Opera Scotland

Cloches de Corneville Les cloches de Corneville; The Bells of Corneville

Tours by decade

Tours by location


Robert Planquette (b Paris 31 July 1848; Paris, 28 January 1903)


'Clairville' (Louis François Nicolaie) and Charles Gabet



First Performance: Paris (Folies-Dramatiques), 19 April 1877.

First Performance in UK: London (Folly Theatre), 23 February 1878.

First Performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (), 17 June 1878.

Scottish Opera première: N/A.



The outstanding success of Les cloches de Corneville came quite early in Planquette's career, and it tended to overshadow the rest of his output, It bubbles with plenty of catchy numbers, and its success is easy to explain. In Britain it remained popular for several decades, even being produced by amateur operatic societies. Several of his other works also enjoyed successful runs and tours in Britain, including The Old Guard, Rip Van Winkle, Nell Gwynne, and Paul Jones.


Main Characters

Gaspard, a miser (baritone)

Germaine, Gaspard's niece (soprano)

Serpolette, Gaspard's maidservant, a foundling (soprano)

Grenicheux, a fisherman (tenor)

Henri de Corneville, a returning aristocrat (tenor)

Le Bailli - The Magistrate (baritone)


Plot Summary

The small French town of Corneville is dominated by its castle, abandoned many years before, when the family fled abroad. It is rumoured to be haunted, and that its bells, now silent, will start to ring when the rightful heir returns.

Germaine was saved from drowning as an infant, and has decided to marry the man she believes saved her, the fisherman Grenicheux. However her uncle has other plans, intending her to marry the local magistrate. Grenicheux is also loved by Serpolette. A stranger comes to the town and heads for the castle. Germaine tells him of the legend to dissuade him, but he is in fact the heir, though his own memories of his childhood there are vague. Intending to open up his old home, he immediately hires staff in the form of Germaine, Serpolette and Grenicheux.

Henri finds a document revealing that Gaspard was entrusted with the protection of an aristocratic child, a Viscountess. Everyone assumes this must be Serpolette. Gaspard has created the legend of the haunting in the hope of getting his own hands on the property. He is driven mad by the shock when Grenicheux frightens him into thinking the haunting might be real.

The bells ring to celebrate Henri's return. Serpolette is being treated as the Viscountess. Henri's memory of childhood returns - he had rescued a child from drowning, and that child was Germaine. Grenicheux, always credited with the rescue, had been lying for years. Gaspard also returns to his senses, and reveals that the Viscountess is actually Germaine, not Serpolette. Henri and Germaine are able to marry, while Serpolette rejects Grenicheux.

The Cast

 a miser
 Gaspard's niece
Henri, Marquis de Corneville
 returning from exile
Jean Grenicheux
 a fisherman
Le Bailli
 a magistrate
 a foundling, Gaspard's maidservant

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