The White Lady by Francois Adrien Boieldieu

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The White Lady by Francois Adrien Boieldieu

During the early 19th century, Scotland became a popular setting for operas due to their haunted castles and its warring clans. These operas were generally based on Sir Walter Scott’s fantastic novels but whilst other composer’s openly used Scotland as a setting, Francois Adrien Boieldieu’s The White Lady’ is only recognised as being in Scotland every so often.

An ‘opera comique’ in three acts, the libretto to the White Lady (La dame blanche) was produced by Eugene Scribe after Sir Walter Scott. It premiered on the 10th December 1825 in Paris at the Opera-Comique and is set in a Scottish village sometime in the mid 18th century.

Characters:

Gavestan, the steward of Castle Avenel (Bass)

Anna, his ward (Soprano)

George Brown, an English officer (Tenor)

Dikson, a tenant (Tenor)

Jenny, his wife (Soprano)

Marguerite, an old servant of the Count of Avenal (Soprano)

MacIrton, the Justice of the Peace (Bass)

Gabriel, an employee of Dikson (Bass)

Villagers (the chorus)

Synopsis:

Act I

The tenant Dikson is celebrating the birth of a son but unfortunately the godfather is unable to attend. The soldier George takes his place and Dikson gives him the right of hospitality. Dikson owes his happiness to a ghost that haunts Castle Avenel, the White Lady, who he obeys. She summons him to the castle that night as the estate is to be auctioned off the next day. George takes Dikson’s place that evening and goes to the castle.

Act II

Gaveston, the castle steward, has caused the estate to fall into ruin so that he can acquire it for himself. He reluctantly allows George to stay at the castle. Anna, Gaveston’s poor ward, recognises George as a childhood friend, the abducted Julian, the son of the late Count Avenel. She goes to him that night in the guise of the White Lady and tells him he must outbid Gaveston the next day. The following day, Gaveston outbids everyone for the castle but is outbid himself by George. However, George is penniless and at serious danger of being imprisoned.

Act III

The villagers greet George as their new lord in the Hall. Anna recalls her childhood with Julien. Gaveston demands that he pay up and the White Lady appears with the hidden treasure of the Avenels and a document proving he is Count Julien. Gaveston unveils the White Lady as his own ward and Julien makes Anna his countess.

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