Opera: Olivette – Edmund Audran

“Olivette,” a comic opera in three acts, with music by Edmund Audran and libretto by Chivat and Duru with an English adaptation by H. B. Farnie, was first presented in Paris in 1879.


Captain De Merimac, of the man-o’-war “Cormorant.” Valentine, an officer of the Rousillon Guards, his nephew. Duc des Ifs, cousin and heir presumtive to the Countess. Coquelicot, his foster-brother and henchman. Marvejol, local pluralist, Seneschal to the Countess and Mayor of Perpignan. Olivette, daughter of the Seneschal Marvejol. Bathielde, Countess of Rousillon, in love with Valentine. Veloutine, the Seneschal’s housekeeper. Moustique, the captain’s boy. Courtiers and nobles, citizens, wedding guests, sailors and pages.

The scene of the story is laid in Perpignan on the shore of the Mediterranean in the time of Louis XIII. All the village is stirred over the approaching marriage of the Seneschal’s daughter, Olivette, to the old sea-captain, De Merimac. Olivette is just out of the convent, where she has met and fallen in love with Valentine, nephew of De Merimac. The youth haunts the house of his lady love and, when the unprepossessing bridegroom arrives, the girl, who has been described to him by her parent, as an ” angel of sweetness and obedience ” tells him sharply to pack his valise, and depart as the marriage will not take place. The Captain is not at all dismayed, for he thinks he has it in his power to force her to a marriage with him. He has secured the eternal gratitude of the Countess of Rousillon by rescuing her chimpanzee from a watery grave and she has promised him anything he wants. He writes to her asking her to order the wished-for marriage but at this critical moment he is sent off on a three months’ voyage. The Countess has fallen in love with Valentine and has come to Perpignan to be near him. She requests the marriage according to instructions and Valentine, pretending to be the elder De Merimac, quietly weds Olivette himself.

The second act opens with a ball, given by the Countess in honor of the wedding, and Valentine has a strenuous time impersonating both his uncle and himself by frequent changes of costume. The uncle arrives in person, however, and is greeted as the bridegroom. Valentine, coming in suddenly, this time as the old man, is confronted by the original and an explanation is unavoidable. The Captain declares that the bride taken in his name belongs to him, while Olivette faces the prospect of being Valentine’s aunt instead of his wife.

Olivette gets rid of her elderly claimant by means of a little conspiracy but the Countess upsets her calculations by announcing her intention of marrying the loyal soldier, Valentine, who has put down the conspiracy. As a last resource, he joins the conspiracy which is to send the Countess out of the kingdom. She is imprisoned on De Merimac’s ship, the Cormorant. When Olivette and VaIentine, disguised as sailors, are seeking a boat to take them away, the husband is seized. Olivette manages to set the Countess free and assumes that lady’s dress, passing her own on to her maid Veloutine. The fickle Duke courts the maid, thinking her the mistress and boasts of his success so loudly that both uncle and nephew disown Olivette until she is able to prove an alibi. Finally, things straighten themselves out, Valentine and Olivette are free to acknowldge their union, the Countess accepts the Duke at last and De Merimac is left to console himself. Pretty numbers are Olivette’s Tyrolienne song, “she Convent Slept;” the marine madrigal, “The Yacht and the Brig,” by De Merimac and the quartet ; the Countess’ waltz song, “O Heart, Wherefore so light ? ” the Duke’s couplets, “Bob up serenely;” Valentine’s serenade, “Dar-ling, Good Night;” Olivette’s ” Sob ” song, “O My Father;” Valentine’s duet with De Merimac, “What! she your wife?” ” Jamaica Rum;” the Romance of the Countess, ” Nearest and Dearest” and the “The Torpedo and the Whale.”