Opera Scotland

Périchole La Périchole

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Jacques Offenbach (born Cologne, 20 June 1819; died Paris, 5 October 1880)


Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy.


Play Le Carrosse du Saint-Sacrement (1830) by Prosper Mérimée (1803-70).



First performance: Paris (Théâtre des Variétés), 6 October 1868.

Revised (3-Act) version: Paris (Théâtre des Variétés), 25 April 1874.

First UK performance: London (Princess’s Theatre), 27 June 1870.

First performance in Scotland: to be confirmed.

Scottish Opera premiere: N/A.



It is difficult to understand why La Périchole has failed to have the same level of success in Britain achieved by the other leading works of Offenbach. It has a successful plot combining the sentimental elements of the relationship between Périchole and Piquillo, and the colonial government is satirised in a gentle manner. In addition it has a musical strength and subtlety which arguably makes it the best work of the series. It was not picked by Sadler’s Wells to add to its list of operetta productions, and no other British company has staged it recently. The Edinburgh Festival production of 1988, while enjoyable in its way, suffered from the use of actors who, charming as they were, generally lacked the quality of voice required. Perhaps the most famous staging in Britain, though not for positive reasons, was the production mounted for his star mezzo Selina Dolaro by Richard D’Oyly Carte at London’s Royalty Theatre in 1875. It was on this occasion that, needing a half-hour curtain raiser to start the evening off, he commissioned Trial by Jury from Gilbert and Sullivan, and found that La Périchole was thoroughly upstaged, and an entirely new form of operetta was established.


Main Characters

La Périchole, a street singer (mezzo-soprano)

Piquillo, a street singer (tenor)

Don Andrès, Viceroy of Peru. (bass)

Don Pedro, Governor of Peru (tenor)


Plot Summary

The setting is Lima in Spanish-colonial era Peru. The ballad singers Piquillo and Périchole love one another but are too poor to afford marriage. Because of her beauty, the Viceroy offers Périchole a position as a lady-in-waiting in his palace, but etiquette demands that only married women are suitable for such positions. He therefore decides to find her a husband. Périchole’s letter of farewell is extremely upsetting for Piquillo,.and he agrees to the Viceroy’s suggestion of a marriage to a mystery woman. By the time the wedding takes place, both parties are too drunk to know what is going on. When sobriety is restored and Piquillo becomes aware of the identity of his wife, he also jumps to the conclusion that she is now the Viceroy’s mistress, and so repudiates her. For this he is imprisoned and left to his misery for a while, before being released for the customary happy ending..V

The Cast

 joint proprietress of the 'Three Cousins' Tavern
 a lady of the Court
Count Miguel de Panatellas
 lord-in-waiting to the Viceroy
Don Andrès de Ribeira
 Viceroy of Peru
Don Pedro de Hinoyosa
 Governor of Lima
First Notary
 a lady of the Court
 joint proprietress of the 'Three Cousins' Tavern
 joint proprietress of the 'Three Cousins' Tavern
 a lady of the Court
Old Prisoner
 a street singer
 a street singer, in love with La Périchole
Second Notary

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