Georges Bizet has long been a victim of his own success. Posthumous success, that is, because his greatest opera, Carmen, was famously a flop at its premiere just three months before his death in 1875. But there is much more to him operatically. In addition to his popular Les Pêcheurs de perles, there are six other operas. Bizet was just 18 when he composed Le Docteur Miracle (Doctor Miracle), and if it unsurprisingly lacks musical originality it is nevertheless a little gem, almost resembling a foreshortened amalgam of Rossini’s Barbiere and Donizetti’s Elisir. Indeed, at every turn, Doctor Miracle shows how remarkably well the young composer had already mastered the comic style.
Bizet was nearing the end of his student career – soon to be capped by winning the Prix de Rome – when he entered a comic-opera competition organised by Offenbach in 1856. A distinguished jury whittled down the 78 entrants to six finalists, each of whom was given the same libretto (by Leon Battu and Ludovic Halévy, based on the Richard Brinsley Sheridan farce St Patrick’s Day), and eventually, Bizet and Charles Lecocq were declared joint winners of the first prize. Successful performances followed at Offenbach’s theatre, the Bouffes-Parisiens, before Doctor Miracle disappeared for almost a century.
Where Doctor Miracle is surely unique is in boasting an amusing ‘omelette quartet’, in which Bizet enjoys playing with the rhythms of the words ‘Voici l’omelette’ and which features mock-heroic invocations to a poorly cooked omelette that both tastes and smells horrible. In best comic tradition, the ‘servant’ – actually the disguised suitor of the mayor’s daughter – who made the omelette is sent off, and gets his revenge by announcing that the omelette was poisoned and that the only person with a cure is a certain…Dr Miracle.
Sung in English with English surtitles
Clayton Whites Hotel | TICKETS €30
Wednesday 23 October | 3.30 p.m.
Saturday 26 October | 3.30 p.m.
Thursday 31 October | 3.30 p.m.
Libretto by Léon Battu and Ludovic Halévy
First performance 9 April 1857, Bouffes-Parisiens, Paris