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Dion Boucicault Collections

Babil and Bijou

Accession code: UKC/CALB/BAB

Commissioned by the Earl of Londesborough to produce the most spectacular entertainment ever seen on stage, Boucicault complied with a fairy spectacular for which the costumes and props alone may have cost £17,000. "Babil and Bijou", an entertainment in five acts and 18 tableaux, was first performed at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, London, August 29, 1872. Running for six months, usually to packed houses, it was the most expensive failure of Victorian theatre, not nearly recouping the enormous costs of staging it. The Times reviewer of the opening night wrote, "The question whether it is a good play is as irrelevant as the question whether a steamboat is a good windmill. It is a spectacle...".

Characters in the play

Music cover for Babil and Bijou
  • Melusine, the fugitive Queen of Fairyland
  • Azurine, the Spirit of the air
  • Wanda, the Spirit of the water
  • Mistigris, the Spirit of the earth
  • Skepsis, King of the Gnomes, usurping the throne of Melusine
  • Pragma, his Queen
  • The Spirit of Launcelot
  • Phassilis, Prince of Lutetia (disguising himself under the name of Babil)
  • Orzmarino (Admiralty)
  • Pompano, Chamberlain
  • Count Chicaforach (Finance)
  • Befeta (War)
  • Auricomos (an idol worshipped by the Court)
  • Typocompos (an idol worshipped by the people)
  • Hydra, daughter of Typocompos
  • Bijou, a peasant girl, daughter of Melusine
  • Mish Mish
  • Dagmar
  • Bruno
  • Olaf
  • Gurth
  • Zell
  • Sunshower
  • Ex-king Cod
  • Salmon
  • Skate
  • Oyster
  • Captain Lobster
  • King Octopus
  • Her Majesty Queen Turtle
  • A Walrus
  • Lord Dundreary
  • The Ape
  • Prince Cherry
  • Princess Rosebud
  • Otto of Roses
  • Dewdrop
  • Tiger Lilly
  • Honeysuckle
  • Grasshopper
  • Lord Pink
  • Water Lily
  • Queen Camelia
  • Geranium
  • Dragon Fly
  • Queen Bee
  • Stag Beetle
  • Heartsease
  • Jasmines
  • Fuchsias
  • Tulips
  • Tomato, Carrot
  • Lord Butterfly
  • Cabbage
  • Pine Apple
  • Potatoe
  • Turnip
  • Beetroot
  • Aerolite
  • Lunar Bow
  • The Princess Fortinbrasse
  • King Dodo (her first husband)
  • Prince Phinnikin (her second husband)
  • Enpekt Duke of Graymaria (her third husband)
  • Phoolineer (her fourth husband)
  • Boolbool
  • Kooz Kooz
  • Zemzem
  • Omphale
  • Vortex
  • Atalanta
  • Galatea
  • Bonduca
  • Horsa
  • Syphax
  • Hero
  • Armida
  • Gorgona
  • Attila
  • Goneril
  • Bellona
  • Armadilla
  • Fredegonde
  • Lysandra
  • The Wild Men of the Moon

Plot

"Melusine, Queen of Fairyland, having been deprived of her kingdom for the crime of wedding a mortal, flies with her daughter, Bijou, to her husband's cot, to find that he has shared her punishment and died for the offence. The usurpers of her throne, Skepsis and Pragma (King and Queen of the Gnomes) know that they can never securely reign until they possess Melusine's Crown, Sceptre, and Robes, and for the purpose of obtaining possession of them, pursue her, but on discovering her retreat, find that they have arrived too late, for Melusine has in the meantime, given her regalia to the safe keeping of her late ministers and friends, viz.: -- Mistigris, Spirit of the Earth -- Wanda, Spirit of the Waters -- and Azurine, Spirit of the Air, who each promise to hide them in the deepest recesses of their respective domains.

"Seventeen years elapse, and Bijou, grown up to womanhood, has been concealed in the Rosewood Forest, and brought up as a companion of the villagers, and Phassalis, Prince of Zanzoozee, who has abdicated his throne, and disguised himself as a Forester, wins the hand and heart of Bijou. During all this time Skepsis and Pragma have vainly endeavoured to discover Bijou, in order that she might be wedded to their son, Porthos, and on the very day of Bijou's Nuptials, finds [sic] her whereabouts and would cast their evil spells over her, but for the timely arrival of Melusine, who appears to her daughter, Bijou, and gives her Twelve Golden Eggs, possessing a power by which she can protect herself -- the breaking of each egg securing for its owner any wish that may be desired. Melusine also tells her daughter, Bijou, her real rank, and exhorts her to endeavour to gain the lost regalia, and so recover her birthright and power.

"Bijou, with her betrothed, Babil, now assisted by Mistigris, proceed to discover the Robes, Crown and Sceptre, they pass thro' many adventures, visiting the depths of the sea, the expanse of the air, and the confines of the earth. During their travels they constantly encounter Skepsis, Pragma, and their imps, who, in various disguises, endeavour to foil them; at last the missing Crown and Sceptre are recovered from the earth and water, and lastly, the Robes are restored to them by one Princess Fortinbrasse, who has, through their power, become Queen of Atalantes, the Silver City of the moon, but who, on finding they are the property of Bijou, returns them to their rightful owner. Thus Bijou recovers her birthright, Babil is permitted to marry her, and Skepsis with his wicked party are overthrown." (Summary from the 1882 Alhambra Theatre Royal version of the play, see item 590508 below).

Productions of Babil and Bijou

Production 1
Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, Bow Street, Westminster, London, England
29.8.1872

Production 2
Alhambra Theatre, Charing Cross Road, London, England
5.1882

Related material

Printed edition
BABIL AND BIJOU, the argument and words of songs; Pettingell Collection
Item number: 0590509

Printed edition
BABIL AND BIJOU, a grand fairy spectacular opera; Pettingell Collection
Item number: 0590508

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Last Updated: 02/02/2018