Le bourgeois gentilhomme (also widely know in its German form as Der Bürger als Edelman), Op. 60, is an orchestral suite written by Richard Strauss between 1911 and 1917. The original idea of Hugo von Hofmannsthal was to revive Molière's 1670 play Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, simplify the plot and introduce a commedia dell'arte troupe, add some incidental music and conclude matters with a one-act opera Ariadne auf Naxos.
The combination of play and opera was premiered in Stuttgart on 25 October 1912, but it was immediately apparent that it was too long and too expensive to mount, and that also much of the potential audience for the play was uninterested in the opera, and vice versa. Strauss and Hofmannsthal set to work on separating the two works. A prologue was written for the opera to explain the presence of the comedians and the opera was premiered in its revised form independent of the play in 1916. The play was also revised, Hofmannsthal replacing the opera with an ending closer to Molière's original and Strauss providing additional incidental music in 1917. Strauss created an orchestral suite from most of the music which was completed on 25 December 1917. The premiere of the orchestral suite took place in Berlin on 9 April 1918, under the baton of the composer.
The piece takes about a half-hour to perform. There are 9 parts:
- Menuett (Minuet)
- Der Fechtmeister (The Fencing Master)
- Auftritt und Tanz der Schneider (Entry and Dance of the Tailors)
- Das Menuett des Lully (Lully's Minuet)
- Auftritt des Cléonte (Entry of Cléonte) (after Lully)
- Vorspiel (Intermezzo)
- Das Diner (The Dinner)
Two additional movements written for the 1917 version of the play, a ballet for sylphs and one for pretend-Turks, were omitted from the suite.
The music is unusual among the works of Strauss in that it is neo-classical. Strauss gave it a distinct Baroque flavor. He based parts 5-7 on airs by Jean-Baptiste Lully who provided the music for Molière's original 17th-century play. Other neo-classical works based on the French baroque by Strauss include his 1923 Dance suite after keyboard pieces by François Couperin and his 1942 Divertimento for chamber orchestra after keyboard pieces by Couperin, Opus 86.