Opera: Les Noces De Jeannette – Victor Masse

“Les Noces de Jeannette,” or “The Marriage of Jeannette,” a comic opera in one act with music by Victor Masse and text by Barbier and Carre, was first presented in Paris in 1853.

CHARACTERS

Jean. Jeannette. Thomas. Petit Pierre.

It is said of a woman that ” if she won’t she won’t, so there’s an end on’t.” But this is a case in which a man who wouldn’t was persuaded to change his mind. ” The Marriage of Jeannette ” is a simple, refreshing story of French peasant life. When we are introduced to Jean, in his own little cottage, he is shuddering and exclaiming, “Another word and I should have been a married man ! ” From the soliloquy of this rough and good-natured young rustic, we gather that he had fallen in love with Jeannette and had proposed marriage to her. , But when he had assumed his bridegroom clothes and the pretty bride in her white gown was clinging to his arm in the mayor’s office and the friends of both of them were standing by laughing and chaffing them and a lawyer of “sacrificial aspect ” had handed him the marriage contract to sign, he had been suddenly seized with terror and apprehension and had taken to his heels, leaving the bride discomfited. As he is exulting over his continued bachelorhood, he hears a knock at the door and opens it to admit Jeannette, still in her bridal attire. Instead of falling upon him to scratch his eyes out, as he half expects her to do, she calmly questions him as to his motives for his conduct of the morning. Poor Jean makes a bad fist of it in his explanations, admitting that he loves her and always did love her but that marriage at close range scares him. He sighs and says ” What’s done can’t be undone,” and Jeannette promptly matches his proverb with “All’s well that ends well ” and ” There are as good fish in the sea . . . ” which latter proverb she has quoted to her father, who, in spite of his gout, has insisted upon coming to kill Jean for failing to keep his promise.

Jeannette is apparently so indifferent about the whole matter that Jean decides that she does not care at all and so goes away to join his cronies at the inn. It is about time, for Jeannette’s fortitude is fast giving out and scarcely has he disappeared than she bursts into tears.

Jeannette hears Jean singing and laughing with his friends and fancies that they are jeering at her in her humiliation. When he comes back to get the bouquet in his coat to give to Rosa, she loses her temper for the first time and announces that some reparation is due to her for the degradation of being deserted by her bridegroom. She presents the contract and insists upon his signing it in order that the world may think that he has changed his mind and that this time she has rejected him, merely a sop thrown to pride. But when she has secured the coveted signature, she decides that she would rather have nice, good-looking Jean for a husband than the sweetness of going about with the proof that she refused to marry him. So she puts down her name also and makes it a contract. When Jean learns of the trick, he is in a terrible rage and warns her that he will be such an ogre of a husband that she will regret it, and mentions among her future delights, working in the fields and eating in the stable.

He begins at once by tearing down the curtains and breaking the dishes and furniture and goes up to the attic to sleep off an- intoxication acquired during his recent visit to the inn. While he is sleeping, Jeannette has her own new furniture brought and arranges the house attractively. She then mends his torn wedding-coat for him and prepares a savory meal. After a long time, Jean creeps down stairs, much improved in temper and hears Jeannette singing tunefully in the flower garden. When she enters with the salad, looking very winsome in her pretty gown, Jean tries hard to be gruff but fails lamentably. When he inquires why there is only one place laid, she replies that she has eaten in the stable according to his instructions. He makes her sit down on the pretense that she can better wait upon him in that fashion and, before he realizes it, he has his arms around her and is neglecting his favorite omelet with lard for the joy of kissing her.

Friend Thomas comes to remind them that they are not yet married, as the contract still lacks the mayor’s signature. Jeannette is nearly overcome by this dire intelligence but Jean assures her that there is no danger of his changing his mind this time. He then calls in all of the neighbors to introduce them to his wife.

The music of this piece, which is one of the best specimens of French opera comique, is full of spirit and melody and the ingenuous little story is thoroughly entertaining.

Prominent numbers are Jean’s song, congratulating himself on his escape, “Others may hastily marry ;” “From out a throng of lovers,” sung by Jeannette; Jean’s song, “O lass so fair,” and his sarcastic, “Ah, little do you fancy, precious;” Jeannette’s numbers, “Fly now, my needle glancing brightly,” and “Voice that’s sweetest” and the chorus in the finale, “Ring out village bells, we’re loving.”