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ClassicsOnline Home » ADAM: Filleule des Fees (La) (Complete Ballet)
By Christopher Cook
International Record Review
By George Dorris
By Robert Baxter
Adolphe Adam (1803-1856) with Alfred, Come de Saint-Julien
La Filleule des fées (complete ballet music)
Adolphe Adarn must be best remembered for his music for the ballet Giselle.
Born in Paris in 1803, he was the son of Louis Adam, a native of Alsace, who
earned his son's later description of him as the founder of the French school
of piano-playing. Louis Adam taught at the Paris Conservatoire from 1797 until
1842 and included among his pupils Kalkbrenner and other musicians of future
distinction. Adolphe Adarn had varied schooling, eventually as a boarder in
a parental attempt to induce better application. After private coaching, however,
he was able in 1819 to enter the organ class of Benoist at the Conservatoire.
Nevertheless, as he later admitted, his chief ability at this time was in improvisation
and it was only when he was allowed to take over his older contemporary Halévy's
class in solfége that, by teaching, he was able to acquire this necessary
and basic knowledge. He studied counterpoint with Anton Reicha but he owed the
greatest debt in the end to Boieldieu, who gave him every encouragement. In
spite of this he failed to win the expected Grand Prix de Rome, taking instead
the second Grand Prix in 1825 with his setting of Ariane à Naxos. During
these years, however, he was able to earn a living as an organist, following
the example of so many French composers, and to gain experience of the theatre
first as an unpaid triangle-player at the Gymnase Dramatique and later as timpanist
and chorus-master. As a composer he began to provide material for vaudevilles
and collaborated with the librettist Eugéne Scribe, whom he had met while
travelling in Switzerland, in an opéra-vaudeville for the Théâtre
du Gymnase. His first serious work for the theatre was the one-act opera Pierre
et Catherine, with a libretto by Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges, given at
the Opéra-Comique. A year later, in 1830, he wrote music for the ballet La
Chatte blanche (The White Cat), described as an English pantomime, for the
Théâtre des Nouveautés. He was, in these years, rapidly making a name for himself
and in 1832 was invited to London to provide music for a military spectacle
at Covent Garden, His First Campaign and for the historical melodrama
The Dark Diamond. The following year he returned to London for the performance
of the ballet Faust at the King's Theatre. His first significant international
success in the opera house came in 1836 with the comic opera Le Postillan
de Lonjumeau. In 1839 he accepted an invitation to St Petersburg to provide
music for Filippo Taglioni and his daughter Marie and on his return was asked
by Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia to write a work for the Berlin theatre, resulting
in another ballet, Les Hamadryades, also for Taglioni.
It was in 1841 in Paris that Adam enjoyed what has proved his most lasting
success with the music for the ballet Giselle ou Les Wilis, the first
great Paris success also for Carlotta Grisi. This was followed in 1842 by La
jolie fille de Gand (released on 8.223772-73), a work that was equally well
received, eclipsing the opera Le Guerillero by Ambroise Thomas, mounted
on the same evening. His necessary relationship with the Opéra-Comique
had prospered under the director François-Louis Crosnier. Adam was less
fortunate in the latter's successor, the former censor André-Alexandre Basset,
who vowed never to allow anything by Adam to be staged by the company. It was
this feud that persuaded Adam, with Crosnier's support, to revive a plan to
establish another opera house for younger composers. The new theatre of the
Opéra-National opened in 1847, after Adam had raised a considerable
loan for the project. The time was inopportune. The political disturbances of
1848 led to the closure of the house and to Adam's financial ruin. He was now
obliged to earn what living he could from music criticism to meet his immediate
needs, but this was not the end of his career as a composer. In 1849, the year
of his father's death, he was appointed professor of composition at the Conservatoire
and he continued to compose for the theatre until his death, winning particular
success with Si j'étais roi (If I were king) at the new Théâtre-Lyrique
in 1852. By 1853 he had paid off his debts but continued working until his sudden
death in 1856. In his posthumously published autobiographical sketches he admitted
that it was his work as a musician that was his sole passion and pleasure, without
which he would have died of boredom.
La Filleule des fées
The ballet-féerie La Filleule des fées in two acts and seven scenes was first staged at the Paris Opéra on 8th October 1849, with Carlotta Grisi as Ysaure, Lucien Petipa as Prince Hugues de Provence and the choreographer of the piece, Grisi's lover, Jules Joseph Perrot, as Alain. Grisi and Petipa had created the roles of Giselle and Albrecht and the Queen of the Wilis had been danced in 1845 by Célestine Emarot, who was cast as the White Fairy in La Filleule des fées, with Marie Taglioni as the Rose Fairy and Louise Marquet as the Black Fairy The music was by Adolphe Adam and Alfred de Saint-Julien, the book by Jules-Henri Vernoy, Marquis de Saint-Georges, and Perrot, décor by Cambon, Thierry and Despléchin and costumes by Lormier and d'Orschwiller. The setting of the ballet caused a particular sensation through its innovative use of electric lighting and the various fountains that played on the stage.
Prince Rugues de Provence
Jobin, a seneschal
Gnillaume, Ysaure's father
The White Fairy
The Rose Fairy
The Black Fairy
Friends, Servants, Villagers, Fairies, Spirits, Nobles
 The scene is a large room in a farm-house. Farmhands are decorating the room with flowers, as Guillaume comes down the hill from the village church where his daughter Ysaure has just been baptized, leading other villagers.  The procession is led by the god-parents, followed by the nurse Berthe, carrying the child. Guillaume invites his friends to supper.  They take their places at the table and the girls chat among themselves and join in dance with Jobin. Jobin's dance is interrupted by a knock at the door. Guillaume orders the door to be opened, to find an old woman, begging hospitality. He finds a place for her at the end of the table. The dance resumes, but there is another knock at the door, opened to reveal yet another old woman, for whom Guillaume finds a place at the table. Jobin's dance continues, interrupted by another knock at the door, opened to reveal yet another old woman. Guillaume finds a place for her at the table, but Jobin, counting on his fingers, notices that this will bring their numbers to thirteen and Guillaume tells her to go and, when she refuses, has her thrown out. When the guests have finished eating, they drink to the health of the child, bringing the celebration to an end.
 It is night and the guests take their leave. Guillaume kisses the child and leaves her in her cradle, telling the two old women that they may stay there for the night.  The nurse rocks the cradle, falling asleep herself. At this the two old women stand each side of the cradle, making mysterious signs.  Little old women appear in the room, but are soon transformed into fairies, finely dressed.  The first old woman, in fact the White Fairy, declares that Ysaure shall be as white as a lily, and the second, in fact the Rose Fairy, promises that the child shall be as fair as a rose, and they place a lily and a rose by the child. All the fairies dance round the cradle, offering their girdles to keep the girl from all harm.
 There is sudden thunder and the third old woman appears in the great Gothic fireplace, casting aside her cloak to reveal her black dress. She waves her wand of serpents over the cradle once and then again, and words appear in a black cloud, written in fire, bidding those who see it fear for the child: the Black Fairy will keep her gift for the child's fifteenth year. She vanishes in a black cloud. The good fairies disperse. The magic is over and the nurse wakes up, taking the child again into her arms.
 The scene is set in the countryside. On one side is Ysaure's house and on the other a well. In the background is a hill, with trees and flowers, and in the distance the palace of Prince Hugues de Provence. It is dawn and villagers are making ready for the spring festival, playing games and dancing.  Ysaure is now fifteen. She enters, followed by Alain, who is in love with her.  Girls offer him flowers, which he rejects, in his sole pursuit of Ysaure. She, however, rejects him, when he tells her of his love, but assures him of her friendship.  At the sound of a trumpet the girls hurry to prepare for the festival and Berthe ushers Ysaure away into a hut to dress for the celebration.
 Alain, left alone, is in despair but is suddenly confronted by a little old woman, who emerges from the well, asking the reason for his sadness and promising him happiness if he will kiss her. At first reluctant, he kisses her and she is transformed into a beautiful fairy, the Black Fairy.  They leave together, as the sound of hunting-horns is heard.
 A young huntsman enters, taking his rest from the chase. He sits and is at once confronted by two old women, begging. He gives them gold and they tell him that he will soon fall in love, pointing to Ysaure's hut.
 The huntsman wants to knock at the door, but the old women wave their sticks at the hut, so that it is possible to see through the wall into the hut where Ysaure is dressing.  The huntsman seeks to break into the hut, but at this moment the Black Fairy appears, waving her stick at the hut so that it is no longer possible to see through the wall.  The huntsman tries to knock at the door, but the Black Fairy makes his knock silent. At this he blows his hunting-horn and at once huntsmen run in to join him. He tells them to break open the door. As they run to find wood to force the door, the Black Fairy makes the hut disappear, moving it to the top of the hill. The huntsman is amazed when he returns, but the two old women urge patience and leave with him.
 Led by Jobin, the village girls return, while Berthe and Ysaure approach from the hill. Alain is surprised to find Ysaure's hut gone and approaches her, sure of himself, with the help of the Black Fairy, to her amusement.  Jobin is about to crown Ysaure as Queen of the Spring, when he disappears, his place taken by the huntsman, now revealed as Prince Hugues de Provence. Ysaure is moved at the sight of the Prince and after fanfares his attendants enter.  He invites Ysaure and Alain to dance and then all join in a dance until night, when huntsmen with torches gather to accompany the Prince back to his castle. He seeks another meeting with Ysaure, but Alain intervenes, taking her arm. The Prince is in despair, but the two fairies wave their wands and he disappears, to be seen again in Ysaure's room.  She now climbs the hill, returning home, while the huntsmen search everywhere for the Prince.
 In Ysaure's room the Prince comes out from behind the curtains, where he has been hiding, but conceals himself again when Ysaure comes in, with Berthe and Alain, who looks behind the curtain, but fails to see the Prince. Ysaure dreams of her love, to Alain's suspicion.  He offers Ysaure flowers, which she rejects, leaving him to pull them to pieces, disconsolate.  She is sorry for him and offers to take the flowers, but he shows her what he has done, and runs out to gather another bouquet. The Prince emerges and kneels before her, seeking her hand in marriage. She allows him a kiss and he goes to arrange for their wedding. Ysaure calls to Berthe and tells her what has happened. Ashamed of her humble dress, it is transformed into a fine wedding-dress. She tries to look at herself in the glass, which suddenly grows in size, so that she can see the whole effect. There is fairy music and the room changes into a magnificent palace chamber.  Trumpets are heard and Ysaure goes to open the door to the Prince, only to find the Black Fairy, promising her present for Ysaure's fifteenth birthday. The Rose Fairy and the White Fairy come to her aid, but the Black Fairy tells them that they have made her so beautiful that any man who looks at her will go out of his mind. The Black Fairy disappears, leaving the good fairies in consternation. Fanfares are heard once more and the heralds of the Prince enter. Ysaure, however, in fear, runs into another room.  The Prince comes in, seeking her, but Berthe and the fairies refuse to tell him where she is. He orders his men to search her out, and this they do, bringing her in, as she covers her face with her hands. The Prince gently pulls her hands away, but at that moment she turns to look at Alain, returning with a bouquet, and when he sees her he goes out of his mind. Ysaure tries to run away and Alain prevents the Prince from following. Eventually he pushes Alain aside and takes Ysaure in his arms, but she leaps out of the window, saved from falling by the fairies summoned to her aid by her fairy godmothers.
 The scene is a wooded park. There is a lake in the background, with a fountain, and round about are statues, with a grotto to one side. It is lit by the light of the moon.  The good fairies sit by the water, waiting for Ysaure. They wave their wands and the statues come to life and from the mist Ysaure is seen, born by a swan aud escorted by fairies, as she is brought to the lakeside.  The two fairies try to comfort her for the loss of the Prince, warning her not to let him see her. They wave their wands again and Alain appears, as they vanish.  Alain is puzzled at the scene, but then recognizes Ysaure, seeing her as a shadow. He tries to pursue her, but she eludes him, returning as he goes into the wood in pursuit. She is sad at Alain's plight.  The good fairies return with nymphs, and the White Fairy dances.  Her dance is followed by that of the Rose Fairy  with an added variation.  They introduce Ysaure into the company of the nymphs, giving her a magic wand,  and she dances with them over the land and water.
 As the sun rises Ysaure longs to see her lover, and at a wave of her wand some fairies draw aside, showing the Prince sleeping. With another wave of her wand the fairies disappear. Ysaure dances around her lover, strewing his sleeping form with rose petals. Alain returns and in angry jealousy seizes her wand, touching the Prince, who wakes. Ysaure, in fear, rushes away. Alain, however, prompted by the Black Fairy, touches Ysaure with the wand and turns her to a statue. Before the Prince can see her, however, one of the good fairies grasps Ysaure's arm, breaks the spell and draws her into the grotto, the rocks opening to them, by magic.
 In a deep cavern, where springs serve as the source of the lake, the Spirits of the Spring rest, interrupted by Ysaure and her fairy godmothers.  She is alone, plucking the petals of a rose, when Alain and the Prince are seen in the background. In his madness Alain tries to drag the Prince towards her, but the fairies intervene, striking the Prince blind. Ysaure tries to comfort him, while Alain looks on, amazed. Seizing her wand again, Ysaure is about to restore the Prince's sight, but the wand breaks in her hand. The Black Fairy appears, angry with the other fairies for preventing her revenge. Ysaure and the good fairies beg for pity. The nymphs appear and the Black Fairy agrees to relent, if the Prince can recognise Ysaure among all the girls there.  Mist gathers over the scene as young girls join together round the Prince, trying their best to distract him. Alain tries to hold Ysaure back whenever it seems the Prince might find her, while she is agitated at the thought that she may lose everything in this test. Finally she manages to bring the Prince to her, so that their hearts may be felt beating together, at which he has no hesitation in recognising and embracing her.
Scene 3 and Finale
 The clouds disperse, revealing fairyland. Above golden clouds is a fine temple, covered with jewels, and fairies come from every side for the marriage of their god-child and the Prince. Alain, his wits restored by the fairies, is sorry for his foolishness when he sees how happy the lovers are, as they take him by the hand.
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ADAM: Filleule des Fees (La) (Complete Ballet)