Le déserteur

Le déserteur (The Deserter) is an opéra comique by the French composer Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny with a libretto by Michel-Jean Sedaine. It was first performed on 6 March 1769 by the Comédie-Italienne at their public theatre, the Hôtel de Bourgogne in Paris.

The work was Monsigny's greatest musical success and is one of the key operas of late 18th century French opéra comique. It was popular in Germany and was performed in New York City in 1787. At the Paris Opéra-Comique it was performed over 300 times throughout the 19th century and up to 1911.[1] The work mixes serious and comic elements, an example of the latter being the behaviour of the drunkard Montauciel. The theme of a last-minute reprieve from execution influenced later rescue opera.


Marie-Thérèse Laruette
Pastel by Jean-Baptiste Perronneau
Cast Voice type[2] Premiere, 6 March 1769[3]
Alexis, a soldier baritone[4] Joseph Caillot
Louise, his fiancée soprano Marie-Thérèse Laruette
Jean-Louis, Louise's father tenor Jean-Louis Laruette [fr]
Alexis's aunt soprano Mme Bérard
Bertrand, Alexis's cousin haute-contre Antoine Trial
Jeannette, a young peasant soprano Pétronille-Rosalie Beaupré
Montauciel, a dragoon tenor Clairval (Jean-Baptiste Guignard)
Courchemin, a brigadier basse-taille (bass-baritone) M Nainville
Three guards haute-contre, tenor, tenor Robert Desbrosses, M Lemoyne etc.
The jailer spoken role


Alexis, a young soldier, is engaged to be married to Louise, a farmer's daughter. On the orders of her father, she plays a trick on him by pretending she is going to marry her cousin Bertrand instead. Alexis falls for the deception and deserts the army in despair. He is captured and thrown into jail to await execution. Louise goes to see the king to beg for mercy for Alexis. She receives a letter of reprieve but faints from exhaustion before she is able to deliver it. All ends happily, however, when the king arrives in person and frees Alexis.


  • Le déserteur (musical numbers only): William Sharp (Alexis), Dominique Labelle (Louise), Ann Monoyios (Jeannette), David Newman (Montauciel/Second Guard), Eugene Galvin (Jean-Louis/Third Guard), Tony Boutté (Bertrand/First Guard), Darren Perry (Courchemin), Claire Kuttler (Aunt Marguerite), Andrew Adelsberger (Jailer), Opera Lafayette Orchestra, conducted by Ryan Brown (Naxos 8.660263-64, 2010)


  1. ^ Wolff S. Un demi-siècle d'Opéra-Comique (1900–1950). André Bonne, Paris, 1953.
  2. ^ According to Mellace, unless otherwise stated in footnotes
  3. ^ According to the original libretto
  4. ^ Caillot, the first performer, was endowed with a very wide compass which enabled him to sing as a basse taille, but also to reach up to the haute-contre tones (Jean Gourret, Histoire de l'Opéra-Comique, Paris, Les publications universitaires, 1978, p. 43). According to Rodolfo Celletti "he was a baritenor and a bass at the same time": Grétry and Monsigny used to notate his parts in the bass clef, but to set them in high-baritone tessiture (Voce di tenore, Milan, Idealibri, 1989, p. 59, ISBN 88-7082-127-7).


  • Viking Opera Guide ed. Holden (1993)
  • (in Italian) Mellace, Raffaele, Déserteur, Le, in Gelli, Piero and Poletti, Filippo (editors), Dizionario dell'opera 2008, Milan, Baldini Castoldi Dalai, 2007, p. 304, ISBN 978-88-6073-184-5 (reproduced at Opera Manager)
  • Sedaine, Michel (1769). Le déserteur: Drame en trois actes, en prose melée de musique. Par Monsieur Sedaine. La musique par M***. Représentée [sic!], pour la premiere fois, par les Comédiens Italiens ordinaires du Roi, le Lundi 6 Mars 1769, libretto, 82 pages. Paris: Chez Claude Herissant. View at Google Books.
  • Philippe Vendrix (ed.) L'opéra-comique en France au XVIIIe siècle (Mardaga, 1992)

External linksEdit