Chabrier’s one act opera Une Éducation Manquée has possibly the most implausible plot in all of opera. It concerns a young aristocratic French couple on their wedding night. The whole plot turns on them having no idea what they are supposed to do. Not only are they French but they rejoice in the names of Gontran de Boismassif and Hélène de la Cerisaie. Titter ye not! Fortunately it only takes them 47 minutes to figure things out because a Wagner work on this theme would be quite intolerable. I’m not sure why anybody would bother with this piece of fluff but it made it onto DVD in a performance recorded in Compiègne in 1994. It’s probably the most amusing thing out of there since someone faked up a video of Hitler dancing in front of a train carriage. Which isn’t saying a lot.
Meyerbeer’s Dinorah ou le Pardon de Ploërmel must be a very strong candidate for the silliest opera ever written. It concerns a young girl, Dinorah, who is deserted on her wedding day by her fiancé Hoël who disappears in search of a cursed treasure. She goes mad. There’s sheep and goat ballet, a lullabye to a goat accompanied on the bagpipes, more sheep and goat ballet and a scene where Dinorah sings a very difficult aria to her own shadow. There’s a “ghastly” enchanted glen scene at the end of which Dinorah, pursuing her pet goat, falls into a river; apparently fatally. Rather than resolve this we then get another half hour of pastoral with a hunter and a reaper and assorted shepherdesses and, inevitably, dancing sheep and goats before Hoël shows up having rescued Dinorah. He persuades her that the last twelve months have all been a bad dream and they get married accompanied by much pious singing.