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by Claxson Bellamy

Genre: Operetta
Format of Original Source: Plot summary
Recommended Adaptation Length: Two Hours

Candidate for Adaptation? Promising


The story of “Erminie” is based upon the old melodrama “Robert Macaire,” the two vagabonds, Ravannes and Cadeaux, taking the places of the two murderers, Macaire and Jacques Strop. Few melodramas were more popular in their day than “Robert Macaire,” in which Lemaitre, the great French actor, made one of his most conspicuous successes. It is also true that few musical comedies have been more successful than “Erminie.” At the opening of the opera, a gallant on the way to his betrothal with a young lady whom he has never seen is attacked by two thieves, Ravannes and Cadeaux, who carry off his wardrobe and tie him to a tree. Later, Ravannes arrives in the midst of the betrothal festivities, and passes himself off as the expected guest. He introduces Cadeaux as a nobleman, and explains their lack of proper attire with the statement that they had been robbed while on the way there. Erminie has an affection for Eugene, her father’s secretary, and none for the man who claims to be a suitor for her hand. Ernst, who was the real victim of the robbery, and who is in love with Cerise, escapes from the predicament in which the two thieves placed him, and arrives in time for the festivities, to find himself denounced by Ravannes as the highwayman who had attacked them earlier in the day. Ravannes, by assuming great magnanimity and a certain nobility of conduct, and by his proffers of help to Erminie in securing the man she loves in return for her assistance in his plans, of which she of course is ignorant, so ingratiates himself in her confidence that he nearly succeeds in robbing the house. In the end, however, the two vagabonds are unmasked. Eugene obtains the hand of Erminie, and Ernst and Cerise are equally fortunate.


An interesting beginning (two vagabonds swap places with two murderers), but the odd melodramatic action which follows is hard to swallow, and not outrageous enough to be true melodrama, either of the comic or the dramatic kind.  If you tackled this storyline, you’d probably get a little frustrated in the middle of your storyline, but worth a look?


A word of caution:  This plot summary was written by 19th-century literary critic George Upton, who often mixes personal opinion with summation.  You would be advised to consult the original source material, if the general plot appeals to you.


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