Major Operas | Louise by Gustave Charpentier | Turn of the Century

Composed: 1889–96
Premiered: 1900, Paris
Libretto by the composer or Saint-Pol-Roux

Act I

From the balcony of her parents’ house in Montmartre, Louise can see Julien, a poet. He has written two letters to her father, asking to marry her, although she says she loves her parents too much to elope. Her mother drags her away and they quarrel. After supper her father suggests that they have been too strict, but her mother threatens to walk out if Julien enters the house. Louise slaps her. Her father tells her to forget Julien.

Act II

Street life in Montmartre awakens. Julien shows his friends where Louise works. She arrives, escorted by her mother. Once her mother has gone, Julien tries to persuade Louise she must not allow her parents to stifle her happiness. Despite her love for her father she agrees to see Julien later. Inside the workshop the seamstresses tease Louise about being in love. Julien and his friends are heard serenading Louise. The seamstresses mock his words. Increasingly agitated, Louise runs out to join Julien.


In their garden overlooking the lights of Paris, Louise and Julien declare their love for each other and the city that brought them together. Their neighbours are preparing for a carnival. Louise is crowned ‘Muse of Montmartre’. Her mother brings news that her father is ill. She promises Julien that Louise will be allowed to return after a few days.

Act IV

Her father curses Julien for taking Louise away. He suggests she should remain with her parents, but she declares they will never win her back by denying her freedom. She calls on Paris to help her. He opens the door and tells her to go. She briefly hesitates and then runs out. He calls her back, but she has gone.

Personalities | Gustave Charpentier | Turn of the Century | Opera


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