Adolphe Adam: Le Postillon de Lonjumeau (1836)

Opera comique en trois actes. Running Time: 2 hours 13 minutes.

Another Adam entry, probably his most famous operatic work, and one I have been wanting to finish for years. The plot is even more slight than that of Si j’etais roi, the music in an earlier style closer to bel canto than grand opera (it is comique after all) but with an exceptionally difficult tenor aria, so…. There are actually 13 musical numbers here in total. This review is of the 2019 Comique production with Michael Spyres in the title role (in which he becomes far more liberal with the coloratura in the second act).

SETTING: France, 18th century. Chapelou (tenor) is a coachman and bridegroom of Madeleine (coloratura soprano) the innkeeper of Lonjumeau. When he is offered a contract with the Paris Opera by le Marquis de Corcy (baritone), Chapelou deserts his wife on their wedding day. Ten years later (which must be a record for unconsummated but still legal marriages), Chapelou is Saint-Phar, the star of the Opera and Madeleine has inherited a large fortune and a servant named Rose (soubrette). Madeleine, who now goes by the name Madame Latour after having inherited enough money to give her the status of a duchess, manages to convince Chapelou to marry her a second time, which Corcy thinks is bigamy but it isn’t since the second marriage is really just a vow renewal.


ACT 1: Outside of the Postal Inn at Lonjumeau, 1756. (48 minutes)

3: Le joli marriage The brief prelude starts off with an angelic theme, then a half-attempt at the golden melody before we are off into an overwhelming chorus of wedding party guests ** (but not before some dialogue for the Marquis de Courcy and Bourdon) which frames a duet between the bride and groom Madeleine and Chapelou (involving multiple attractive couplets, mostly for Madeleine as she will disappear for much of the act as the action focuses on her husband and needs the build up early on more than he does). They both have had strange encounters the previous day: he met a witch who told him that he would become famous the next day, she was told by a lame beggar that she could do better than a simple postilion.

12: Quoi tout les deux A long, but mild, duet between Madeleine and Chapelou *. It does get a bit energetic in places (especially the three stretta points), and will keep ones attention, including a number of high notes for Chapelou foreshadowing his “discovery” as a brilliant high tenor, but much of it has to rely on the chemistry between the soprano and tenor and their on-stage flirtation, which, if it works, it works. The finish is satisfactory at least.

28: Mes amis écoutez l’histoire After a very brief display (less than two minutes) of the chorus begging, the number everyone has been waiting for *** about the sexy postilion with the golden tenor High D. The chorus, the audience, and Courcy (who has been on a “France Got Talent” search for a tenor), are in ecstasy. The build up to that high D is like the musical equivalent of love making, as Chapelou teases us with his remarkable instrument: first a high G, gliding up to A-sharp, an edging high C (which ends the first verse), then repeat (this time with more fioratura) until he gives us the big D (the effect is strengthened by the drop to a low D), (no wonder Madeleine pursues him for a decade!). The chorus gets drowned out by the applause. Courcy is determined to sign on Chapelou to the Opera!

35: Il faut te rendre Courcy slowly seduces Chapelou into a professional contract (although he resists for the longest time because of Madeleine) in a glorious trio *** which includes some equally difficult tenor vocal work (a series of high B/high A intervals).

42: Viens, viens, ma voix Madeleine (poor girl) returns with a sweet little couplet ** which ends with her discovering that her husband has abandoned her on their wedding day, Biju, a friend of Chapelou entrusted with the news, informs her. The chorus comes on in canon-fugue form. Madeleine despairs as Chapelou is hear in the distance (again with that high D!) and the chorus attempts to comfort the distraught soprano (who gets her own high D).

ACT 2: The Chateau of Madame de Latour, ten years later. (55 minutes)

3: Je vais donc The entracte is mostly based on the melody of Mes Amis before we come upon Madame de Latour/Madeleine who explains what has transpired and her continued and undying love for her high pitched hubby in a lovely, if slow moving, aria *. She is determined to punish her husband for deserting her, but she also wants him back. The coloratura at the end makes up for the otherwise slow movement. Rose, her transvestite maid, goes into some details about how Madeleine’s rich aunt left her millions of francs and the resources to get revenge on her man. She has offered her home as the site of a post-performance after party that evening, where she expects to see her husband, whom she plans to seduce, (although is that really seduction when you are already married to the person?). I guess she has a decade-long case of blue ovaries, having been wedded but certainly not bedded.

14, 20: Ah quel tourment!/Assis au pied The chorus shows up for the party *. Chapelou, now known as the famous St. Phar, attempts to sing a seductive couplet (more successful the second time around **, the clarinet and flute solos help provide colour, he also interpolates a high F-sharp at the end going down to a low G-sharp) to Madame de Latour, with whom he is immediately smitten but whom he doesn’t recognize as his own wife. This is followed by a brief chorus as the men go off to dinner.

27: Oui les choristes The middle number in the opera is an aria * for Biju (now Alcindor). A short number (all of three minutes) and oddly religious in tone. Chapelou decides to seduce Madame de Latour.

33: Grace au hazard The love duet, in which Chapelou attempts to seduce Madame de Latour with his tenorial amazingness ***. The entire number becomes an opportunity for nine minutes of vocal display.

47: Ma belle enfin Chapelou/St. Phar announces his marriage to Madame de Latour to the acclaim of all and a tenor couplet (what else?) ***. After the wedding ceremony, conducted by Biju, the chorus sings their blessings as Courcy rushes off to have Chapelou charged with bigamy, not realizing that Madeleine is already married to Chapelou.

ACT 3: Near the bridal chamber. (29 minutes)

0: The entr’acte features the clarinet *. Afterwards, Biju and Courcy bemoan that, at long last, the marriage of St. Phar and Madame de Latour has been consummated.

6: Du vrai bonheur A brief nuptial chorus as the wedding guests say goodnight to the couple *.

9: A la noblesse An aria for Chapelou, the least interesting of his three *. It is pretty, but mild compared to the other two as he awaits Madeleine to return from the bedchamber. The best thing about it is the high note at the very end.

16: Pendu, Pendu! A trio between St. Phar, Biju, and Boudin *. It races about, but without any semblance of a unified structure or melody.

20: A mon douleur The finale ** consists of two parts: 1) a duet between Madeleine and Chapelou in which she returns to her original peasant clothing and he recognizes her. She then asks him what he has been doing these last ten years and he protests his everlasting love for her. She is furious, at first. 2) Courcy arrives with the police to arrest Chapelou for bigamy, but (eventually) Madeleine reveals that she is Madame de Latour and that she and Madeleine (both wife of Chapelou) are one and the same woman. She takes Chapelou back, only with the condition that he abandons the theatre and they live out their lives as villagers. He accepts, theme song en ensemble, curtain.


Yes, it is light music, and the plot is equally light-weight, but that isn’t always a bad thing. The numbers are more of a mix than with Si j’etais roi, but Adam was also younger here. The best music, really the only catchy tunes, go to Chapelou’s tenor, although Madeleine is an equally difficult coloratura soprano role. The openings of each act are weak, in act three, the shorter by far, this can prove problematic (and the only part of the opera which might come off as exhausting since the rest of it won’t). However, the score does hold four great numbers: Chapelou’s famous aria and the trio in act one, as well as the love duet and finale to act two. There is also one good tenor aria in the second as well, even if it isn’t at the same level. As for the rest, well the first act is solidly good with a series of catchy tunes, and the opera itself ends well (restating material from act one), even if the rest of act three is rather dull and we are just sort of waiting around for the play out (the act three tenor aria simply isn’t to the same level as the rest of his music). That it takes Madeleine a full decade to get her husband back, as opposed to say, five or seven years later, is a little bit of a logic stretch. Hopefully the couple really loves each other since I doubt Chapelou will be happy with being a has-been, at the insistence of his independently wealthy wife. However, Madeleine herself is such a sweet person, really our sympathies are with her even as we pine over her tenor hubby’s high D, that we can not but hope the best for them, even if the ending is sort of what we moderns would nowadays term “Hollywood”. Ultimately it’s a showy, albeit feel good, beta, which any but the most grouchy will find enjoyable.

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