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"Madame Sans-Gens" on the Lyric Stage

This week we have selections from Giordano's Madame Sans-Gens. In 1999, near the end of her active singing career, Mirella Freni recorded this live performance of Giordano's version of Victorien Sardou's comedy drama. In 1792 the very lovable Caterina, Madame Sans-Gens - Madame Carefree - is a Parisian laundress  who is happy, carefree, engaged to be married, completely at ease.  One of her customers is a young officer named Napoleon Bonaparte.

Jump to 1811. Her now husband is a war hero and a Duke, courtesy of Napoleon, which means she is a Duchess. But she still has the same carefree attitude that does not play as well at Court as it did in her laundry. Urged by his sisters, Napoleon decides she must divorce the Duke and leave the court - he does not at first remember that they once knew each other. She doesn't have to leave, of course, and the opera ends happily. 

Based on Sardou's play, Madame Sans-Gene premiered in 1915 at the Metropolitan in New York.  Arturo Toscanini conducted a cast that included Geraldine Farrar, Giovanni Martinelli and Pasquale Amato. Umberto Giordano wrote it 19 years after Andrea Chenier, his best known work. Victor Sardou was a significant resource for opera composers - Giordano also used his play Fedora for an opera, and Puccini famously adapted Sardou's Tosca for his opera. The Sardou version of Madame Sans-Gene has been made into numerous movies including one with Sophia Loren in 1961, and a silent version with Gloria Swanson in 1924. You can watch many of these on the internet, including both of those versions.

Mike Harrah is host of The Lyric Stage, which airs Sundays at 8 pm.