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Kirke Mechem

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Tartuffe (1980)
Text Writer
Libretto by the composer after Molière. German translation by Thomas Martin.
G Schirmer Inc
Opera and Music Theatre
Year Composed
2 Hours 10 Minutes
Optional chorus
Chinese, English, German, Russian
Baritone, Bass, Mezzo soprano, high Baritone, Soprano, Tenor, Soprano, Mezzo soprano, silent role
Alternate Orchestration
1111/1110/perc/hp/str (min
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Programme Note
Kirke Mechem Tartuffe (1980)
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Cast List:

   TARTUFFE, a hypocrite: Baritone
   ORGON, a wealthy Parisian: Bass
   ELMIRE, Orgon's second wife: Mezzo-Soprano
   MARIANE, Orgon's daughter: Soprano
   DORINE, Mariane's maid: Soprano
   DAMIS, Orgon's son: High Baritone
   VALÈRE , Mariane's fiancé: Tenor
   MME. PERNELLE, Orgon's mother: Mezzo-soprano
   FLIPOTE, Mme. Pernelle's maid: Silent


Tartuffe, a religious hypocrite, insinuates his way into Orgon's house and tries to marry his daughter. Orgon's wife, Elmire, sees through Tartuffe and plots to trick him into seducing her in order to open Orgon's eyes. Tartuffe, however, takes control of the house and wants to get the owner arrested, members of the family disguise themselves as officials of the crown and drive Tartuffe away.

With 350 performances in 108 productions since its 1980 San Francisco Opera premiere, Tartuffe has become one of the most popular operas ever written by an American.

In its "20th-century Classics" series, the Vienna Kammeroper's production of Tartuffe was a triumph in its Austrian premiere May 2, 2002. From September to January the opera played in three cities in Germany to ovations and excellent reviews, as it did in a three-year repertory run at the Mussorgsky National Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia. It has been translated into German, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and is being translated into Czech for the National Theater in Prague.

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Fabulous fun...bursting with movement and comedy. In composer Kirke Mechem, Molière has found his musical alter ego.
Die Furche (Vienna), ,01/01/0001
Wiener Kammeroper presented the Austrian premiere of a successful American work, Tartuffe, by Kirke Mechem. In the presence of the composer, the audience enjoyed two hours of sharp, lively opera buffa. The idea is as simple as it is successful: its framework is Molière's five-act penetrating satire...Mechem wrote a tight English libretto - modern, easily understood and wittily theatrical - and set it to music that is skillful and deftly humorous. The characterizations are masterful. Musical quotations, artfully placed, guarantee laughter at the right moments.
Peter Haiderer, Die Presse (Vienna),01/01/0001
The Austrian premiere of Kirke Mechem's highly successful three-act comic opera Tartuffe at the Wiener Kammeroper was an unexpected delight. Mechem, one of America's most prolific composers, has a genuine flair for the theater and an acute understanding of comedy...[Moliere's] superbly structured play serves as the basis for the opera, yet Mechem has provided a deft, glimmering, witty score. The opera is a delight; its music [of] sheer inventiveness, its orchestration highly detailed, and genuinely free of heavy- handedness throughout. Mechem's style is melodious, lyrical, and rhythmically exact...[His] is a distinctive voice and he has a particular gift for vocal writing. Here, he deliberately tailored both form and language to mirror 18th-century opera buffa in an ironic sense, while reflecting it entirely through late 20th-century declamatory interplay...
Brendan Carroll, Opera Now,01/01/0001
...a true master stroke. Exquisite, witty, tempestuous, effervescent-no opera lover should miss it.
Kleine Zeitung (Graz), ,01/01/0001
Tears of laughter…This correspondent has rarely heard such a witty contemporary opera, with such finely honed irony…It is uproariously funny…with downright fantastic rhymes and play of words.
Salzburger Nachrichten, ,01/01/0001
...a brilliant jewel, a delicious hit, right on the mark....The score is inspired, handsomely suited to the purpose and wildly effective at every turn....could be sold out for weeks or months...a masterful accomplishment.
San Francisco Chronicle , ,01/01/0001
How have I missed knowing about the opera Tartuffe by Kirke Mechem? It was premiered at the San Francisco Opera in 1980 and by late 2002 had already had some 260 performances in some 70 productions, worldwide. The composer made his own libretto, in English, based on the great Molière play, and it has been translated into Chinese, Czech, German, Japanese, and Russian. It has gathered effusive reviews everywhere it has been performed, and a May 4 performance by the NCSA's A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute fully confirmed the reasons for the opera's acclaim. This is very much a virtuoso ensemble opera...It was a fast paced, "white hot" evening of complete theater....Run - don't walk! - to catch Mechem's delightful Tartuffe.
William Thomas Walker, Classical Voice of North Carolina,01/01/0001
a delight, a high spirited farce, full of sparkling word-plays and internal rhymes. . . The invention and genial good nature of this score are impressive, indeed. . . recalls Falstaff.
New York Times, ,01/01/0001
a delight; a deft, glimmering, witty score of sheer inventiveness, its orchestration highly detailed and free of heavy-handedness. A distinctive voice: a genuine flair for theater and an acute understanding of comedy. . . . a lengthy ovation from the packed house.
Opera Now, ,01/01/0001
Immediately accessible and shamelessly appealing.…From Mozart, Mechem has divined the secrets of buoyant, intricate ensemble writing....Strauss has taught him how to capture the upper soprano range in all its soaring glory....conjures up a wide and glittering spectrum of colors and textures.
Los Angeles Times, ,01/01/0001
An ebullient and melodic masterpiece … startlingly original concepts and sounds and infectious rhythms. He also takes the time, though, to pause for a breath with elegant arias that define character.
Troy Record (New York), ,01/01/0001
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