Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme
In honor of the Holy Family Academy performance this evening of Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme by Moliere, it seems fitting to post a bit about this humorous play and its wonderful musical score by Jean-Baptiste Lully.
Moliere was born Jean-Baptiste Poquelin in Paris, France in 1622, receiving a rigorous education from the Jesuit College of Clermont. Turning from a career in law or government service, as his father urged, he took the stage name of Moliere and pursued theatre. He would rise to some fame and prominence, becoming a court playwright to King Louis XIV of France, the “Sun King.”
Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme was first performed in 1670, and was accompanied by a musical score written by the accomplished composer Jean-Baptiste Lully. Here is a clip of a selection of this music by Lully:
In this play, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, or the “Would-be Gentleman,” a successful but foolish tradesman – a bourgeois – dreams of being a noble gentleman. In an effort to “climb the social ladder,” Mr. Jourdain employs many masters to teach him their various arts. In these efforts, he is, in particular, preparing himself to meet the lovely Marchioness Dorimene. Jourdain believes that the impoverished Count Dorante, his friend, has been courting her on his behalf, and gladly lends him large amounts of money. Little does he know that Dorante has actually been courting Dorimene for himself. Monsieur Jourdain, in the end, has made himself up into such a fool in his attempts to be a gentleman of quality that even the servant, Nicole, cannot stop laughing!
Meanwhile, Mr. Jourdain’s daughter, the beautiful Lucile, has fallen in love with an honest man of means, Cleonte, who asks for her hand in marriage. Mr. Jourdain refuses him on the grounds that he is not from nobility. This infuriates Madam Jourdain, who is the lady of the house. Coveille, the resourceful servant of Cleonte, has a plan, however, to solve all their problems and put Mr. Jourdain in his place -- Cleonte will imitate a Turkish noble and promise Jourdain not only a noble son-in-law, but a title for himself.
What a display ofculture and artistry was on display in the court of Louis XIV.