Marie Antoinette liked to escape from her actual royal duties and into a world of her own at her petit Trianon or little house or villa on the grounds of Versailles. There she created her version of a world of happy peasants. It gave her escape, but was a disaster as a public relations move.
But that is a story for another time, and the reason we are talking about it at all is that this week's opera Sunday night December 3 at 8PM takes place at her little Trianon. It's La Laitiere de Trianon, The Milkmaid of Trianon. It is a salon opera, composed for a small setting with piano accompaniment only, and in this case for an after dinner audience on a Saturday night. The premiere was at the Paris home of Rossini, during his long period of retirement following all of those operas he wrote before he was 35, at the very first of his famous salons. His young friend Jean-Baptiste Wekerlin did the music with a libretto by the wonderfully named Galoppe d’Onquaire.
The story is for fun only. Two young noble people, Comtesse de Lucienne and the Marquis de Brunoy are betrothed by their families, but they have never met. The Marquis, on his way to Louis the 16th's Grand Military Trianon mistakes Marie Antoinette's small rustic trianon for the King's more splashy affair. He is perhaps not the most discerning of young men. He sees the Comtesse, who has just been appointed the head milkmaid, and is thus appropriately dressed. He flirts with her, and they like each other. But he fears that a milkmaid won't continue to like him as a nobleman, so he reappears in disguise as a peasant. This amuses the Comtesse, who is already on to his game and knows who he is, and she assumes her usual elegant court costume. A battle of wits begins, they banter, she manipulates, and he finally realizes who she is. He is embarrassed that as a betrothed man he was flirting with a milkmaid but she forgives him, and all ends happily
Joan Rodgers sings the Contesse, and Yann Beuron the Marquis. Jeff Cohen is the pianist.