Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Story

So perhaps you'd like to know what this opera is about. Here's a brief synopsis, with links to the tunes that have already been featured in karaoke.

The Doctor in Spite of Himself fits squarely in the French comic opera tradition that was mastered by Offenbach and that helped inspire the works of Gilbert and Sullivan. Although Italian comic operas are generally sung throughout, the French, German, and English traditions favor spoken dialogues. In this case, all of the spoken dialogues come directly from Molière's play. The lyrics for all the musical numbers were written by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré, who also served as librettists for Faust, Roméo et Juliette, and most of Gounod's other operas. Our production will be performed in English.

All the musical numbers are indicated below with bold italics. In all, there are six solo arias, two duets, one trio, a quintet (which is reprised with different words), and a sextet.

First of all, here's the line-up of characters (and they are characters):

SGANARELLE, a lumbering brute of a woodcutter
MARTINE, Sganarelle's longsuffering wife
GÉRONTE, a wealthy man with an unmarried daughter
LUCINDE, Géronte’s daughter
LÉANDRE, Lucinde's true love
JACQUELINE, Géronte’s nurse
LUCAS, Géronte’s servant & Jacqueline's husband
VALÈRE, Géronte’s servant
MR. ROBERT, a nosy neighbor

(Go here to see the cast list.)


Act I

Scene 1 - a forest, somewhere near the border of Vermont and Quebec

Sganarelle and Martine argue violently in a spirited duet. Their neighbor, Robert, tries to intervene. Though Sganarelle apologizes, Martine sings of her desire for vengeance. Lucas and Valère, servants of Géronte, arrive in search of a doctor to help heal Lucinde, who has lost her speech. Martine decides to use the men to her advantage and tells them her husband is a great doctor who will only admit to his skill after being beaten severely. Lucas and Valère find Sganarelle singing lovingly to his bottle, and they "persuade" him to help them in a spirited trio. Before our story leaves the forest, we see some of Sganarelle’s fellow woodcutters singing about their lives and attracting the interest of country maidens.
Scene 2 – in and around Géronte’s house

Léandre is heard singing a serenade to his beloved Lucinde, much to the consternation of Géronte who wants to marry his daughter to the wealthy Horace. Lucas and Valère excitedly announce that they’ve found a doctor, although Jacqueline sings that girls should be allowed to marry for love. Sganarelle is brought in and, after being somewhat distracted by the nurse, he delivers an impromptu diagnosis of Lucinde’s problem in a rousing sextet. All are amazed.
Act II

Sganarelle receives praise and payment for his efforts and sings enthusiastically about being a doctor. After learning of Léandre’s interest in the girl, Sganarelle has the young man return in disguise with some musicians to sing for the patient; Lucinde hums along. Léandre, now disguised as a pharmacist, tries his hand at helping some country folk with a sick relative. Sganarelle, after a bit more flirting in duet with the nurse, introduces Léandre as his pharmacist. The sudden return of Lucinde’s speech ends up enraging Géronte in a frantic quintet. Sganarelle sends her off with the “pharmacist,” only to have Lucas reveal that Sganarelle has helped the young lovers run away. Just when it looks as if things will end badly for our doctor, Léandre returns with good news.

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