Geneviève de Brabant

Geneviève de Brabant is an opéra bouffe, or operetta, by Jacques Offenbach, first performed in Paris in 1859. The plot is based on the medieval legend of Genevieve of Brabant.

For the 1867 version a comic duet for bass and baritone in the character of two gendarmes was added to Act 2: "Couplets des deux hommes d'armes". In English-speaking countries it is widely known as the "Gendarmes' Duet" or the "bold gendarmes", from H. B. Farnie's English adaptation. As well as being a popular performance-piece, it formed the basis for the U.S. "Marines' Hymn".

Performance history

The two-act French libretto was written by Louis-Adolphe Jaime and Etienne Tréfeu, and the opera was first staged at the Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens, Paris on 19 November 1859. A new three-act version (in which the Gendarmes' Duet first appeared), revised by Hector-Jonathan Crémieux, was first given at the Théâtre des Menus-Plaisirs, Paris, on 26 December 1867. An expanded five-act version was devised for a production at the Théâtre de la Gaîté on 25 February 1875. A Paris revival in 1908 at the Théâtre des Variétés with Geneviève Vix in the title role ran for 58 nights.[1]

Geneviève de Brabant was first performed in Vienna (Die schöne Magellone) and Berlin in 1861 and Brussels and Madrid in 1869.[2]

The New York premiere was on 22 October 1868, and Farnie's version was first seen in London at the Philharmonic Theatre in Islington, produced by and starring Emily Soldene as Drogan, with Selina Dolaro in the title role, on 11 November 1871. The production ran for a year and a half,[3] and revivals took place over the following decade with Soldene repeating her Drogan.[1]


Role Voice type Premiere Cast,
19 November 1859,
(Conductor: Jacques Offenbach)[4][5]
Revised version in three acts
Première Cast
26 December 1867
(Conductor: Jacques Offenbach)[4][6]
Revised version in
five acts
Première Cast
25 February 1875
(Conductor: Jacques Offenbach)[7][8]
Sifroid (1859) / Sifroy (1867, 1875) Duke of Curaçao, husband of Geneviève tenor Léonce Gourdon Habay
Golo baritone Désiré Daniel Bac Christian
Vanderprout, bourgmeister tenor - Le Riche Grivot
Charles Martel, King of France bass Guyot Le Sage Legrenay
Almanzor Duvernoy - -
Le jeune Arthur Bonnet - -
Pitou, sergeant bass - Émile Gabel Émile Gabel
Grabuge, his subordinate bass - Paul Ginet Scipion
Narcisse, poet tenor Desmonts Lignel Montaubry
Premier savant Jean-Paul - -
Deuxième savant Tautin - -
Péterpip - Leroy Jean-Paul
Saladin - Destroges -
Don Quichotte - Perron -
Renaud de Montauban - Gustave -
L'ermite du Ravin - Deschamps Thérésa
Stockfish - - Colleuille
Raoul - - Meyronnet
Don Juan - - Gaspard
Almaviva - - Henry
Hercule - - Chevalier
Othello - - Gally
Barbe-Bleue - - Victor
Roméo - - Mallet
Hector - - Alexandre fils
Hogier - - Paulin
Arnold - - Barsagol
Mathieu Laensberg soprano Lise Tautin - -
Gratioso (1859) /

Drogan (1867, 1875)

soprano Zulma Bouffar Denise Matz-Ferrare
Le chevalier noir - -
Isoline (1859, 1867) /

Biscotte (1875)

soprano Vallière Thérésa
La bohémienne soprano - -
Geneviève soprano Mareshal Baudier Berthe Perret
Églantine (1859) / Brigitte (1867, 1875) Geneviève's confidant Chabert De Brigny-Varney Angèle
Ugolin - -
Lahire Marie Cico - (M.) Henry
Clé de sol - -
Blondette Rose-Deschamps - -
Lancelot Léone - Jules Vizentini
Irma Naldy - -
Silvia Lasserre - -
Edwige Taffanel - -
Premier page Kid - -
Deuxième page Jeanne - -
Gilda Fassio - -
Marthe Lécuyer - -
Christine - Collas E. Gilbert
Barberine - -
Gudule - Gourdon Maury
Grudelinde - -
Faroline - Colombe Julia H.
Irénée - -
Houblonne - Rose Bruyère Durieu
Griselis - -
Dorothée - Louisa Baudu
Yolande - Yriart
Gretchen, Rodogune - A. Rolland -
Rosemonde - Guyas -
Madame Armide - Jacobus Thérésa
Bradamante - Antoinette -
Dulcinée - Lalouvière -
Bibiane - - Castello
Fideline - - Davenay
Margotte - - Godin
Charlotte - - Albouy
Maguelonne - - Gobert
Ursule - - Vernet
Régine - - Moralès
Nanny - - Capet
Agathe - - Roques
Chorus: Gentlemen, Knights, Councillors, Men and Women, Pages, Drummers, Kitchen boys, Musicians, Boatsmen, Bacchantes, etc.

Synopsis (1867)

Act 1

Place: Curaçao and in Brabant
Time: Around AD730

At evening in the main square, the burgomaster Van der Prout announces the imminent return from a pilgrimage to the monastery of Mount Poupard of Duke Sifroid’s party. The Duke, married to the beautiful Geneviève of Brabant, has fallen under a curse which prevents them from having any children. To find a cure, a competition is organized and is won by Drogan, a young baker, offering a magic pie. Secretly in love with Geneviève, Drogan asks for his reward to be made the page of Geneviève. Upon his return, the Duke tastes the magic pie, and feels good (Couplets de la poule).

In Geneviève’s apartments, Drogan implores her to allow him to accept him as her page, and confesses that it is he who has been singing beneath her window each night. He leaves as the Duke joins Geneviève, but after an interruption announcing the imminent arrival of Charles Martel, the effects of the pie on the Duke begin, in the form of a terrible bout of indigestion. As the Duke tries to assuage his digestion with a cup of tea, his counsellor Golo and his poet Narcisse arrive to carry out a plot to seize the crown. Golo and Narcisse tell him that Geneviève and Drogan have been witnessed in an embrace: the Duchess and the page must be put to death. But then Charles Martel demands entry to the palace (Boléro), asking Sifroid and his knights to catch the 8.05 train and join his crusade to Palestine. Sifroid condemns Geneviève, then sets off with his soldiers, by the northern railway.

Act 2

Grabuge and Pitou as men-at-arms, Théâtre des Menus-Plaisirs, 1868 (Draner)

With the help of her servant Brigitte Geneviève has escaped, along with Drogan, and they find themselves seven months later in a forest. As two men-at-arms approach they hide. The Gascon and Flemish men-at-arms tell how they have been tasked by Golo to kill a noble lady. Golo and Van der Prout come on the scene and after despatching the men-at-arms to hunt down Geneviève (Golo having put about the story that Sifroid has been killed in the crusades) he calls up the hermit of the ravine.

Drogan appears disguised as the statue of the hermit, and warns the men to abandon their pursuit as Sifroid is at the Château d'Asnières with Charles Martel. Even though he was married many years before, Golo threatens Geneviève with marriage. The statue of the hermit comes to life (Drogan) and sends the men-at-arms packing. Geneviève decides to feign death, Drogan takes a lock of her hair, and rushes off to reach the Duke.

Meanwhile, Charles Martel and Sifroid have ended their trip at the Château d'Asnières, where they make merry. Sifroid is taken with a masked lady, Isoline, who explains how her husband left her. Drogan arrives and announces the death of Geneviève. Sifroid decides to set off again with his retinue back to Curaçao to meet Golo – who, Isoline reveals, is the husband who abandoned her.

Act 3

Geneviève and Brigitte are still in the forest with only a young hind for company. Drogan returns with four huntsmen, looking for Golo. Passing by on the way back from their 'crusade', Sifroid and Martel are stopped by the men-at-arms, but Geneviève recognises and vouches for her husband’s identity. Van der Prout swaps sides again and tells Sifroid that the treacherous Golo is planning to be crowned at a quarter to three. All continue back to Curaçao.

At the appointed hour Golo claims the crown, but he is denounced by Drogan and Sifroid has his crown restored. Isoline promises to punish her errant husband, and all ends well.


These include a radio broadcast from 1956 reissued on INA Mémoire vive featuring Denise Duval, Deva Dassy, Michel Hamel, Jean Giraudeau, Robert Massard and André Balbon, and one from 1970 issued on Bourg with Annick Simon, Monique Stiot, Bernard Plantey and Jean-Christophe Benoît among the cast.


  1. 1 2 Gänzl K. The Encyclopaedia of the Musical Theatre. Blackwell, Oxford, 1994.
  2. Loewenberg A. Annals of Opera. London, John Calder, 1978.
  3. Sherson, Erroll. London's lost theatres of the nineteenth century, p. 263 Ayer Publishing, 1925 ISBN 0-405-08969-4
  4. 1 2 Yon, Jean-Claude. Jacques Offenbach. Editions Gallimard, Paris, 2000.
  5. Geneviève de Brabant, Au Ménestrel - Heugel, 1859
  6. Geneviève de Brabant, Calmann Lévy, 1882
  7. Noel E and Stoullig E. Les Annales du Théâtre et de la Musique, 1ere édition, 1875. G Charpentier et Cie, Paris, 1876.
  8. Geneviève de Brabant, Michel Lévy Frères
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