Philemon And Baucis





In two acts by CHARLES GOUNOD.



Text by JULES BARBIER and MICHEL CARRE, with an intermezzo.





This is a truly delightful musical composition and though unpretending

and not on the level of Gounod's "Margaretha", it does not deserve to

be forgotten.



The libretto is founded on the well-known legend.



In the first act Jupiter comes to Philemon's hut, accompanied by Vulkan

to seek refuge from a storm, which the god himself has caused. He has

come to earth to verify Mercury's tale of the people's badness, and

finding the news only too true, besides being uncourteously received by

the people around, he is glad to meet with a kindly welcome at

Philemon's door.



This worthy old man lives in poverty, but in perfect content with his

wife Baucis, to whom he has been united in bonds of love for sixty long

years. Jupiter, seeing at once, that the old couple form an exception

to the evil rule, resolves to spare them, and to punish only the bad

folks. The gods partake of the kind people's simple meal, and

Jupiter, changing the milk into wine, is recognized by Baucis, who is

much awed by the discovery. But Jupiter reassures her and promises to

grant her only wish, which is, to be young again with her husband, and

to live the same life. The god sends them to sleep, and then begins

the intermezzo.



Phrygians are seen reposing after a festival, bacchants rush in and the

wild orgies begin afresh. The divine is mocked and pleasure praised as

the only god. Vulcan comes, sent by Jupiter to warn them, but as they

only laugh at him, mocking Olympus and the gods, Jupiter himself

appears to punish the sinners. An awful tempest arises, sending

everything to rack and ruin.--



In the second act Philemon's hut is changed into a palace; he awakes to

find himself and his wife young again. Jupiter, seeing Baucis' beauty,

orders Vulkan to keep Philemon apart, while he courts her. Baucis

though determined to remain faithful to her Philemon, feels

nevertheless flattered at the god's condescension, and dares not refuse

him a kiss. Philemon, appearing on the threshold sees it, and

violently reproaches her and his guest, and though Baucis suggests who

the latter is, the husband does not feel in the least inclined to share

his wife's love even with a god. The first quarrel takes place between

the couple, and Vulkan hearing it, consoles himself with the reflection

that he is not the only one, to whom a fickle wife causes sorrow.

Philemon bitterly curses Jupiter's gift; he wishes his wrinkles back,

and with them his peace of mind. Throwing down Jupiter's statue,

he leaves his wife to the god. Baucis, replacing the image, which

happily is made of bronze, sorely repents her behaviour towards her

beloved husband. Jupiter finds her weeping, and praying that the gods

may turn their wrath upon herself alone. The god promises to pardon

both, if she is willing to listen to his love. She agrees to the

bargain on the condition namely that Jupiter shall grant her a favor.

He consents, and she entreats him to make her old again. Philemon,

listening behind the door, rushes forward to embrace the true wife and

joins his entreaties to hers. Jupiter, seeing himself caught, would

fain be angry, but their love conquers his wrath. He does not recall

his gift, but giving them his benediction, he promises never more to

cross their happiness.





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