The Learned Ladies
Music by Ray Leslee
Based on the play by Molière, translated and adapted by Freyda Thomas
Chrysale’s house is in an uproar, as his wife, Philamente, bursts with the quest for knowledge about everything. She badgers all around her, including servants, to improve their grammar and vocabulary, instead of polishing the silver. To help her achieve her goal of perfect syntax for everyone, she has taken in a young, impoverished poet, whose pen is definitely not as mighty as his… sword. Philamente wants her younger daughter, Henriette, to marry this man so he can enlighten her on more intellectual matters, and be more like her older sister, Armande. The poet in question, Malavere, is, of course, a charlatan, spouting some of the worst verse ever to slip from the lips of any fake. However, Henriette loves a very handsome, if somewhat rough-about-the-edges fellow, Cleante, who loves her back. Meanwhile, the jealous Armande, who spurned said fellow is having a hissy fit that he’s now in love with her sister. The sensible, young maid, Martine, who practices her housecleaning craft like a master and could care less about speech, saves the day when things come to a crisis, as they must in Molière’s world.
About the Creators
RAY LESLEE, composer
Standup Shakespeare (In New York with Alfred Molina, F. Murray Abraham, dir. Mike Nichols); Avenue X, the a cappella musical (50 productions, incl Playwrights Horizons in NY and The Wilma Theatre in Philadelphia, 13 Barrymore Awards incl Best Musical); A Good Man (The Vienna Chamber Opera); The Three Musketeers (national tour); Educating Rita (Steppenwolf Theatre); Palestine (New York Theatre Workshop), and Twelfth Night (Theatre For A New Audience in NY), to name a few. A Chamber Christmas Carol (The Morgan Library & Museum in NY). Romeo & Juliet for Orchestra and Actors (The Buffalo Philharmonic); Maya Songs (the poems of Maya Angelou, with members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra). Over 35 Shakespeare productions in New York and regional theatres (incl The Acting Company, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival). Honors: The Richard Rodgers Award (for Avenue X) as well as Best Musical awards from Dallas, Seattle and San Diego Theatre Critics, the Los Angeles Ovation Award, and the Helen Hayes Award (for Standup Shakespeare). Fellowships in composition from Yaddo and the New York Foundation for the Arts; The Gilman-Gonzalez-Falla Award, presented at Lincoln Center for lifetime achievement in musical theatre.www.rayleslee.com/
Freyda Thomas has an M.F.A. in playwriting from Cal Arts. The Gamester was her thesis project and premiered at Chicago’s Northlight Theatre in 2001. It was one of Chicago’s top 10 productions of 2001, and was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Women's Playwriting Prize in 2000. The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and San Francisco’s A.C.T. have produced it; Dramatists’ Play Service published it.
Her first adaptation was Moliere’s The Learned Ladies, (the subject of this opera). It premiered at CSC, off-Broadway in 1991, starring Jean Stapleton. A.C.T. San Francisco produced it in 1993 with Ms. Stapleton re-creating her role. Samuel French, Inc. published it in 1992.
In 1996 her update of Tartuffe (Tartuffe: Born Again) premiered on Broadway, starring John Glover. It is also published by Samuel French, Inc.
Other works include Splitting Heirs, which had its world premiere at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in 1986. Also, she recently completed two new Molière updates: School for Trophy Wives, set in present day Hollywood, and The Miser, her first prose adaptation by the French bard, now published by Samuel French, Inc.
Her complete works can be viewed and sampled at her website: www.freydathomas.com.