Les Mousquetaires au couvent
(The Musketeers in the Convent)
An operetta in 3 acts by Paul Ferrier and Jules Prével based on Le habit ne fait pas le moine by Saint-Hilaire and Duport. Music by Louis Varney.
Produced at the
Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens 16 March 1880
Théâtre des Folies-Dramatiques 4 May 1886
Théâtre de la Gaîté 1899
Théâtre des Menus-Plaisirs 1896 and 1897.
Globe Theatre, London, in a two act version by H B Farnie 30 October
Fifth Avenue Theatre, New York, 25 April 1882
the Theater an der Wien, Vienna, in a version by Julius Hopp and Eduard Mautner as Die Musketiere in Damenstift 30 September 1881
Apollo Theater, Berlin, 13 February 1893.
Alexanderplatz Theater 21 March 1896
At the inn of the Mousquetaire Gris at Vouvray, a newly arrived detachment of the King's musketeers are taking their ease. Although their presence is a source of delight to the local maidens and the vendors of flowers and trinkets it is an irritation to the Romeos of the town whose noses are put squarely out of joint by the attentions lavished by their girls on anything with a plume. When one of the soldiers interferes in a piece of homespun horseplay, the inn threatens to burst into a brawl until the hostess, Simonne, quietens the situation with some brisk words and a song of her own in praise of the military.
Sulk as they may, there is nothing the villagers can do about this sudden
presence in their midst of half an army of musketeers, for the soldiers
have been ordered into the area by the Governor of Touraine, the Comte
de Pontcourlay, on the command of Cardinal Richelieu himself, to watch
over what his spies tell him is a conspiracy against his rule.
Like all good theatrical soldiers, these soldiers have their minds set more on love than on war and one in particular, the romantic Gontran de Solanges, is suffering badly from the effects of a feminine glance. He is in such a bad state that his best friend, Brissac, deems it necessary to send for the lad's old tutor, the amiable Abbé Bridaine, to try to assuage the poor lovesick fellow's troubles. Bridaine's affection for his former charge is enough to prise him from his peaceful retirement and bring him helter-skelter to Vouvray where he discovers from the reluctant Gontran that the malady is, in part, of his making.
When the young man was in his care, Bridaine had chattered many and many a time to him of the incomparable charms of Marie de Pontcourlay, the Governor's niece. Finally, the young man could not forbear to go and look at this paragon and, as a result, he has fallen madly and despairingly in love with the aristocratic young lady. His despair is increased by the fact that Marie is not even in his daily reach for she is a pupil at the Convent des Ursulines where she is strictly guarded by a flock of vigilant nuns. It is enough to make a red-blooded Frenchman shoot himself. Bridaine is shocked at such a dramatic thought and he takes it upon himself to speak to the Governor on behalf of his young friend.
The day's festival is interrupted by the arrival of the Comte
de Pontcourlay who happens to be
passing by in the course of his governing duties. Bridaine is about to fulfil his promise to Gontran, when the Governor forestalls him by asking him to go the next day to the convent where his two nieces are immured and prepare them for taking their vows as novices.
Bridaine is horrified: if Marie becomes a nun then she can never be Gontran's wife and the poor fellow probably will shoot himself. But the Governor is intransigent. The girls are relations of the Cardinal and the order has come from the great man himself, so there is nothing to be done but obey. To help Bridaine in his mission of convincing the girls of their vocation, Pontcourlay waylays two mendicant monks. In return for a night's bed and board at the inn, they will escort the Abbé to the convent the next day and help to exhort Marie and her sister, Louise, to take the veil.
Gontran's despair on hearing the Cardinal's plans is bottomless, but Brissac is more for action than for despair and he comes up with an idea. While the villagers make merry at the Governor's expense, he and Gontran sneak into the room occupied by the two monks who, exhausted from their pilgrimage, are already fast asleep. In a moment they don the ecclesiastical robes hanging over the foot of their bed and emerge thoroughly and undetectably disguised as ambulant priests. Brissac whispers to one of his officers to lock the monks in their room and put a guard on the door and, with their rear thus protected, the two false priests set off in the direction of the convent.
The convent girls are in class taking dictation from Sister Opportune when the Mother Superior comes to tell them that, at the express wish of the Governor, they are to receive a visit from two particularly important priests to whom the girls will be able to confess. Louise de Pontcourlay, the most frivolous of the class, decides it would be fun if they all confessed to the same things but her sister Marie has real troubles which she needs to tell, for she is in love and she does not join in as the other giggling girls take down Louise's all-purpose confession
When the two imitation priests arrive at the convent they are received with enthusiasm by the Superior. The boorish Brissac makes a poor effort at his part, peppering his conversation with military terms which surprise the nuns, and ogling the piquant Louise. Gontran does his best to maintain their disguise while at the same time getting near enough to Marie to arrange a secret meeting. When the girls are led off to their luncheon, Brissac discovers with rumbling horror that the day is a religious fast and that he is to get nothing. Rather than go hungry, he announces that he has a dispensation to eat when he is giving a sermon and, since he proposes to speak before the pupils in the afternoon, he may eat and drink his fill. Gontran, who is still angling for his meeting with Marie, is happy to see his friend out of the way.
In the meanwhile the Abbé Bridaine has noticed that his two young friends are missing. Dreading what terrible ends they may go to, he set out for the convent at top speed to get to Marie before Gontran does. On his arrival, he meets Louise who, having a decidedly suspicious nature, has been hiding in corners spying on the peculiar priests and he has to bundle her out of the way before he can get down to serious conversation with Marie. The good Abbé explains to the girl that, encouraged by his praises of her pretty self, his pupil has fallen in love with her and he begs that she write to him instantly telling him that she has no equivalent feelings for him.
He is devastated when Marie tells him that to do so would be to commit a lie for, likewise encouraged by Bridaine's fulsome descriptions of his charge, she has developed a tender emotion for the young man. Only when the Abbé tells her that the vengeance of the Cardinal himself will strike Gontran if he does not desist from his pursuit of Marie, does she agree to write the letter. Bridaine then tracks down Gontran and presents him with Marie's note. The young man is shattered, but he is buoyed up in his hopes by another letter, a very tender one, which he has found in the girl's school desk, and he refuses to despair.
Brissac has enjoyed his lunch but, unfortunately, he has enjoyed it a little too much and, when the time comes for him to deliver the promised sermon, he is loudly and stupidly drunk. When the girls gather to hear him preach, instead of propounding the pious text against worldly things which the Governor had postulated, he launches into a wild song in praise of love. Whilst the Superior collapses, and Gontran and Bridaine try to pretend that their confrère is ill, the girls join in a wild song and dance with the amazing 'priest'.
Bridaine has shut Brissac in the garden shed to sleep off his excesses whilst explaining to the sisters, in a convoluted tale, that the poor man suffers from Palestinian sunstroke. Suddenly, to his surprise, he hears men's voices outside the walls of the convent. It is Gontran's regiment who have come to await his orders to assist in carrying off Marie.
When the girls come out for their recreation,
Louise takes the opportunity to have a delicious chat with Brissac through
the window of the garden shed. She is delighted to hear that he has been
a priest for only twenty-four hours after having been all his life a
musketeer but, before she can drag from him the entire story of his life,
she is obliged to hurry away to avoid discovery.
The innkeeper has sent Simonne to the convent to find the Abbé Bridaine. They are anxious to get hold of Brissac, for he has left his guards on the monks' room and gone away, which means that the hotel has an unusable room with four guards outside and two naked monks inside. Pichard's inn is of small moment to the musketeers in the convent, for they have altogether graver things on their minds.
Bridaine, determined that the Cardinal's orders must be carried out, has forbidden Gontran to go near Marie but he still connives at his masquerade for he does not wish the boy to be discovered—merely to leave.
Gontran asks to write a farewell note to his beloved and Bridaine agrees, but the note which Simonne delivers is not a farewell at all. It contains instructions for Marie to meet Gontran at the gate to prepare their escape over the convent wall. When the personnel of the convent are gathered together to discuss the preparations for the Cardinal's visit on the following day, the two young people succeed in meeting and, having confessed their love, they vow to escape together but, before they can do so, they are joined by Brissac and by Louise who, as the price of her silence, demands to be made the fourth participant in the adventure. A ladder is dragged out from the gardener's shed but, just as they are preparing to climb up, the approach of the Abbé sends them scurrying for a hiding place.
When Bridaine sees the ladder he is horrified. The wretches have carried off Marie! He bumbles up the ladder and is perched astride the top of the wall when Simonne deftly removes the ladder, leaving him stranded. He is sitting there, looking extremely silly, when the Governor himself pounds at the gate. He has come on an urgent mission. The two monks whom he sent to the convent must be arrested immediately. They are impostors! It is a plot against his Eminence the Cardinal. The false monks are murderers who have wormed their way into the convent with the intention of slaying the Cardinal on his visit the following day.
As the Abbé gulps up the first stammerings of an explanation, the two musketeers reveal themselves and, before they know where they are, are greeted as heroes. The two naked fellows who are, at that moment, by Brissac's orders under a heavy guard at the Mousquetaire Gris, are the conspirators and the musketeers have been the instrument of their capture. They have saved the Cardinal's life and they deserve a reward. Gontran and Brissac do not need to be asked twice. The Pontcourlay sisters and a wedding at the Mousquetaire Gris will more than suffice.
Kurt Gänzl - The Book of Musical Theatre
Vicomte Narcisse de Brissac, a musketeer
Gontran de Solanges, a musketeer
Abbé Bridaine, his tutor
Comte de Pontcourlay, Governor of Touraine
Marie de Pontcourlay, his niece
Louise de Pontcourlay, her sister
Pichard, landlord of 'Au Mousquetaire Gris'
La Supérieure of the Convent des Ursulines
Jeanneton, Claudine, Margot, Agathe, convent pupils
Rigobert, an officer of the King's musketeers
Jacqueline, Langlois, Farin, townspeople Two monks, etc.
- Etrennez-moi, voici des roses,
- Que ces mousquetaires sont audacieux
- S'Il est un joli r égiment.
- L'Abbé Bridaine
- Trio: Parle! Explique-toi!
- C'est le jour de fête
- Quel plaisir, c'est la brune
- Le gouverneur nous fit largesse
- Nous venons de la Paléstine
- Il faut, mes soeurs, qu'on rivalise
- Donc, Rébecca, sa cruche pleine
- Que votre volonté se fasse
- Mon père, je m'accuse
- Je voudrais qu'approchant sans crainte
- Curieuse, Ah! Vraiment
- Il serait vrai, ce fut un songe
- De la cloche qui vois appelle
- Aimons-nous donc
- Deux à deux, posément
- A la porte des r évérends
- Il faut fuir, le danger me presse
- Prenons l'échelle
- Pour faire une brave mousquetaire *
- Gris, je suis gris *
- The Captive and the Bird by Robert Planquette (for the London production)
* added for second production