains many well-known tunes, such as the song about the bells of Corneville and the entrance-waltz of the marquis. The audience is carried along in a stream of charming soli, duets and ensembles in the elegant style of French light opera. Many numbers have elements of Norman folk-music.

Highlights: the ancestors’ chorus and the chorus in three groups (sopranos/contraltos as servant-girls, tenors as coachmen and basses as men-servants) first singing their tunes separately and then simultaneously.

In the first finale a tambourin Provençal is prescribed; this is not a tambourine but a long narrow drum.


Henry, the young marquis of Corneville, returns from his wanderings to his ancestral castle, which, according to the villagers, is haunted. The story is full of unexpected developments: a young fisherman turns out to be not quite as heroic as he gave out to be; a peasant-girl is made a countess, wrongly as appears afterwards; the ghost-appearances in the castle turn out to have been the work of an old miser, who loses his sanity but also regains it, and his ward, the lovely Germaine, is found to have noble blood and so can marry the young marquis.

Costumes Soloists: historic (late 17th century). Chorus: villagers, sailors, peasants (Normandy style).
Link Wikipedia

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Tags: Planquette | Fransen