Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Old Postcard Wednesday—Mignon


Mignon, the young gypsy girl, is the central character of an “opera comique” written by Ambroise Thomas, and based on a novel by Goethe. The romantic opera was first performed  in the mid 19th century. Mignon is usually depicted as a bare footed gypsy girl, playing a mandolin. These postcards were very popular at the start of the 20th century in many countries.
      [Source: Clifton Curios Postcards]

I fell in love with some Mignon postcards at a vintage postcard seller's online shop and bought two without knowing anything about their background. Was Mignon the name of the brilliant photographer, I wondered? It is fun for me to discover more about postcards once they are in my possession, and learning about the Mignon back story was no exception. My husband and I have attended numerous operas given by Portland Opera over the past 17 years — I adore opera — but if Mignon has been one of their performances it is one that we unfortunately missed.  However, once I went to youtube and began playing some videos from the opera I immediately recognized a few as pieces I have enjoyed listening to on my favorite radio station, (broadcast from Portland, Oregon and streaming worldwide for your enjoyment!)

Apart from the opera itself, as horses will be among the olympians competing in London in the next week I thought this was a good time to show this postcard!

Below is more about Mignon. I am extracting portions from a good article at Wikipedia. Click here to read the full piece and to see photos:
Mignon is an opéra comique (or opera in its second version) in three acts by Ambroise Thomas. The original French libretto was by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré, based on Goethe's novel Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. The Italian version was translated by Giuseppe Zaffira. The opera is mentioned in James Joyce's The Dead, (Dubliners). Thomas's goddaughter Mignon Nevada was named after the main character.
    Time: End of the 18th century.
    Place: Germany and Italy. 
Act 1
In the courtyard of an inn in a small German town, the wandering minstrel Lothario sings and the Gypsies dance while the townspeople watch and drink. Jarno threatens Mignon with a stick when she refuses to dance, but Lothario and Wilhelm Meister come to her aid. She thanks them and divides her bouquet of wild flowers between them. Wilhelm and Laerte have a drink together. Philine and Laerte leave, after he gives her his flowers from Mignon. Mignon tells Wilhelm she was captured by Gypsies as a child. Wilhelm decides to purchase Mignon’s freedom. Lothario comes to say goodbye to Mignon. Lothario wants Mignon to travel with him, but she stays with Wilhelm. Frédéric lovingly follows Philine in, but she also wants Wilhelm. The acting troupe is about to set off for a baron's castle after receiving an invitation to perform there. Mignon is deeply in love with Wilhelm, but upset to see the flowers that she gave him in the hands of Philine.

Act 2

In Philine’s room in the baron's castle, Philine is elated, living in the luxury and charming the baron. Laerte is heard outside, praising Philine. Wilhelm and Mignon enter. She pretends to sleep while Wilhelm and Philine sing. When the couple leave, Mignon tries on Philine’s costumes and make-up. She is jealous and exits. Frédéric enters. When Wilhelm returns for Mignon he is confronted by Frédéric. Mignon rushes in to break up their impending fight. Wilhelm decides that he cannot stay with Mignon and says goodbye to her. He leaves arm-in-arm with a jubilant Philine. Later, in the courtyard of the castle, Mignon is consumed by a jealous rage, when she hears Lothario playing the harp. He comforts the girl. Philine's portrayal of Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream is applauded in the conservatory. Mignon, in jealously, shouts that she wishes the building would catch fire and runs out. Lothario hears her and moves toward the conservatory. After Mignon returns, Wilhelm receives her so warmly that Philine, now jealous, sends her to fetch the wild flowers in the conservatory. Wilhelm rushes to save Mignon from the fire that Lothario had set to please her, carrying her unconscious body out of the conservatory with the singed flowers still in her hand.

Act 3

Wilhelm has brought Mignon and Lothario to a castle in Italy which he considers buying. There an old man watches over Mignon and prays for her recovery. Antonio relates how the castle’s previous owner had gone mad after his wife had died of grief over the loss of their young daughter. Wilhelm decides to buy the castle for Mignon because it has so speeded her recovery. Mignon awakens and confesses to Wilhelm of her love for this strangely familiar place. He finally realizes that he loves her deeply and resists Philine’s attempts to win him back. Lothario re-enters and informs the couple that he is the owner of the castle and that returning here has restored his sanity. After reading a prayer found in a book in the house, Mignon realizes the she is his daughter Sperata. The three embrace happily.

This is the beautiful Ouverture to Mignon:


This week's OPW post will close with the aria sung by the gypsy girl Mignon in the opera.
It is "Connais-tu le pays?" - translation: Do you know the country?

Description at youtube: The legendary french volcanic blond dramatic soprano 
Jane Rhodes, the marvellous Carmen, Marguerite, Renata, Tosca and Charlotte, 
performs "Connais-tu le pays?" from Ambroise Thomas' "Mignon". 
Please enjoy such a great rendition!!!



rosaria williams said...

You make me want to see an opera!

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

it's a great postcard - i thought from the small triangle in the right corner you were going to say it was from a movie

Lydia said...

rosaria~ Brava!

Pixies~ It is a great postcard, I agree!

Anonymous said...

I only listened to the second song, but it was beautiful! I've always wanted to learn more about opera; I loved the few arias I sang while taking lessons in high school.

Great postcard! It's a lovely picture.



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