The third in a series of short posts that will get you ready for The Ghosts of Versailles, a few easily digestible paragraphs at a time.
I’ve already introduced you to the Ghosts of the opera’s title and the Figaro characters of the opera-within-the-opera. Today, we meet an important character who inhabits the same scenes as those Figaro characters. His name is Bégearss, and he is our villain.
The Count’s daughter (Florestine) and the Countess’s son (Léon) are in love. (No, this is not Walküre. They’re actually not blood relations, as they both were products of extramarital affairs…) The Count wants to punish his wife for her indiscretion (yes, the double standard was alive and well in the 18th-century aristocracy), so he forbids that her son marry Florestine. He instead promises Florestine to his buddy Bégearss.
Figaro tries to tell the Count that Bégearss is not to be trusted, but the warning falls on deaf ears. (For you Molière fans out there, the original title of the play on which this part of the opera is based was The Other Tartuffe – because Bégearss, like Molière’s untrustworthy Tartuffe, has managed to insinuate himself so perfectly into the Count’s household.) Bégearss ultimately lays a trap for the Count that leads to a series of events that even the playwright can’t unravel.
(Above: Costume design and research for the character of Bégearss, by designer David Woolard.)