La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein (The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein) is an opéra bouffe (a form of operetta), in three acts and four tableaux by Jacques Offenbach to an original French libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy.
It was first performed at Paris's Théâtre des Variétés on April 12, 1867 and starred Hortense Schneider as the Duchess, who was highly successful in the title role.
The opera was first offered during the Paris Exposition (Exposition universelle) of 1867. It was very popular, and a parade of European royalty attended the performance. Among the attendees were French emperor Napoleon III; the future King Edward VII of England; Tsar Alexander II of Russia and his son Grand Duke Vladimir; Franz-Joseph, Emperor of Austria-Hungary; Otto von Bismarck, the Prime Minister of Prussia; and other crowned heads, generals, and ministers.
Seven months after its Paris debut, the opera appeared at Covent Garden in a translation by Charles Kenney. This translation became standard and was used in productions and revivals throughout England and the United States. The operetta had short runs in New York City at the Grand Opera House beginning on November 14, 1870 and on July 3, 1872. Another English adaptation was presented at the Savoy Theatre in London by the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in 1897-98 with a new translation by Charles Brookfield and lyrics by Adrian Ross, starring Florence St. John, Florence Perry, Walter Passmore and Henry Lytton. The production was reviewed as vivacious, but sanitized and "prudish".
Ironically, the operetta is a satirical critique of unthinking militarism, and only three years later the Franco-Prussian War broke out. The operetta was banned because of its antimilitarism after the French defeat in that war.
This work has again become popular in recent years. One notable production was that of Marc Minkowski in 2004 at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, staged by Laurent Pelly and starring Felicity Lott, Sandrine Piau, and Yann Beuron. Minkwoski restored several numbers cut after the first production. Both a CD and a DVD of the production are available (Virgin Classics, 2005).
Andrew Lamb, "La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein" in The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, ed. Stanley Sadie (London, 1992) ISBN 0-333-73432-7