A Musical Play
Based on the novel by Louise de Vilmorin
About Madame De (written by Peter Fleming)
In Madame De, Louise de Vilmorin created a novella both passionate in substance and elegantly cool in expression; a story of two people – Madame and Monsieur – who have come to an arrangement about their marriage which will continue to work as long as neither of them chooses to speak the truth of it. The tension between what is felt, suspected, endured, and what is in fact said provided the kind of seismic pressure from which a great musical could be released. Music, song and dance break through the pores of the script in the way that hot springs suddenly burst from the earth; but they all flow from the power of the original authoress.
Madame De is a ‘ronde’ both amusing and tragic. In the story, set in Paris in the 1890’s, the Belle Epoque, a wife – “Madame” pays a secret debt by selling a pair of diamond heart-shaped earrings back to the family jeweller, without telling her husband (“Monsieur”). When she then attempts to explain their disappearance, a rumour spreads that perhaps the earrings were stolen. The jeweller, now unable to sell the tainted jewels, brings them back to Monsieur. Hurt by the thought that his wife cared so little for what had been his wedding gift to her, Monsieur gives them away as a parting gift to his mistress, who takes them with her to South America and is forced by poverty to to sell them to a pawn shop. An Italian Ambassador, departing South America for his new mission in Paris, happens to see the jewels and purchases them. Once in the Fremch capital, he meets Madame, falls in love with her, and gives her a gift of the earrings. Of course, disaster ensues when Madame decides to wear the jewels in public again and lies to Monsieur that she has mysteriously “found” them.
It was when Allan and I realised that the most important “characters” of all – the diamond earrings themselves – could be represented on stage by two follies-esque dancing girls, who would remain unseen by the other characters but who could react to the foibles and fates of their various owners, that a whole world of theatrical possibilities opened up to us, and convinced us that Madame De was demanding its own adaptation into the musical form.
Our gratitude for this unparalleled opportunity goes out to Louise de Vilmorin, to the family members of her estate, and to her agents at Editions Gallimard.
Note: There is no interval in the musical
Madame De is scored for 9 musicians.
Flute; Clarinet (Bb);
Violin 1; Violin 2; Viola; Violoncello;
Double Bass; Piano
Percussion (Vibraphone; Glockenspiel; Xylophone; Congas)
There is also a 2 Piano version of the score available.
Madame De was composed in the summer (Southern Hemisphere) 2005 – 2006.
A demo CD was recorded April 18 – 20, 2006 at Troy Horse Studios, Sydney and mixed by Mark Tinson at Overhead Studio, Newcastle.