Opera: Nanon – Richard Genée

“Nanon” is a comic opera in three acts, the music by Richard Genée and the text by F. Zell. It was first produced in Vienna in 1877.


Nanon Patin, hostess of the Golden Lamb. Ninon D’Enclos, the famous beauty. Madame de Maintenon, mistress of the King. Countess Houlières, Madame de Frontenac, friends of Ninon. Marquis de Marsillac. Hector, his nephew. Marquis D’Aubigne. Louis XIV. La Platre, the Abbé.

The scene of the opera is laid in Paris at the time of Louis XIV. In it a number of characters made famous by the history of that gilded reign make their bow.

The romance recounts how the handsome mistress of the Inn of the Golden Lamb became a countess. It much concerns itself with a song which is sung in the first scene and which is heard so often thereafter that it: comes to bear the guise of an old friend.

Nanon is so renowned for her beauty and charm, that visitors come from a distance merely to see her. Among such is the Marquis de Marsillac and his nephew, Hector. Hither comes also the Marquis D’Aubigne, who is disguised as the drummer Grignan. He makes love to Nanon and sings to her the serenade, “Anna, thy beauty leads me to thee.” Marsillac overhears it and makes note of it for future use.

Ninon D’Enclos claims D’Aubigne as her lover and her suspicions are aroused that he is paying his devotions to the pretty innkeeper. She is reassured to hear that Nanon is to marry a drummer named Grignan. Nanon bids the guests to the wedding and the bridegroom, to escape from this dilemma, causes his own arrest for dueling, an offense punishable by death. Nanon, in despair, decides to call on the influential Ninon for aid.

In the second act, D’Aubigne receives the reproaches of Ninon for remaining away from her side so long and he appeases her by singing “Anna, thy beauty leads me to thee.” Nanon arrives on her mission to Ninon. Hector is present also and he and D’Aubigne quarrel over the two women and retire to the garden for a duel. While they are gone the Marquis announces that he will pay Ninon the .compliment of addressing to her a little song of his own composition, and the familiar strains of ” Anna, thy beauty leads me to thee ” are heard. The company take his plagarism as a great joke. Hector, in the meantime, is brought in wounded and limping but D’Aubigne escapes.

The third act is laid in the sanctuary of Madame de Maintenon, where the pious Abbé sings the serenade to her in the guise of a hymn. Hector is released, his friends interceding with the Madame, who is D’Aubigne’s aunt. To gain her influence, D’Aubigne and Marsillac both wish to compliment her on her birthday with an original song and the familiar strains of ” Anna, thy beauty leads me to thee ” are heard twice. A dispute over the authorship of the song ensues.

Nanon receives the pardon of the king for Grignan but she has recognized him as the Marquis D’Aubigne and presents the pardon to Ninon for him. He is touched by this evidence of Nanon’s devotion and offers her his hand. Wishing to terminate the attentions of the king in the direction of Nanon, which attentions Madame de Maintenon fears are becoming dangerous, consent to the marriage is granted and the hostess of the Golden Lamb has become a countess.

Of its tuneful numbers may be mentioned the ever-recurring song of D’Aubigne, ” What day is this,” with the refrain, ” Anna, thy beauty leads me to thee ; ” Pierre’s song, ” See Uncle Matthew ; ” Ninon’s couplets, ” I have been true to this idea ; ” the chorus of Nanon’s country relations,

Marshaling in troops of dozens Come your uncles, aunts and cousins.

Marsillac’s song, ” I’d e’er by Ninon be; ” Nanon’s song, ” Tell me, sir ” and Hector’s song ,” Always Fearing.”