Cher Public

Regie to the Rescue! (A new competition)

La Cieca has always, against all odds, maintained that if there is one expression that best describes the mind of the average member of the cher public, that would be “plus vive que l’oiseau, plus prompte que l’éclair.” As such, it is only fitting that Mignon, by dear Ambroise Thomas, should inaugurate our latest brain-tickling quiz here at

The idea, my dears, is not one of La Cieca’s but rather the inspiration of Our Own Camille, who writes,

Boris and I were just now discussing the problem of the opera Mignon (which recording I just now purchased–Stevens-MET.) He was asking me what the problem was/is, to which I responded “I dunno, Regie to the rescue.”

He immediately said that this sounds like a new game for parterre…

And there you have it, cher public: your competition. In the comments section below, you are to devise a Regie scenario for Mignon, the more detail the better, with the goal of making the opera as lively and entertaining as the text and music will allow. The best attempt at fulfilling this tall order (as judged by La Cieca’s blue ribbon panel of experts) will win a coveted Gift Card.

All entries must be date-stamped prior to midnight on Tuesday, August 28, and the decision of your doyenne’s panel is, as always, utterly final.

  • isis00


    Act 1
    In the courtyard of an inn in a small town made up to resemble the German town of Aachen, on the planet Raxapraxacoliti, in the 51st century, the wandering android minstrel Lothario sings his melancholy songs of intergalactice battles and the Dido Humanoid Gypsies dance the mating ritual of the Spratacians, while the townspeople watch and drink. Jarno, the half Minotaur, half Dido Humanoid leader of the Gypsies threatens Mignon, a young human girl who is enslaved by Jarno and the Gypsies after being sold to pay her human father’s gambling debts, with a sonic wand when she refuses to dance with him, but Lothario, who feels a paternal protectiveness over Mignon, and Wilhelm Meister, a former Sontaran soldier turned pacifist, and university student, come to her aid by disarming Jarno’s sonic stick with a sonic energy disruptor. She thanks them kindly, and divides her bouquet of wild flowers, picked from the asteroid field of Beta 29, between them. Wilhelm and Laerte, an actor from the planet Krontep, have a drink of Isliprog wine together, sharing tales of their home planets and their childhoods there. Philine, a actress and Laerte’s omnisexual partner from Krontep, arrives, and she and Laerte leave, after he gives her his flowers from Mignon. Mignon tells Wilhelm she was taken by Gypsies as a baby when her father, who ran up gambling debts across five galaxies, was forced to offer his daughter as payment in order to not risk the Gypsies killing off the entire family. Her father disappeared after that, never to be heard from again. Wilhelm feels moved by her story, and decides to purchase Mignon’s freedom from Jarno by means of an old-fashioned Earth poker game. After much attempts by Jarno to turn the game his way, Wilhelm is victorious. Jarno leaves in anger, realizing that he has lost the only bright spot in his life due to his greed and cold feelings; he knows he is too late to change things. Lothario comes to say goodbye to Mignon by giving her a disk of a song that he wrote just for her. Lothario wants Mignon to travel with him, now that she is free, but she stays with Wilhelm, feeling bound to him by a strange force. Frédéric, an omnisexual councilman of the planet Bandril, and ardent fan of Philine, lovingly follows Philine inside, but although she is partnered by the laws of her people with Laerte, she also wants Wilhelm. The acting troupe is about to set off for Baron Kydykk’s castle in the Omega Quadrant, after receiving an invitation to perform there. The troupe boards a luxurious space shuttle sent by the baron that takes them to the castle. Mignon has inexplicably fallen deeply in love with Wilhelm, but upset to see the flowers that she gave him in the hands of Philine as she boards the shuttle. Wilhelm and Mignon board the shuttle as guests of the troupe, but Mignon sits away from the others, unsure of Wilhelm’s intentions towards her, all the while her eyes fixed on the wild flowers

    Act 2
    In Philine’s apartments in the baron’s castle, Philine is elated, taking full advantage of the luxury of her surroundings and charming the baron. Laerte is heard outside, praising Philine with poetry in the language of their people. Wilhelm and Mignon enter, and Mignon feigns exhaustion from the long journey and lies on a chaise. She pretends to sleep while Wilhelm and Philine sing a heated love duet (which Wilhelm means in fun but Philine is serious about). When the two leave to join the others and allow Mignon to sleep, Mignon tries on Philine’s costumes and make-up. She is jealous of Philine’s seemingly supernatural hold on all the men around them, and exits in sadness and frustration, leaving her own clothes on the chaise. Frédéric enters, hoping to catch Philine and drug her with a concotion that, when drunk, immediately induces an almost unbearable desire to have sex repeatedly until the effects wear off. When Wilhelm returns to awaken Mignon, he is confronted by Frédéric. Frédéric insults Wilhelm almost immediately, thinking that he is sleeping with Philine, and Wilhelm, noticing that Mignon’s clothes are strewn on the chaise and she is nowhere to be found, believes that Frédéric has seduced a willing Mignon, insults him in return. The two men begin to spar, violently throwing themselves around the room and causing disarray. All of the guests rush into the room, Mignon leading them, to break up their fight. Wilhelm, ashamed of his rash temper and actions, decides that he cannot stay with Mignon, thinking that she has fallen in love with Frédéric, and says goodbye to her. To hurt Mignon’s feelings, he leaves arm-in-arm with a jubilant Philine. Later, in the courtyard of the castle, Mignon is consumed by a jealous rage, singing a Gypsy cursing song, when she hears Lothario playing the harp. He stops her song, chiding her for allowing jealousy to create such vengeful emotions in her. She breaks down in tears at her loss of Wilhelm, and Laerte comforts the girl.
    Later that night, at the acting troupe’s performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Philine’s portrayal of Titania is applauded in the conservatory. During the raccous applause and accolades from the audience, Mignon, in jealousy, shouts that she wishes the building would catch fire. The entire room becomes deathly quiet, and Mignon, embarassed by her outburst, runs out. Lothario hears her and moves toward the conservatory. He uses his technology and sets a fire next to the conservatory, thinking to please Mignon with his talents of manipulating the flames with his android abilities, as he used to do for her when she was with the Gypsies. A young audience member passes his way, and Lothario is distracted by his beauty and blatant flirtation, leaving the fire unattended to grow out of control. The audience and actors adjoin outside for a reception, where the food and wine is flowing. After Mignon returns, Wilhelm, who feels pity for the girl and guilty for tormenting her with Philine, receives her so warmly that Philine, now jealous, sends her to fetch the wild flowers in the conservatory to get Wilhelm’s attention back to her. Someone screams about the fire rushing through the conservatory, and Wilhelm rushes to save Mignon from the fire that Lothario had set to please her, carrying her unconscious body out of the conservatory. In Mignon’s hands: the singed flowers that she had given to Wilhelm and Laerte, then given to Philine.

    Act 3
    Wilhelm has brought Mignon and Lothario to a castle on the planet of Thoros Alphan, which he considers buying when he discovers that the castle, currently for rent, is without an actual owner, due to the owner disappearing one day and never returning. There, the old caretaker, a former friar of the Order of the Headless Monks, watches over Mignon and prays for her recovery from an old prayer book found in the castle. Antonio, a young servant of the castle who has served the Friar since he retired from the Order, relates how the castle’s previous owner had gone mad after his wife had died of grief over the loss of their young daughter to a Gypsy invasion during the Time War of centuries past. Day by day, aided by the healing powers of the Friar and the devotion of Wilhelm, Mignon recovers well from her injuries. The Friar places the prayer book in Mignon’s hands to offer solace as she recovers. Wilhelm decides to buy the castle for Mignon because it has so speeded her recovery, but realizes that he would never have the money for it, so he appeals to Philine in a letter. Philine will only accede if Wilhelm returns to her, but Wilhelm feels compelled not to because of his growing feelings for Mignon. Eventually, Mignon awakens from her recovery, and immediately feels at home in the castle. She confesses to Wilhelm of her love for this strangely familiar place, not understanding why. He finally realizes that he loves her deeply and why he has so strongly resisted Philine’s attempts to win him back. Lothario re-enters and informs the astonished couple that he is the owner of the castle and that returning here has restored his sanity, and his memory of his life there. Mignon’s memory is triggered by his words, and, after reading the prayer that the Friar had been reciting to her in her sleep, Mignon realizes that the prayer is the same prayer read to her as a baby by her parents, and that she is Lothario’s daughter Sperata (her mother was human). The three embrace happily and the opera ends.

    • pasavant

      Funny without being vulgar.

      • isis00

        Thank you, pasavant! I save the vulgarities for my friends and for the stage ;-)

        • grimoaldo

          Do people realise that the expression “funny without being vulgar” was originated by W S Gilbert as an off the cuff devastating put down of Herbert Beerbohm Tree’s performance of Hamlet?

          • Camille

            I did not know that so therefore thank you for stating this attribution.

          • isis00

            Are you suggesting, grimoaldo, that pasavant’s intent was to put down my Mignon attempt?

          • grimoaldo

            No, no!
            As a great admirer of W S Gilbert, I just wanted to give him credit for thinking that up and applying it, not to something that was really intended to be funny, but to a dramatic performance by a Great Actor.
            The story is that having watched Tree’s Hamlet and writhed all the way through, Gilbert went backstage and told him “My dear fellow, I sincerely congratulate you. You were the funniest thing I have ever seen in my life without being in the least bit vulgar.”
            Your regie Mignon is quite brilliant.

          • isis00

            Haha, fair enough, my friend! I myself didn’t know that Gilbert came up with that phrase as a put-down. I learn something new and awesome on this site every day :-)

            Thank you for the compliment on my Mignon regie, it was fun to do, considering that the original plot is so…lacking, that I was easily able to fill it with sci-fi elements. That’s what happens when an opera singer/lover is also a Whovian!

  • Rowna

    isis00 wins the Rowna Sutin prize! No one else need apply. I couldn’t even follow the story!

    • isis00

      LOL! I figured that, since I could never follow the original story, might as well add some sci-fi elements to it and really make it interesting and mind-boggling!

    • Camille

      Rowna dear,
      Thank you so much for the Eileen Farrell link to the Herrmann Salammbo, the other day. We loved it! Sorry there was no high D, but it was very nice anyway.
      That woman was really UNBelievable for her enormous versatility and range. Once, I heard a reel tape recording from the fifties of her singing of the role of Desdemona in Rossini’s Otello. This, some time after the Wozzeck, I believe. What a great singer!

      • Rowna

        Camille -- some singers defy the odds. Did you ever see her interview with Charlie Rose -- you can find it on youtube. I heard her live in maybe 66, 67 for a recital. Than woman could SING. Her pitch and line were from heaven. I don’t know why she wasn’t more of a “first thought of” singer -- the Met should have mounted a lot of stuff for her. Yes -- the High D was missing -- we all look forward to those high notes -- bur really, is just one note. I have never seen totally personal notes here, but maybe this will be a first -- I am going to NYC this weekend and will see Sleepwalk With Me and be with my son and his girlfriend. This spring I am taking them to Faust -- will be her first opera. I had to take out a 2nd mortgage on our house to pay for the tickets. And I don’t like Rylea -- Mefistofele! And Popsy can’t do the finale with enough vocal heft. At least there will be Piotr and the chorus. I love the end of that opera -- yes -- I am very bourgeoisie.

        • Camille

          Oh don’t worry about Relyea and Poppy too much as by that time you may get the thrill of hearing TBA in either or both roles. Look at the domino effect already in motion with the Leonoras in Trovatore already.

          No, I did not know about the Charlie Rose interview so I’ll look that up. I once had the pleasure of speaking to her at the Met Gift Shop. It was at the end of the day and she was rather relaxed and informal. I had her sign our Tristan score, as I had heard her speak along with Birgit Nilsson, at the interval of Tristan und Isolde in ’99, and she very publicly bemoaned the fact she hadn’t had a chance to sing it at the Met, right with Birgit sitting there next to her. It was sad, and embarrassing, too.

          Anyway, a rare talent. I think she was not stuck up or high falutin’ enough for Mr. Bing and in those days he wanted mittel European glamour--we can ask our own Beloved Clita about that--he was there, god bless him. I am fairly. Edtain Eileen Farrell would have been HUGE (no jokes, guys!), these days as she was a terrific crossover artist, a real one and not a wannabe one.

          Oh and make sure you hve the kids listen to a couple arias first. It helps. Good luck and have fun!! Being bourgeois is okay. Don’t applogize to this motley crew!

          Best wishes--

          • Rowna

            Camille -- you are so funny -- yes I will tell them let’s hope we get to hear TBA! Except for Piotr, unless Kaufmann steps in for him again. I have a little playlist for them to hear some music -- so now I consider myself the Youtube Maven of Faust. Overall -- Freni was the best as Marguerite. vocally. Some very good Fausts were Gedda and Alagna (with whom I have a love/hate reltionship.) Lots of live performances are in videos. Re Farrell, I totally agree -- she didn’t have the glamor or the Eurpoean pedigree.

      • Clita del Toro

        I was at Farrell’s Met debut as Alceste. It was okay. I also saw her sing Medea (Cherubini)at Carnegie Hall and was kinda bored. Then, I heard Callas’ recording and loved the opera! Sorry.

        • Rowna

          Clita -- maybe she just needed some acting coaching. Today’s young singers are well schooled in the drama dept, and audiences expect both sides of a portrayal -- the vocal and the acting. Also, Medea was a great vehicle for Callas, but Farrell might have excited you more in Wagner. However, I am impressed you were there for her debut. Someone older than me in Pareterre! Hoooray!

  • Batty Masetto

    Finally a competition I can really sink my teeth into, and here am I, swamped with work!

    But I’m visualizing something involving a roving band of chickens playing erhus, a couple of earth movers, and Nadja Michael as Lothario.

    • Camille

      Nada can be the circus bear that is sometimes used in the first act. Or maybe that’s Battered Bride. Nevermind.

      Please do enter, Batty Boo !!

  • Camille

    O Cieca Divina!
    Speaking of attributions—--you could have taken this one on as your own, I do not seek GLOIRE IMMORTELLE—-I just wanted to help around with the housekeeping. Now I fear the Camille h8ters won’t participate in the fun, just because it was HER idea.

    Anyway, it wa actually Boris who thought it would be a fun new parterrian jousting tournament.

    • Cammie -- can’t help to comment but the idea of “Camille h8ters” is quite unbelievable. Keep it comin’.

      • Camille

        It is Camille as in the movie with Garbo, for ALL--excepting the originator of the nickname, the Grandee ExtrOrdinaire, Clita del Toro. He is the only person licensed to use the petname “Cammie”.

        Thank you all very much.


    • oedipe

      Please Xcuse my low-class curiosity, but who IS Boris?

      • Camille

        Mon amant d’une longue semaine, Sweetie!

        • oedipe

          Oops, Camille! (I promise I won’t tell anybody.)

  • In researching a bit about this opera, I stumbled on this video of Elena Cernei, of whom I know nothing. The voice is very interesting.

    • oedipe

      And since we’ve been talking about Saint-Saëns as well…An outstanding voice indeed.

    • Nerva Nelli

      One of Bing’s cheap-priced Slavonic semi-hotties, on the roster 1965-68. And not the best of them, either.

      2 Adriana Lecouvreur: Princess di Bouillon [Cernei, Elena]
      13 Aida: Amneris [Cernei, Elena]
      2 Carmen: Carmen [Cernei, Elena]
      1 Rigoletto: Maddalena [Cernei, Elena]
      3 Samson et Dalila: Dalila [Cernei, Elena]

      She took part in this Golden Age performance:

      Metropolitan Opera House
      April 9, 1966

      RIGOLETTO {448}

      Rigoletto……………Anselmo Colzani
      Gilda……………….Jeanette Scovotti
      Duke of Mantua……….Barry Morell, Act I
      Duke of Mantua……….John Alexander, Acts II, III
      Maddalena……………Elena Cernei
      Sparafucile………….Justino Diaz

      Conductor……………Francesco Molinari-Pradelli

      • J. G. Pastorkyna

        I always mix up Elena Cernei and Biserka Cvejic. Nerva, who was the best of the semi-hotties?

        • Nerva Nelli

          JGP- I would say Ruza Pospis/Pospinov/Baldani, who became quite a distinguished interpreter as her career progressed.

          • J. G. Pastorkyna

            Ah yes, a renowned Brangäne.

        • Clita del Toro

          We used to call her Berserka Kvetch.

      • oedipe

        Thank god, we are spared that kind of thing nowadays! (They no longer come cheap, that is.)

      • armerjacquino

        Nerva, with reference to the Bing era I was recently reading Dorothy Kirsten’s autobiography (picked it up cheap from the tiny secondhand section of the Met shop, and can recommend it as a sure-fire cure for insomnia) and was struck by one chapter which was IDENTICAL to a chapter in Steber’s much more entertaining memoir.

        Basically, both ladies felt that they were taken for granted by Bing, undervalued both because of their versatility and their nationality. And both were devastated when the new production of FANCIULLA went to Price.

        Is it true that Bing sidelined them? And did either of them have grounds to believe the FANCIULLA production should have been theirs? (I know Kirsten stepped in when Price crashed and burned).

        Another interesting detail is that Kirsten seems to subtly undermine Steber by claiming to have turned down all Steber’s most high-profile engagements- VANESSA, WOZZECK, ARABELLA… is there any truth in that? Were they particular rivals, outside Robert Merrill’s imagination?

        Sorry, that’s about a million questions. Answer any which interest you!

        • Nerva Nelli

          Armer. I think Kirsten for all her admirable longevity and pop song finesse was probably a fairly narrow, vain and conventional (also conservative) person.

          It seems to have been true that Bing preferred bringing in “exotic” types like Delia Rigal, not to mention a whole raft of Viennese second-raters (Alois Pernerstorfer for Sparafucile in a 1951 NP, when they had Jerome Hines and others on the roster?) rather than using the “all-American” singers Johnson had used in the 40s. Resnik, Peerce and Varnay also suffered from this prejudice, which affected salaries as well as casting. Tucker, Stevens, Warren, Merrill and Peters were the main exceptions, maybe later on Tozzi.

          When I snoozed through that book I assumed that Kirsten meant that Bing had offered her those three titles not as NPs but for revivals-- the WOZZECK Maries that Helga Pilarczyk and Brenda Lewis sang when the announced Stich-Randall (!!!; …ya know…) had what published accounts claimed was a fall in her Viennese apartment) the Vanessa that Mary Costa sang in 1965. Doesn’t she also mention him offering DON CARLO and QUEEN OF SPADES (which she had tried out in San Fran, and which went in 1965 to the underpowered Stratas and Weathers). In re ARABELLA, surely in 1955 Steber was the obvious choice; later he had della Casa. No one else sang the role at the met until Dame Kiwi in the 80s. Perhaps Bing was having trouble getting della Casa back for the 1965 revival and spoke to Kirsten about it?

          Steber had triumphed in Florence and Chicago with Minnie but surely by 1958, let alone 1961, she must have realized through the alcoholic haze that she had cooked her own goose as far as Bing was concerned.

          • rapt

            I recall reading an interview where Della Casa said she was offered the new production of Arabella, but didn’t want to do it because it was in English (though she apparently changed her mind later). It’s interesting that Kirsten (or her ghost writer?) laid claim to versatility, since to me her repertoire (which, based on recordings, I think she performed superbly) seemed quite limited--Puccini, a few French roles, Fiora. For me (to make my third unrelated point) these lists of then-I-was-offered roles are always hard to interpret. They’re usually presented (not surprisingly) solely from the perspective of the performer, as proof of pointed insult (how dare he offer that to me?) or adoration (of course, I would have been the greatest x or y); but sometimes they seem to tell more about the opera house’s desperation (Licia Albanese, in the 60s, offered Fanciulla?).

          • armerjacquino

            Thanks so much, both, for answering these questions and more.

            It’s interesting about Kirsten- when I heard her ‘Laggiu nel Soledad’ on YouTube and then her Butterfly on Met Player I thought ‘where has this woman been all my life?’ but further exposure has made me find the voice less interesting, not more (good actor, though, if the ‘Che fai… nulla… scrivevi’ and letter reading sections of the TRAVIATA are anything to go by) and I too was slightly turned off by the prissy character she reveals in her book.

            Give me the warm, messy, passionate, generous Steber any day.

          • Clita del Toro

            I saw both Steber (Steber was my first) and Della Casa in Arabella. Although I adore Steber, she did not impress me in the role as Della Casa did. I think both performances were in english.

          • Camille

            Since reading this my mind has been reeling in horror at the thought of Kirsten as the Wozzeck Marie.

            Shudder. What could she have been thinking? Or drinking, for that matter?

            What is the title of that autobio, if you don’t mind sharing?

          • “A Time to Sing”

          • Camille

            Divina Cieca! La ringrazio!

            How could I ever missed THIS???!!! O gioia!

  • Nerva Nelli

    Regie MIGNON?

    Projected on the scrim:

    We are watching a rehearsal. Mignon (Elina Garanca) wears a maid’s uniform; during the overture she is raped by Jarno (Keith Miller), styled as Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Left blinded, the ‘character’ uses a walking stick; when not being ‘Mignon’, the ‘actress’ uses her cell phone to mime furious phone calls to her agent/lover (Rob Besserer, seen in silhouette upstage in a control booth), eventually swallowing pills and imagining the third act as a dying dream.

    Philine (Danielle de Niese) enters in expensive warm-up wear, executing hip hop moves while listening to her I-Pod. WhatEVER…

    The non-stop Pilates routines of Wilhelm (Pavel Breslik, completely nude) are being filmed with a video monitor by Frédéric (Kate Lindsey, in a top hat and S & M gear).

    Lothario (Erwin Schrott) is pushed in in a wheelchair wearing Foster Grants, yet nude and glistening with oil save for tiny G string. Throughout the evening he appears to be orally serviced by Laerte (Ian Bostridge), who wears a black push-up bra on top of orange prison garb.

    A figure representing Father Time (Luigi Roni) stalks back and forth upstage throughout, occasionally lighting a match or using a Nokia Lumia to put ironic quotes around elements of the projected surtitles.

    The critics fail to understand the forward-looking vision the production represents until the NY TIMES praises lavishly a documentary on the project helmed by one of the Intendant’s children.

    • manou

      Nerva -- you are supposed to invent a Regie Mignon, not describe a real production.

  • oedipe

    A forward looking, improved Mignon:

    It takes place at the end of the 20th century in the US. The characters’ names will be modified accordingly:

    Sweetie, alias Mignon; contralto/countertenor
    Filene, alias Philine; soprano,
    Bill, alias Wilhelm; tenor,
    Loth, alias Lothario; baritone,
    Fred, alias Frédéric; mezzo,
    Lert (or something), alias Laërte; tenor,
    Jarno?, alias Jarno, bass.

    The first act takes place in the downtown of a big city, in front of a building of abandoned warehouses. There is an outdoor cafe on the corner. The street level of the building is squatted by a punk collective. A musical theater company -talented but penniless- uses the second level for rehearsals (and more).

    Loth, a former entertainment industry executive who lost his way and became a bum, sings about his lost son and wasted life. (His wife, who had gotten heavily into drugs, barely noticed when their son disappeared from their home. She later died of an overdose. The boy ended up a vagabond and was picked up by punks.)

    Some members of the punk collective come out of the building and do some song-and-dance in order to earn a few bucks from the people seated at the cafe tables. But Jarno, the “boss” of the collective, knows that their best bet is the hip-hop act of the young, androgynous-looking Sweetie. But Sweetie is in no mood to dance and gets into an argument with Jarno, who threatens him. Bill, a young executive of a powerful internet company, who has been seated in the cafe having a cup of coffee, comes to the boy’s rescue. Everybody, including the artists who have been watching the scene from their second floor rehearsal space, is very impressed with the young executive’s courage.

    Sweetie describes the scarce recollections he has of his family and early childhood, and Bill concludes that it must have been in Hollywood. Obviously attracted to Sweetie but not knowing how to deal with the situation, Bill gives some money to the punks, so that they let go of the boy. When Loth offers to take him to an aunt’s place, Sweetie -who is comfortable with Loth, but has a crush on Bill- manipulates the situation in order to remain with both.

    In the remainder of the act, we get to meet the musical theater artists Filene and Lert, and the aspiring (female) artist Fred. Everybody is attracted to the sexy Filene, and Filene flirts with everybody, not only with Bill, but also with Lert and Fred. Actually, Bill has come to this place in order to offer the artists a contract for a modern production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, to be filmed in the studios of Baron Rosenberg, who is his boss and Fred’s father. The contract is signed and Bill, the thrilled artists, Sweetie, Loth and Fred head on to California.

    In the second act, which takes place in Baron Rosenberg’s studios, the artists interpret a Broadway-style version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Bill, who is rather confused about his own sexuality, gets involved with Filene. Sweetie and Fred, who need instant gratification and can’t take being rejected (by Bill in Sweetie’s case, by Filene in Fred’s case), have fits of jealousy and get into a fight with each other. But Loth is barely more in control of himself than Sweetie and Fred: when Sweetie says he is depressed and feels like setting the whole place on fire, Loth (still drug-addicted) puts the arson into practice, even at the risk of trapping Sweetie behind.

    Bill manages to rescue Sweetie from the flames, a metaphor of his managing to control the flames of his conflicted sexuality.

    The last act takes place in a Hollywood mansion that is for sale, and that Sweetie slowly comes to recognize as his former childhood home. Loth reappears dressed like any respectable businessman, no longer a bum, and he recognizes Sweetie as his long-lost son, Mignon (the mother, who was French, used to say to the baby: “T’es pas mignon, toi?”) . What’s more, Bill has used some stock market gains from the successful introduction of an internet subsidiary, in order to buy back the mansion that was once Loth’s. As Sweetie confesses his love, Bill is happy as he feels he has solved his inner conflicts and he can forget about Filene. When she and the rest of her troupe come to the door of the mansion, they are left out in the cold…

    The opera ends with the triumph of love, success in life, and success in business.

    • Camille

      I like your setting, oedipe! Very au courant.

      Then Filene goes off to start her own business--“Filene’s Basement” in NYC, a big success for years, even Netrebko bought her cashmere sweaters there, and said so, right in the Grey Lady. Misfortune due to the financial recession forced Filene’s to close their doors.

      Filene is now back on Rivington Street working part time in an adult novelties store and the rest of the time on her act. She is abandoning the coloratura flights of “Je suis Titania” to do a version en français of “Put a Ring on It”.
      Hey, it worked for Beyoncé, dinnit?

      • oedipe


        I have an idea! Based on the “buzz” of this new Mignon, we should plan ahead: how about the two of us collaborating on the sequel, Mignon 2, music by Beyoncé, Michel Legrand, and TBA?

        • Camille

          Cher monsieur oedipe,

          It would make me only to happy to contribute in whatever small way I may.

          Lettuce hope that the composers are TBA and M. LeGrand as Miss Knowles’ talents as songwriter are not equal to those as dancer -- entertainer- extraordinaire plus gorgeous girl capable of balancing herself on six inch stilettos!

          This could be the start of something big.

    • isis00

      Well done, oedip! If I lose on the prize, I hope it’s to you :-)

  • rysanekfreak

    “Mignon Gets Regie-d at the Met”

    Mignon -- Joyce DiDonato
    Philine -- Diana Damrau
    Wilhelm -- Jonas Kaufmann
    Lothario -- John Reylea
    Frederick -- Philippe Jaroussky (debut)
    Laerte -- Eric Cutler

    Conductor -- Marco Armiliato

    Production Designed and Directed by Reggie Poubelle

    During the overture, the curtains part to reveal an audience staring at a closed curtain. And then that curtain opens to reveal another audience staring at another curtain. And then that curtain opens to reveal another audience staring at another curtain, etc. This continues until even the slowest person in the audience realizes we are going to see a show-within-a-show-within-a-show, etc.

    One person in the balcony recognizes the effect from a Kenneth Anger short and wonders hopefully if this is going to be a Hollywood Babylon version of Mignon.

    Still during the overture, the main characters will come out of darkness to present themselves. Mignon is Judy Garland as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Philine is Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s/Charade glamorous mode. Wilhelm will be John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. Lothario is Gandalf. Frederick is Edward the Vampire from the Twilight movies. Laerte is Jack from Titanic.

    And as the lights come up, we realize that all of the characters have ropes attached to their arms and they are really just marionettes being manipulated by masked figures above them. The various onstage audiences applaud, although the real audience does not.

    Because the director knows how boring the plot and the music are, at least 90 minutes have been cut because “nobody will know the difference.” During the heavily-butchered opening scenes, we see groups of supers attired in costumes left over from better operas—Faust, Carmen, Aida.

    Once we finally come to the “break thy chains” moment, Mignon gets her marionette strings cut and she can now run around freely. But is she really in control of things now? Apparently not. During “Connais-tu le pays,” we get a slideshow of various Italian landscapes. An attempt to have ushers spray orange mist around the auditorium is not very effective. People are sneezing and complaining.

    During the ensuing Swallow Duet, ballet kids whirl around in bird costumes. The important bouquet turns out to be a long black hearse with a huge spray of red roses on top. Rudolf Valentino is loaded into the hearse. All of the characters follow the hearse offstage.

    There is no intermission at this point.

    Act Two gets underway swiftly with much of the music cut. Members of the audience will be complaining that they were expecting an intermission. We immediately get to the Styrienne, which Mignon sings while playing with her fake Toto in the basket. Toto turns out to have a head that screws off and Mignon starts swallowing pills that were contained inside the stuffed animal. She staggers into Philine’s closet to steal an outfit.

    Frederick enters and sings his little aria, but no one remembers who he is and everyone gets confused. When Mignon eventually emerges from Philine’s closet, she is dressed in the Judy Garland black pantsuit and everyone applauds. Wilhelm’s big aria is staged as a dream in which Judy/Mignon is eating pills by the handful in Philine’s dressing room.

    Much of the following music is cut so that we can get to Philine’s showstopping “Je suis Titiana,” during which she poses in her full Audrey Hepburn glory with piled up hair and that long cigarette holder. A wild audience demonstration greats the rendition of this showpiece, which some in the audience have actually heard before and recognize. In less-enlightened times, she would get to encore the aria, but not tonight.

    Instead of the called-for fire, the act ends with the rose-covered hearse trying to run down Judy/Mignon, who is pulled out of the way and carried to safety by Wilhelm. The hearse is not for Judy/Mignon, though. It’s for Marilyn Monroe, who gets carried onstage on a stretcher and placed in the hearse.

    We finally get our intermission. One of the onstage audience members shouts out at us “Thank God! I’ve needed to take a dump for an hour!!” Some people will laugh and applaud; others will ask their partners, “What’s going on?”

    (La Cieca will soon have a contest for which parterre readers will be asked to submit their suggestions for what this loud super really should have shouted. Betsy Bobolink will, of course, win with one of her delicious puns-within-a-pun-within-a-pun.)

    Lots of audience members (onstage and in our audience) have left during the intermission, so there are now empty seats, which the poor in the upper balconies are trying to poach. A spotlight shows us that Lois the Standee is sound asleep in one of the onstage boxes. “Is it the real Lois or is it a super who is costumed as Lois?” How Inside it’s all become!

    (Only about ten people in our audience get the joke and they already knew about it from the dress rehearsal and the subsequent parterre box thread, in which the most sensational comment will be that James Levine was apparently “in the hearse during the re-hearse-al.” That commenter will be placed on moderation.)

    Someone else will mention that there was an old man jumping to his death during the intermission (in a nod to the Macbeth broadcast), but this bit of stage business was cut after the dress rehearsal because the super who jumped was left paralyzed from the waist down.

    The Act Three opening chorus has been cut, so we get right to Wilhelm’s next little aria. There is another prolonged roaring ovation, although one ancient queen will lament that this was small beer compared to the Georges Thill recording.

    The ensuing love duet shows that Judy/Mignon is going through withdrawal and must be fed more pills, bigger pills. The hearse arrives onstage. Philine as Audrey appears and coloraturas away for a little bit.

    Since no one really knows the plot, Mignon does not get to survive during the big final trio. She dies of a prescription pill overdose. Lotario and Wilhelm load her into the hearse. Philine-as-Audrey rushes back out and climbs onto the hood, where she poses triumphantly as the world’s most glamorous hood ornament.

    The audience doesn’t know whether to applaud as the various curtains fall. Some of them (Japanese tourists) applaud politely, while most of the audience will boo loudly. Those listening on Sirius hear Will shouting excitedly about how everyone loves the production and no one is expressing any negativity whatsoever. Margaret twice refers to Mignon as Manon during the short-lived curtain calls.

    Within hours, a long thread on Opera-L devoted once again to “Betty Blackhead Was a Nazi Whore” is high-jacked by someone complaining that the production didn’t look at all like the empty but cherishable purple-with-pink-silk-lining Mignon box of chocolates from 1907 that he once found in his great-grandmother’s attic.

    • Quanto Painy Fakor

      Regie Poubelle! Bravo. Can’t wait to use that on some of them in person.

  • Clita del Toro

    Rysanek, LOL Fabulous! Brava

    I love the last paragraph:
    Within hours, a long thread on Opera-L devoted once again to “Betty Blackhead Was a Nazi Whore” is high-jacked by someone complaining that the production didn’t look at all like the empty but cherishable purple-with-pink-silk-lining Mignon box of chocolates from 1907 that he once found in his great-grandmother’s attic.

    So true.

    • Camille

      Design by Reggie Poubelle--LMAO & thank you for that one! Great casting, as well. Just could we have NézetSequins as the conductor, please.

  • ianw2

    I have to admit I have very little time for Thomas and giggled when I saw the quote from Chabrier (who I love) on wiki:

    There is good music, there is bad music, and then there is Ambroise Thomas

    He was also Massenet’s teacher apparently. Enough said there. But, I do love a challenge!

    The entire opera takes place in a white cube, with the audience forming the fourth wall. Doors are seamless in the set, which the only decor being the cube’s colour transformations as indicated per act. I shall be using the original happy ending, for reasons which shall become clear.

    Act I
    The cube is lime green. All the performers on stage are in citrus coloured costumes vaguely reminiscent of 1866 Prussian court attire. The villagers (joined by all the soloists who at this point are indistinguishable from the chorus) form a horizontal phalanx along the front of the stage. Lothario moves amongst them doing his thing. Mignon emerges and opens her costume to reveal the Italian tricolor. Jarno does his big bad schtick with the stick (there is no stick). Mignon does not have flowers, but instead takes the hands of Wilhelm and Lothario and places them under her bodice. They reveal under their costumes the flags of the Austrian and Prussian empires. In the background, Jarno begins to strip off his stage make-up, his wig, and tears at his costume. Philine, heavily made up in an overwhelming wig and hoop skirts, makes her appearance. She encourages Wilhelm to get under her skirts. They move off. Jarno, meanwhile, has been harnessed and ascends into the flies as the stage green fades into darkness.

    Act II
    The cube is now aubergine. Philine hoop skirts are doubled, filling the stage, and Philine herself seems throned high upon them. Laerte emerges from them as Courbet’s L’origine du monde flashes across the upstage wall of the cube in flickering bursts. Mignon and Wilhelm emerge from the skirts. A spotlight focuses on Mignon as she rolls around in the voluminous skirt fabric. She scuttles under the skirt as Frederic and Wilhelm argue. As Wilhelm says goodbye to Mignon he climbs Philine’s skirts to draw himself level with her body, pressing himself against her breast as lighting changes the skirt to the colours of the Austrian Empire’s flag. The flag fades, and Frederic is smothered by the skirts as the stage fades into darkness.

    Now the cube is silvery-gray. Giant harp strings descend from the flies to the pit. Mignon expresses her rage as she shimmies down the red C-string. Lothario enters, dressed as Berlusconi. Philine crosses the stage on wires, in a coronet. Mignon goes to the ‘conservatory’, followed by Lothario. Giant white ferns begin to strangle the harp strings. Philine does her nut, and the ferns begin to flower (the flowers, need you ask, are hibiscus but rendered in black). Wilhelm rescues Mignon from the now inferno-gripped ‘conservatory’. The silvery-gray starts to become a blinding white. The hibiscus flowers explode in a puff of pink smoke.

    Act III
    If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll now understand why the cube is a soft pulsing red. The servant, made up to look like a sage Disney animal sidekick, does his prayer. Mignon, holding a fan of paint swatches and an Architectural Digest, tells all about her amazing recovery in this familiar place. The pulsing of the light quickens (epileptics beware!). As everything begins to resolve, the chorus return dressed as cupids playing harps. A sea of rose petals starts to descend, while chains of crepe paper hearts begin to stretch across the stage, entangling all upon it. A chubby toddler runs across the stage to place a wedding veil upon Mignon’s head. Philine stands upstage, slowly removing her make up with a cotton wipe. She takes off her wig. Curtain.

    • Camille

      Ian--i just don’t know about ‘L’origine du monde’ on stage of the MET. Most of the audience have forgotten they ever had sex and probably would not recognise “it” when they saw It.

      Maybe at BAM?

    • messa di voce

      “Philine stands upstage, slowly removing her make up with a cotton wipe. She takes off her wig”

      You’re obviously planning on casting Gruberova when Munich puts on this staging 10 years from now?

  • Buster

    Don’t know the opera well enough to try, Camille, but I love the suggestions that were posted thus far a lot. Great idea!

    I am sure I only have this aria from it, by Elisabeth Grümmer:

    The early Titania recording by Hélène Cals is interesting too: