• John Corigliano
  • The Ghosts of Versailles (1991)

  • G Schirmer Inc (World)
  • 3(2pic).3(ca).3(Ebcl,bcl).3(cbn)4431timp.4perchp.pf(cel).synthstr (min 14.10.8.8.6 players)
  • 2(2pic).2(ca).2(Ebcl,bcl).2(cbn)/2220/timp(perc).3perc/hp,pf(cel).synth/str (6.6.4.4.3 players)
  • Cast: principals = 4S, Mz, A, 4T, 2Bar, 2B, associates = 2Mz, Bar(speaking role), B, ensemble = 4S, 2Mz, 2T, 2Bar, B
  • 2 hr 50 min
  • John Corigliano
  • Libretto by William M. Hoffman suggested by Beaumarchais’ “La Mère coupable.”
  • English

Programme Note


Libretto
William M. Hoffman suggested by Beaumarchais' "La Mère coupable."

About the orchestra and cast:
The original production included ensembles onstage:
  • players = hpd, man, gtr, hp, vn, va, 3vc, 2db
  • rheita band (Act I Scene 5) = ob, 2perc
  • ball orchestra (Act II, scene 5) = fl, vn, va, vc
  • marchers = 2hn, [opt 2tpt, perc]

In both the full and reduced orchestrations, the parts for these players have now been incorporated into the pit orchestra parts..

Major productions to date, including the premiere, cast more singers than are actually required by the list of major and supporting roles. The opera requires only a minimum of twenty-eight performers to fulfill its casting requirements.

Cast:
Principals: 14
soloists playing one role only
   FLORESTINE - High Lyric or Coloratura Soprano
   MARIE ANTOINETTE - Lyric or Lirico-spinto Soprano
   ROSINA - Lyric Soprano
   SUSANNA - Mezzo-soprano (or Mezzo-contralto)
   ALMAVIVA - Lyric Tenor
   LÉON - Lyric Tenor
   PATRICK HONORÉ BÉGEARSS - Dramatic Tenor
   BEAUMARCHAIS - High Lyric Baritone
   FIGARO - Lyric Baritone
   LOUIS XVI - Bass
   GHOST QUARTET - Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass


Associate Principals: 4
soloists playing one main role among other supporting roles
   CHERUBINO - High Lyric Mezzo-soprano
      also plays
      Figaro Pursuer 5/Turkish Embassy Pursuer 6/Revolutionary Woman 5
   SAMIRA - Mezzo-soprano
      also plays
      Figaro Pursuer 6/Revolutionary Woman 6
   WILHELM - Baritone and spoken part
      also plays
      Other Man (Fig. Pursuer 9)/ (T.E. Pursuer 10)/Juror 2/Finale Pursuer 10
   SULEYMAN PASHA - Basso Profundo
      also plays
      Muscovite 3/Juror 4/Prisoner 1/Finale Pursuer 12

Ensemble: 10
soloists playing multiple supporting roles
   4 Soprano
   2 Mezzo-soprano
   2 Tenor
   2 Baritone
      play
      Pursuers of Figaro, Turkish duelists, page, dancing and harem girls,
      "rheita" players, acrobats, revolutionary guards, revolutionary women,
      courtiers, dancers, prison guards, prisoners, soldiers.For information about an Opera-in-Concert version of The Ghosts of Versailles with projections by Jerome Sirlin click here
The following vocal selections from Ghosts of Versailles are available for purchase:
Synopsis:

Act I
The ghosts of the court of Louis XVI arrive at the theatre of Versailles. Bored and listless, even the King is uninterested when Beaumarchais arrives and declares his love for the Queen. As Marie Antoinette is too haunted by her execution to reciprocate his love, Beaumarchais announces his intention to change her fate through the plot of his new opera 'A Figaro for Antonia.'

The cast of the opera-within-the-opera is introduced. Following the familiar escapades of the Figaro characters, Almaviva has divorced the Countess after she had a son, Leon, with Cherubino. Leon wants to marry Florestine, Almaviva's illegitimate daughter, but the Count has forbidden the union as retribution for his wife's infidelity and has promised Florestine instead to Bégearss.

Figaro enrages the Count by warning him that his trusted Bégearss is in fact a revolutionary spy. Figaro is fired, but overhears Bégearss and his servant Wilhelm hatching a plot to arrest the Count that evening at the Turkish Embassy when he sells the Queen's necklace to the English Ambassador. Figaro intercepts the plot by infiltrating the party, dressed as a dancing girl. During the outrageous performance of the Turkish singer Samira, Figaro steals the necklace from the Count before the sale can take place, and runs away.

Act II
Figaro returns only to defy Beaumarchais's intention that he return the necklace to the queen, as he wants to sell it to help the Almavivas escape. To put the story back on course, Beaumarchais enters the opera and shocks Figaro into submission by allowing him to witness the unfair trial of Marie.

The Count, swayed by his wife's wishes, rescinds his offer to Bégearss of his daughter's hand. Even though Figaro gives him the necklace, Bégearrs is enraged and sends the Spaniards to the prison where Marie Antoinette lingers.

Beaumarchais and Figaro, the only two to escape, arrive at the prison to try to rescue the Almavivas. They are shortly followed by Bérgeass whom Figaro denounces to the revolutionaries, revealing that he has kept the necklace rather than using it to feed the poor. Bégearss is carried off, the Almavivas escape to America and Beaumarchais is left with the keys to the Queen's cell. But the power of his love has made the Queen accept her fate and she refuses to let Beaumarchais alter the course of history. Marie is executed, and the pair is united in Paradise.

Composer Note:

Ghosts Returns

For many years after the glorious premiere of The Ghosts of Versailles, I have always felt that my opera was haunted by its spectacular production. People associated it with Prokofiev’s War and Peace — a work that could not exist without the grandest and most expensive mounting. So, like War and Peace, most opera houses thought The Ghosts of Versailles almost impossible to produce.

My collaborator, William Hoffman, and I always felt that the opera would benefit from being seen through a closer lens. A more economical production and casting scheme would focus the audience on the true nature of the work: that is, that while The Ghosts is, in part, an entertaining buffa, it is also a serious meditation on history and change: specifically, on how change comes about both in politics and in art. Mid-century modernists at their most fundamentalist demanded that we destroy, not merely rethink, the past to forge a new future: a demand of which the guillotine makes a terrible and perfect symbol. But our view of art was that change could come by embracing the past (the opposed worlds of the commoner Beaumarchais and the regal Marie Antoinette) and moving into the future (as did that couple, finally united, in our opera.)

The terrible World Wars that fired the angst and destruction that obsessed the Modernists have been replaced by a more evolutionary view of change. Leningrad has become St. Petersburg again without a shot being fired. Musicians and artists in the 21st century are no longer chained to the severe and limited point of view of the 20th century, despite the antique views of some living musicians and artists of the past.

Perhaps this message will be clearer in this new version. The Met’s introduction of The Ghosts of Versailles was one of the high points of my artistic life. Still, this smaller, focused production may demonstrate — as well as its practicality — more of what the work itself has to say. I can hardly wait.

— John Corigliano
May, 2009



Ghosts of Versailles, Act 2; full score

Ghosts of Versailles, Act 1; reduced orchestration

Ghosts of Versailles, Act 2; reduced orchestration

Listen

The Ghosts of Versailles, Act I: Act I: All-powerful Queen of Beauty and ruler of my willing heart (Beaumarchais, Marie Antoinette)
The Ghosts of Versailles, Act I: Act I: Aria: They are always with me: the unbounded waiting, the odor of blood on steel, the terrible sound (Marie Antoinette)
The Ghosts of Versailles, Act II: Act II: What is happening? (Susanna, Marie Antoinette, Figaro, Chorus)
The Ghosts of Versailles, Act I: Act I: Magic! It is Paris, the autumn of '93 (Beaumarchais, Marie Antoinette, Louis XVI, Almaviva)
The Ghosts of Versailles, Act II: Act II: Antoinette, we want your head! - Order! Order! (Chorus, Beaumarchais)
The Ghosts of Versailles, Act II: Act II: Marie Antoinette of Lorraine and Austria (Marie Antoinette, Chorus, Beaumarchais, Figaro)
The Ghosts of Versailles, Act II: Act II: Monarchy. Revolution. It's all the same to me - Women of Paris, listen! (Begearss, Chorus)
The Ghosts of Versailles, Act I: Act I: Recitative: I can't wait to betray Almaviva (Begearss, Florestine)
The Ghosts of Versailles, Act II: Act II: Welcome, Madeleine, welcome (Rosina, Aristocrats, Almaviva, Florestine, Bishop, Leon)
The Ghosts of Versailles, Act II: Act II: Quartet: Remember the chestnut trees in the gardens of the Tuileries? (Leon, Florestine, Almaviva, Rosina)
The Ghosts of Versailles, Act I: Act I: Aria: Oh, the lion may roar and the eagle may soar. (Begearss)
The Ghosts of Versailles, Act II: Act II: Interlude
The Ghosts of Versailles, Act II: Act II: Quintet: O God of love, O Lord of light (Almaviva, Rosina, Florestine, Leon, Susanna, Marie Antoinette)
The Ghosts of Versailles, Act I: Act I: Duet: Look at the green here in the glade (Beaumarchais, Rosina, Cherubino, Marie Antoinette, Louis XVI)
The Ghosts of Versailles, Act II: Act II: Goodbye, Figaro. Goodbye, Beaumarchais (Beaumarchais, Marie Antoinette)
The Ghosts of Versailles, Act I: Act I: Finale: His Excellency, the English Ambassador (Page, English Ambassador, Almaviva, Pasha)
The Ghosts of Versailles, Act II: Act II: Come, Antonia (Beaumarchais, Chorus)
The Ghosts of Versailles, Act I: Act I: Finale: Ya omri. Limatha hajartani? (Samira, Figaro, Chorus)

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