Les Deux Journees
‘Les Deux Journees’ or ‘The Two Days” also known in Germany as ‘The Water Carrier,” is an opera in three acts, with music by Luigi Cherubini, and text by Bouilly and was produced in Paris January 16, 1800.
- Armand, President of the Parliament of Paris
- Michael, a water carrier
- Daniel, father of Michael
- Anthony, song of Michael
- First officer
- Second officer
- First soldier
- Second soldier
- Constance, wife of Armand
- Angeline, daughter of Samos
- Officers, soldiers, peasants, village girls
The first two acts take place in Paris, the third in a village called Gonsse. The time is 1647.
Les Deux Journees Story
Anthony, the song of a Parisian water carrier, is to be married on the coming day to Angeline, the daughter of Samos, a wealthy farmer. He is receiving the congratulations of his friends upon the approaching event, his aged grandfather, Daniel, adding his voice to the felicitations.
Marcelline is despondent about marrying as advantageously as her brother but he reminds her that he was as poor as she and tells her how he came to win Angeline, concluding ingenuously.
“A kindly deed, an honest deed,
Will always bring its recompense.”
Upon Michael’s entrance, we learn something of political matters. Count Armand, president of the council and a man of much nobility of character, is being persecuted by Cardinal Mazarin. A price is set upon his head and the city gates are watched so carefully that no one can leave without a passport.
Armand and his wife Constance seek refuge at the water carrier’s humble home and, when officers come to search the house in the temporary absence of his family, Michael passes off his distinguished visitors as his daughter and father and devises a plan whereby Constance can escape the next day beyond the city limits with Anthony when he goes to wed Angeline in her village home.
The president’s escape will be accomplished in some other fashion. Marcelline, who finds that she will be deprived of attending her brother’s wedding, is grievously disappointed by exhibits a spirit of unselfishness.
It is the second of the two days in question when the next act begins. Constance and Anthony experience some difficulty in passing the strictly guarded gates, for the description of Constance in the passport is not particularly apropos.
They finally appeal to one of the officers who on the night before searched the house, and he is forced to admit that it is the same pretty girl he saw at Michael’s.
They are followed by Michael wheeling his cart, upon which is a barrel decked with flowers, for it is the festival of the water carriers.
The soldiers remind him of the thousand ducats offered in reward for Armand and he listens with apparent avidity, recounting to them how, at break of day, a man accosted him and offered much gold in exchange for his barrel and clothes.
The description of the man agrees with that of Armand in every particular and having aroused great excitement, Michael goes through the gates, virtuously wheeling his barrel in which the President of the Parliament of Paris is taking an uncomfortable ride.
In the third act, the bride and her friends are anxiously waiting the arrival of the delayed bridegroom. At last Anthony arrives and introduces Constance as his sister whom, fortunately, that have not seen.
Michael follows with his barrel and Armand is hastily concealed in a hollow tree. Two soldiers are billeted upon the house and are greatly taken with the pretty sister of Anthony.
When the feasting is over, the soldiers, who have imbibed too freely, come out to site by the hollow tree where they talk over the charms of Constance.
When she appears with food and drink for her husband, she is seized by the ruffians. Armand jumps out of the tree to defend her. The soldiers study his appearance with suspicion, which is confirmed when Constance, restored from her swoon, breathes his name.
He is about the surrender himself when Michael and Marcelline arrive. The former announces that Armand has been restored to power and favor. The nobleman eloquently expresses his gratitude and all ends happily.
“The Water Carrier” had its share of recognition from the great. It is said that Beethoven kept it always upon his desk; that Mendelssohn declared it gave him more pleasure than any other opera and that Spohr, upon hearing it for the first time, sat up the rest of the night to study its score.
Prominent numbers are:
- Michael’s song – Deh so m’ascolti (I know to Listen)
- The trio of Armand, Constance and Michael – O mio Liberator (True Friend and Liberator)
- The duet of Armand and Constance in which they vow to share each other’s fate
- The ensemble of the soldiers with Anthony and Constance
- The wedding chorus – La Pastorella (The Shepherdess)