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Offenbach - Keck

Barkouf (OEK critical edition) (1860)

Duration: 150 minutes
Opéra-bouffe in three acts

Libretto by Eugène Scribe and Henry Boisseaux (F)

Abbreviations (PDF)

This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.

World Premiere
Salle Favart, Paris
Company: Opéra-comique

World premiere of version
Opéra, Strasbourg
Mariame Clément, director
Company: Opéra national du Rhin


BABABECK, Grand Vizier of the Great Mogul of Lahore
KALIBOUL, eunuch
MAÏMA, a young flower vendor
BALKIS, orange vendor
PÉRIZADE, Bababeck's daughter
Merchants, citizens, servants, soldiers, guards, attendants to Périzade, courtiers

In Lahore, the tenth governor within a year has just been overthrown. The population is tired of the government’s repressive measures and chicanery, and yearns for a just political leadership. But things get even worse. As a warning, and to humiliate the masses, the Great Mogul appoints his dog as the new governor. The people are in a panic, for the four-legged governor does not make the impression of being easy to deal with.

Bababeck, the last governor’s corrupt cupbearer who thought he had a good chance of succeeding to the position, is appointed vizier. It is he who has to implement the boss’s commands, or else.... For years Bababeck has attempted to marry off his unattractive daughter Périzade. Finally, he has found a candidate who cannot resist. It is Saëb, the son of a government official against whom Bababeck has acquired damning evidence. However, Saëb loves Maïma, a vendor at the Lahore market whom he has not seen since he was forced into military service years earlier by the Great Mogul’s mercenaries. In order to save his father’s life, he agrees to the marriage with Périzade. But not only was Maïma’s beloved abducted at that time, but also her faithful dog Barkouf, who is no other than the new governor. She cleverly gains entry to the court and lets herself be appointed by Bababeck as Barkouf’s secretary and translator, since she is the only one whom the animal tolerates in his proximity. Bababeck thinks he can make Maïma into the voice of his own political intentions, yet the shrewd Maïma knows how to use the situation for the good of the people in that she "translates" Barkouf’s proclamations in such a way that they lead to an improvement of everybody’s living conditions: tax cuts, amnesties for political prisoners, etc. Maïma not only succeeds in preventing the marriage between Périzade and Saëb, but also thwarts a conspiracy against Barkouf by Bababeck and the meanwhile out-of-work court flunkeys. In the end, the Great Mogul can only legitimize the new state of affairs: the marriage of the sagacious Maïma with Saëb, and a wise governor Barkouf who is hailed by the people.



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