La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein, Jacques Offenbach

Title La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein
English Title The Grand-Duchess of Gerolstein
Composer Jacques Offenbach
Librettists Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy
Language French, Dutch translation available
Genre Comic opera in three acts
First performance April 12, 1876, Théâtre des Variétés, Paris
Time of action Around 1720
Place of action
  1. An army camp
  2. The Grand Ducal court
  3. A pavilion of the palace
  4. An army camp
Main parts
  • Grand Duchess, (mezzo)soprano
  • Wanda, soprano
  • Fritz, tenor
  • Prince Paul, tenor
  • Baron Pück, tenor
  • General Boum, bass
Prominence of chorus Considerable
Orchestra 2 flutes, 1 oboe, 2 clarinets, 1 bassoon, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 1 trombone, timpani/percussion, strings,

military orchestra and drum band on stage

Special demands Mulitary orchestra and drum band on stage
Full score and orchestral parts Available
Level Not difficult
Length Three acts; about 2½ hours

The opera is a keen satire of the politics of German miniature states. The title-rôle, created by mezzo-soprano Hortense Schneider, requires considerable comic talent. Comic highlights are the conspiracy scene and the oft-interrupted wedding-night. The Grand Duchess has a touching song: "Dites-lui..." ("Tell him...") in which she indirectly declares her love. In its time the opera was hugely successful and it still ranks as one of Jacques Offenbach’s best works.


The miniature Grand Duchy of Gerolstein is ruled by general Boum and baron Pück. As yet the Grand Duchess herself is too young to occupy herself with state business. But one day she unexpectedly expresses the wish to inspect her army in person. Boum and Pück cannot make her change her mind. During the inspection she falls for the charms of Fritz, a common soldier. During a session of the Council of War, Fritz ventures to criticize the strategy proposed by general Boum. When baron Pück remarks that Fritz, as a common soldier, has no right to speak, the Grand Duchess promptly confers a noble title on him and makes him commander-in-chief. Fritz wins the war for her and receives many marks of honour. The Grand Duchess now tries to win his heart, to the annoyance of prince Paul, the official marriage-candidate; her advances, however, are unsuccessful, because Fritz is already engaged to Wanda, a peasant-girl. Out of spite she then joins Paul, Pück and Boum in a conspiracy to kill Fritz. But again she falls in love, this time with a handsome diplomat called Grog. She issues orders not to kill Fritz but only to vex him; this is done: his wedding-night with Wanda is thoroughly spoilt. Then she seeks an engagement with Grog, however, the latter turns out to be a married man and the father of a large family. In the end she decides to content herself with Paul, arguing that if one cannot get what one likes, one had better like what one can get. Fritz loses his rank and titles, but he does not mind as he is quite happy with his Wanda. Boum and Pück are restored to power.

Costumes Men: soldiers and courtiers. Women: peasant women and ladies-in-waiting
Link Wikipedia

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Tags: Offenbach | Fransen