Mireille is the sleeper among Gounod’s opera. Written in 1864 as a five-act opera, the composer was to some extent flouting convention by choosing an intimate, pastoral and relatively contemporary subject at a time when all Paris was clamouring for historical spectacle. 

Mireille

Based on a poem by Frédéric Mistral, a French writer of Occitan literature and lexicographer of the Provençal language, it tells a tale of true love thwarted set-in rural France. Gounod immersed himself in the music and customs of the region in order to incorporate its moods and music – including, of course, the famous farandole – into his score. The premiere was not successful, and the work went on to have a checkered history with the composer adapting it as three and four-act versions plus a certain amount of tinkering with the heroine’s vocal part along the way.

This 2009 production for the Palais Garnier restored Mireille to its original state and justified the composer’s first thoughts as entirely correct. It has appeared previously on...