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Music Text

Libretto by Eugène Scribe and Henry Boisseaux (F)

Scoring

2(II=picc).2.2.2-4.2.3.0-timp.perc:SD/BD/cyms/tgl/TD-strings

Abbreviations (PDF)

World Premiere
12/24/1860
Salle Favart, Paris
Company: Opéra-comique

World premiere of version
12/7/2018
Opéra, Strasbourg
Mariame Clément, director
Conductor: Jacques Lacombe
Company: Opéra national du Rhin

Roles

BABABECK, Grand Vizier of the Great Mogul of Lahore Comic Tenor
The GREAT MOGUL Bass
SAËB Lyric Tenor
KALIBOUL, eunuch Character Tenor
XAILOUM Lyric Tenor
MAÏMA, a young flower vendor Coloratura Soprano
BALKIS, orange vendor Soprano or Coloratura Mezzo
PÉRIZADE, Bababeck's daughter Soprano or Mezzo
Merchants, citizens, servants, soldiers, guards, attendants to Périzade, courtiers
Synopsis

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.

Press Quotes

“True art is always ahead of its time, sometimes almost 160 years… Offenbach’s music is a discovery in itself… piquant rhythms everywhere, harmonic-melodic surprises, loving or ironic instrumental solos from cello and woodwind and a skilful orchestral intensification which puts the listener in ever greater expectation and tension…”
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

“Liberty, equality, dog biscuits…Teeth bared against the mighty… a series of comic numbers that are irresistible.”
Diapason

“A masterwork!... Barkouf, the sharpest musical political satire of the 19th century, landed again in a rather tense time, 158 years after its premiere… The 41-year-old Offenbach had buried his dog so well after his defeat that only a detective like Jean-Christophe Keck was able to track down the scores. Offenbachers from far and wide made the pilgrimage to discover an unknown masterpiece.”
Die Zeit

Moods

Comic

Subjects

Politics




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