La Vie Parisienne, Jacques Offenbach

Title La Vie Parisienne
English Title Parisian Life
Composer Jacques Offenbach
Librettists Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy
Language French, Dutch translation available
Genre Opéra-bouffe, comic opera (five acts)
First performance 31 October, 1866, Théâtre du Palais Royal, Paris
Time of action Second half of the 19th century
Place of action
  1. Entrance hall of railway station, Gare de l’Ouest, Paris
  2. At Raoul de Gardefeu’s house
  3. At Mme de Folle-Verdure’s home
  4. As in II
  5. The Café des Anglais
Main parts
  • Baron de Gondremarck, baritone
  • A Brazilian millionaire, tenor
  • Frick, a German bootmaker, tenor
  • Prosper, servant, tenor
  • Bobby de Bobinet, tenor or baritone
  • Raoul de Gardefeu, tenor
  • Urbain, servant, bass
  • Baroness de Gondremarck, soprano
  • Gabrielle, a German glovemaker, soprano
  • Métella, a demi-mondaine, mezzo-soprano
  • Pauline, servant, (mezzo)soprano
Prominence of chorus Considerable
Orchestra 2 flutes, 1 oboe, 2 clarinets, 1 bassoon, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 1 trombone, timp./perc., strings
Special demands Four sets of scenery – but nowadays moveable pieces plus lighting can do a lot.
Full score and orchestral parts Available
Level Not at all difficult. If singers are also actors success ensured.
Length 5 acts. About 2½ hours

La Vie Parisienne is a real actors’ piece: a play with (lots of) music. Of course the leading parts should be done by real singers, but quite a number of parts may be fulfilled by actors with acceptable singing voices. The work contains a good number of songs (Bobinet, Gabrielle, Baron, Urbain, Frick etc.), some spirited duets (Gabrielle and Frick), hilarious ensembles and glorious finales (the first "aussi vite que possible", i.e. as fast as possible; the second with yodeling; the third beginning quietly but getting faster and faster and ending in a rowdy cancan, and in the last finale champagne-corks popping). Further remarkable numbers: Métella’s wistful letter-aria and the Swedish baroness’s air after she has visited the Italian opera.


A Swedish baron and his young wife have come to see Paris. They are taken up by Raoul de Gardefeu, a young man-about-town, who pretends to be a guide; because his mistress, Métella, has been unfaithful, he now wants to try his luck among ladies of rank and he is very much attracted by the young baroness. He takes the couple to his home, making them believe it is a hotel. In the acts that follow he organizes all sorts of outings, dinners and parties for the baron, meanwhile trying to get his way with the Swedish beauty. In this, however, he fails disastrously. After a great many complications the story ends in a boisterous party at a restaurant à la mode, where at a certain moment things threaten to get out of hand, when knives are drawn. However, no blood flows; the only thing that flows profusely is champagne.


As to costumes, La Vie Parisienne tends to be rather costly, as the work is, in a way, a continuous dressing-up party. A cobbler dresses up as a major, a seamstress pretends to be a colonel’s widow, servants disguise themselves as lords and ladies. The chorus also needs many costumes, as travellers, German hotel-guests, waiters, party-goers etc. But the play deserves some extra spending; it is one of the funniest works in the French repertoire.


If desired, we can furnish choral parts for the third act, which is really for soloists only. The rest of the company may, however, join in, maybe from the orchestra-pit or behind the scenes; this is musically very effective.

Pictures Gooise Operette 2012, photographer Jan Dolman
Link Wikipedia

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Tags: Offenbach | Fransen