Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (The Middle Class Nobleman) was first performed as a five hour comedie-ballet, with book by Moliere, music by Lully, and choreography by Beauchamps, at the enormous chateau of Chambord in 1670. The piece was instigated by Louis XIV as a biting response to an insult from the Turkish Sultan Aga who had remarked on his first visit to Versailles that “In my country, my horse is more bejeweled than the court of Louis.”
There was a great deal of music and singing in the production – previews of the French ballet and opera – as well as a rapier-like “book” by Moliere who, once again, pierces the balloon of obsession. In this case, Monsieur Jourdain, a rags-to-riches businessman, aspires to buy a place among the aristocracy – a disruptive assault on the Natural Order which has, throughout the history of storytelling – from Icarus to Enron – provided a rich source of dramatic conflict. In Jourdain’s case, his megalomania will destroy his marriage, his family, and his reputation. Only the combined inspiration of his entire household can divert his obsession long enough to secure happiness and stability.
When royalty was still linked with power, as in Moliere’s time, being close to the court was paramount. Today’s society doesn’t have such marked divisions of class. We aspire to be celebrities, Kardashians or Trumps, because it seems so attainable – it’s just a question of wealth. The closest equivalency to the drive for power today might be a bar owner with a rather limited education becoming a “player” in Washington?
Welcome to our introduction to this marvelous comedy. And in just 90 minutes!
“The Middle Class Nobleman” is sponsored in part by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, the City of Pasadena Cultural Affairs Commission, and the J. Mario Molina Family Foundation.