La Béarnaise

La Béarnaise is an opéra comique in three acts of 1885, with music by André Messager and a French libretto by Eugène Leterrier and Albert Vanloo. [1]


The success of La fauvette du temple in early 1885 began to open doors for Messager. Delphine Ugalde, who had just taken over the direction of the Bouffes-Parisiens, staged as her first production La Béarnaise. When the stage rehearsals began, the principal singer was found to be unable to sustain the lead role. At first it was thought that Ugalde’s daughter Marguerite would take over, but the director then approached Jeanne Granier, who, after only having heard a play-through of the first act, took on the double part of Jacquette-Jacquet. Coming out of semi-retirement, Granier made the success of the piece.[2]

La Béarnaise was first performed at the Bouffes-Parisiens on 12 December 1885, achieving 20 performances that year and 44 in 1886; a vocal score being published in the following year.[1] It was an immediate success and was performed in London in 1886 and New York the following year, under the title Jacquetta.[3] It was also produced in Budapest in 1886 and in Prague in 1892, and at the Trianon-Lyrique in Paris on 11 March 1925.


Role Voice type Premiere Cast,
12 December 1885
(Conductor: André Messager)
Jacquette soprano Jeanne Granier
Bianca soprano Mily-Meyer
Bettina soprano Feljas
L'hôtelière mezzo-soprano Ducouret
Carlo tenor B Paravicini
Perpignac tenor Eugène Vauthier
Pomponio baritone Édouard Maugé
Girafo bass Gerpré
Le duc tenor Murator
Grabasson baritone Durieu
Cadet baritone Guerchot


Act 1Edit

Captain Perpignac from Béarn, is a braggard, woman-chaser and swordsman. Arrived in Paris, he had started a liaison with Gabrielle, but, caught by King Henri IV, he is sent to Italy. When there Perpignac discovers that he is neither ambassador nor officer but an outcast suspect having dishonoured his royal master.

For forty days he is forbidden to approach a woman. No sooner has he begun his punishment than espies a pretty widow, named Bianca. Luckily, at the same time he is recognized by his cousin Jacquette, secretly in love with him, and travelling in search of him. Jacquette has entered Parme just in time as Perpignac is about to disobey the orders of King Henri. As a loving friend, she covers for her cousin by dressing up in men’s clothes, comprises Bianca thus forcing marriage to take place.

Act 2Edit

Jacquette, now Jacquet, dressed all in white, reluctantly goes to marry the young and beautiful Bianca, but implores Perpignac to relieve her of the wedding night duty … In the end, Bianca, who is loved by the chamberlain of the duke of Parme, gives in to the charms of this chevalier Pomponio, and the Béarnaise Jacquette returns to Béarn with Perpignac.

The music of the second act was received more warmly than the first, with Maugé’s couplets "Très souvent à la devanture" encored, along with Vauthier’s madrigal "Chacun, madame, à votre aspect" and Granier’s song "C'est du vin de Gascogne" and Mily Mayer’s couplets "Pour un détail, une nuance". Also noted was a berceuse "Fais nono, mon bel enfantoux !". [4] Critics also admired the suppler orchestration and gentler style compared to Messager's contemporaries.[5]


  1. ^ a b Wagstaff J. André Messager. In: The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. Macmillan, London and New York, 1997.
  2. ^ Vanloo, A. Sur le plateau: souvenirs d'une librettiste. Paris, 1913.
  3. ^ Cooper M. French Music: From the Death of Berlioz to the Death of Fauré. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1978.
  4. ^ Noel E & Stoullig E. Les Annales du Théâtre et de la Musique, 11eme edition, 1885. G Charpentier et Cie, Paris, 1886.
  5. ^ Traubner R. Operetta — a theatrical history. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1983.