With high notes and many amazing performers to account for, opera plots can sometimes be complicated to follow. Luckily, many plots at The Glimmerglass Festival can be told through GIFs, simplifying storytelling in the process. In this week’s installment, John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles is retold through the power of GIFs.
Sometimes, operas get a little spooky, with many featuring ghosts in some way, shape or form. The Ghosts of Versailles is no exception, with many haunts from King Louis XVI’s court filling the stage when the opera opens.
The ghosts are still rather depressed about losing their lives in the Reign of Terror and sulk, except for the ghost of French playwright Pierre Beaumarchais, who decides now is the time to declare his love to Marie Antoinette.
No one particularly cares, even King Louis XVI.
Marie Antoinette herself still isn’t lifted from her melancholy, so Beaumarchais attempts to lift her spirits by staging a performance of his new opera, A Figaro for Antonia.
Beaumarchais introduces his characters, including the ever popular Figaro.
Count Almaviva is still a schemer, this time secretly trying to find someone to buy Marie Antoinette’s diamond necklace to gain her freedom.
The Count is now estranged from his wife, Rosina, after she had an affair with the now-deceased Cherubino. The Countess produced one son from this affair, Léon.
Léon wants to marry Florestine, who is the Count’s illegitimate daughter, but the Count will not allow him to and instead promises Florestine to Patrick Honoré Bégearss.
The Count fires Figaro after Figaro tells him Bégearss is a revolutionary spy. However, Bégearss then reveals his secret intentions: to steal the queen’s jewels, kill Almaviva, marry Florestine and make Rosina and Léon his servants.
Marie Antoinette is still unmoved, so Beaumarchais goes ahead and spoils the plot: all ends well for the heroes and Marie Antoinette herself is also saved. At this point, King Louis XVI starts to take offense with Beaumarchais’ advances.
After the Countess unsuccessfully tries to vouch for Léon, Beaumarchais illustrates a flashback to Rosina and Cherubino’s love affair. This turns into a romantic quartet, with Marie Antoinette and Beaumarchais singing to each other as well.
This, uh, really makes the king mad, so he challenges Beaumarchais to a duel.
This would, of course, be a bloody good time, but there is no blood since everyone is already a ghost.
The scene shifts to the Turkish embassy, where Bégearss’ attempt to arrest the Count is paused by a disguised, cross-dressed Figaro showing off his dance moves.
Figaro is able to steal the necklace before the sale can take place, and the show goes to intermission with everyone chasing Figaro.
When the second act begins, Figaro decides not to listen to Beaumarchais and keeps the necklace for himself instead of returning it to the queen. This causes Beaumarchais to enter the world of the opera and make Figaro watch Marie Antoinette’s unfair trial.
Actually listening to his wife, the Count decides to not allow Bégearss to marry Florestine after all, which causes Bégearss to send everyone to prison with Marie Antoinette, including Beaumarchais who lost his control over the universe when he entered the story. Despite this, he and Figaro manage to escape arrest.
While in prison, the Count apologizes for the millionth time in these tales to his family and they reconcile.
The ladies hatch a plan to woo the jailer with their feminine charms and succeed, leaving Bégearss’ servant behind bars. However, Bégearss appears before the group can escape and announces he will execute all of them.
Figaro reveals Bégearss has kept the queen’s necklace despite promising to sell it to feed the poor, so he gets arrested as a traitor as the others are set free.
Beaumarchais then goes to Marie Antoinette’s cell to set her free, but she prevents him from saving her from death. Now that she is freed from grief, she can declare her love for Beaumarchais.
In the end, the queen’s history is unchanged, the Almavivas set forth to the New World and Beaumarchais and Marie are united together in eternity.
The Ghosts of Versailles runs on select dates beginning July 13 through August 22 at The Glimmerglass Festival. The production runs in rotation with Show Boat , La traviata and Blue . Tickets are available here.