THE GREATER GOOD
or THE PASSION OF BOULE DE SUIF
Opera in Two Acts
Text by the Composer after Philip Littell's dramatic adaptation of the short story Boule de Suif
by Guy de Maupassant
Élisabeth Rousset, also known as Boule de Suif (Soprano)
Le Comte de Bréville (Bass)
La Comtesse de Bréville (Soprano)
M. Carré-Lamadon (Baritone)
Mme. Carré-Lamadon (Mezzo-soprano)
M. Loiseau (Tenor)
Mme. Loiseau (Soprano)
Old Nun (Coloratura Soprano)
Young Nun (Mezzosporano)
M. Follenvie (Bass-Baritone)
Mme. Follenvie (Mezzo-soprano)
Young Prussian Officer (Tenor)
2 Flutes (both double Piccolo, 2nd doubles Alto Flute), 2 Oboes (2nd doubles English Horn), 4 Clarinets (2nd doubles Piccolo Clarinet, 3rd doubles Bass Clarinet, 4th doubles B-flat Contrabass Clarinet), 2 Bassoons (2nd doubles Contrabassoon), 3 Horns, 2 Trumpets, 2 Trombones, Tuba, 3 Percussionists, Harp, Strings
Click here to read the complete libretto.
The following story synopsis is taken from "Reflections on the oldest profession"
by Theodore Dalrymple (New Citerion, vol. 22, No. 8, April 2004)
oule de Suif takes place immediately after the Prussian victory in the Franco-Prussian War. A group of people travel in a coach from Rouen to Dieppe, in the hope of reaching Le Havre, which is still controlled by the French. Among them are a local aristocrat, an unscrupulous wine-dealer, and a cotton merchant, as well as their wives and two nuns. They are the respectable party. Then there is Boule de Suif (literally Ball of Tallow), a fat and jolly prostitute. Their journey is in the middle of winter, and takes far longer than anticipated. Boule de Suif is the only one who has had the foresight to bring provisions, which she shares with the other passengers, whose hunger overcomes their reluctance to enter into relations with such a fallen creature. They reach an inn where they intend to stay the night, and where the local Prussian commander is billeted. Although they have prior authority from a Prussian general to continue their journey, the local officer refuses them that permission, unless Boule de Suif agrees to submit to his amorous advances. At first, and only very briefly, the respectable passengers are united with Boule de Suif in her outraged and patriotic refusal to comply, but after the elapse of a day, their attitude changes. They send the innkeeper to propose to the Prussian officer that they continue on their journey while Boule de Suif remains, but he rejects the proposal out of hand. Then they find arguments as to why Boule de Suif should submit: she is a prostitute anyway, so one more liaison won’t matter much, and many famous women have sacrificed their virtue for their countries; the nuns find examples of saints who allowed themselves to be ravaged for God’s sake. In the end, Boule de Suif submits to the Prussian officer’s demands, and the next day they are all able to continue on their journey. But having demanded this sacrifice of her, the respectable party now despises her, as a fallen woman, for having made it. The final insult is that they will not share their provisions, which they bought at the inn while she was buying their release with her body, with her.