Le moutardier du pape

Over a decade, Jarry composed librettos for at least ten operettas. Most remained unfinished or were printed posthumously. Par la taille would be the second and last title to appear in Jarry’s whimsical Théâtre mirlitonesque book series in 1906. In 1907, his friends helped organize a deluxe publication of his comic opera Le moutardier du pape—a farcical retelling of the legend of Pope Joan, who disguised herself as a man. The book’s design united a pensive (much younger) portrait of Jarry with eleven-year-old images of Ubu, who has no role in the operetta.

Similar to Jarry’s ahistorical approach to book design, his comic operas contain anachronistic figures and technologies. Photography and the Salvation Army are invoked within the ninth-century setting of Le moutardier, which also features a telephone. The title character tells Joan he is going to make a call “without a line,” adding, “for the time being, pending its invention.”

Alfred Jarry (1873–1907), Le moutardier du pape: Opérette bouffe en trois actes (Paris: s.n., 1907). The Morgan Library & Museum, gift of Robert J. and Linda Klieger Stillman, 2017. PML 197034.