STAGE AND ORCHESTRA FOR CHAUVIN
Each of the three acts is a single scene, requiring three sets in all.
SETTINGS AND TIMES
ACT I, Paris, France, The Élysée Palace, June 21, 1815, mid-morning
ACT II, Rochefort, France, a village square, July 3, 1815, early dawn, changing to afternoon
ACT III, Paris, inside Le Théatre de la Porte-Saint-Martin, 16 months later, November, 1816, Saturday evening.
TIME: Wednesday, June 21, 1815, three days after Waterloo, mid-morning
SETTING: The Élysée Palace, Paris, Emperor Napoleon's throne room. SL is the throne, angled, on four-tiered risers. UC is a balcony and railing, overlooking the courtyard below. A grand entrance arch, curtained in front of large doors, is SR, angled.
TIME: July 3, 1815, Monday, before light in the early morning. The moon is low, about to disappear (DC), as the first rays of the sun lighten the sky in the east (UC). At a certain time, noted, during the act, time passes into early afternoon. The curtain may be drawn and the quintet omitted at that point in the middle of the act, or not, at the discretion of the producers.
HISTORICAL NOTE: (From Imbert de Saint-Amand)
Monday, July 3. General Beker, always respectful toward the Emperor, told him in the morning that it might be dangerous to delay in this manner [tarrying in Niort], as there was reason to fear the arrival of an English fleet before Rochefort, which would render his Departure for the United States impossible. Napoleon allowed himself to be convinced, and left Niort, but not without regret. A detachment of light cavalry escorted him. Before evening they entered Rochefort. In the town and its environs were a regiment of naval artillery, fifteen hundred National Guards, and nearly three thousand gens d'armes, all of them well disposed toward the Emperor. They protested their devotion to him. He stayed at the Maritime Prefecture and the people gave him just such a welcome as he had received at Niort. Rochefort is one of the towns on whose sanitation Napoleon had expended most money. For many years he had continued the works for drying up the marshes that surround it - the inhabitants of Rochefort were grateful on that account, and not afraid to show it.
SETTING: In the environs of Rochefort, France, (Chauvin's birthplace). A square surrounded by the Chauvin home (SR), which is in part a bakery, a stone wall (US), a butcher shop (UL), a dairy store and an inn (DL). Between the butcher shop and the dairy store is a passageway leading off left. SRC is a tree, under which is a bench. The tree has a large trunk, and the leaves and branches hang from the flies so that the shops around the square are not obscured. CS is a well. Mme. Chauvin's bakery has a Dutch door through which she conducts her trade. Just outside the door US of it is a table and chairs where patrons may sit and visit, eat bread and drink. Throughout the scene, veteran soldiers trickle in and congregate around the table. US running right and left of center is a stone wall. The gate is UC, but it is cut at a right angle to the wall so that the region beyond is masked by the overlapping wall sections.
TIME: A Saturday evening, late November, 1816
SETTING: This is a theater-within-a-theater setting. It could be stylized on three trucks: (1) a stage set; (2) an audience set; and (3) a theater patron-box set. All references to stages and audiences shall follow these designations: Stage 1 (stage1) is the primary theater stage on which the opera is taking place, and its audience is Audience 1 (audience1). Stage 2 (stage2) is a secondary stage that is on stage1, and the audience for the play within the play is Audience 2 (audience2). The setting on stage1 is mostly a cutaway of the interior of a theater. DL and DR are small portions of the theater's exterior, stone or brick walls, with a ticket window in the DR portion. A kiosk is plastered with the title, etc., of the production now playing, LA MORT DE CÉSAR by M. de Voltaire.
NOTE: The libretto for the opening of Act 3 is taken from La Mort de César: Act 3, Scenes 3 through 8, the final scenes. From: The Works of Voltaire. A Contemporary Version with notes, a Critique & Biography by the Right Honorable John Morley. Notes by Tobias Smollett. Revised and Modernized New Translation by William F. Fleming, and an Introduction by Olive H.G. Leigh. Copyright, 1901. I have cut the dialog of Voltaire's play substantially. This play might have been revived for its statement about Cæsar as Napoleon, but I do not know if it truly had a revival; it suits my purposes to use it. Napoleon's censorship of the theatre had been revoked, and more freedom had crept into the theatre. This is now in public domain.
Plastered across the playbill in large flaming letters is the word "REVIVAL" or, in French, "REPRISE". The star-actors' names, Talma and Lafon, are also printed there. The name of the theater (for such a revival) is Le Théatre de la Porte-Saint-Martin. We see the theater inside from a side view, the stage2 being stage1 left (SL) and the audience2 section being stage1 right (SR). The slightly raked stage2 is angled from ULC to DL and basically showing a wing and drop arrangement. The stage2 is elevated several feet with stairs up from the audience2 section at DSL. The back stage2 areas, UL, are masked with wing curtains, but because of the angle, the audience1 can see actors off stage2. The audience2 section is right of center (CR) We see only one audience2 section, the one that would be left of the aisle if we were walking into this theater, so that the down stage1 area is the aisle running DR to DC. There is also an (unseen) aisle US of the audience2. The right-side profiles of the audience2 members are seen. I have not seen the theaters in Paris, but the setting here detailed meets the requirements of this action. Further research might add authentication, but I am undeterred by the dictates of authenticity; although this is my best guess as to what may be authentic.
The minimum orchestra needed:
2 Clarinets in A (the second doubling Clarinet in E flat)
2 Tenor Trombones
Tuba in F
3 percussion players
A large number of strings
Percussion includes the following:
Glockenspiel [player 1], Xylophone [player 2], Vibraphone [player 3],
2 gongs (pitched C and D if possible),
2 snare drums, tenor drum, bass drum, ratchet,
4 temple blocks, suspended cymbals, crash cymbals,
tam-tam, 2 rifle-shots