Chéri takes place in the Parisian demi-monde just before the first World War and tells of the love affair between Léa de Lonval, a 49 year old ex-courtesan, and her lover of seven years, the 23 year old Chéri. Chéri is to be married to a woman his own age, Edmée, the innocent young girl he does not love. Chéri and Léa stand on opposite sides of the invisible meridian that separates youth from what’s left of one’s life, and as the opera begins, Léa has just begun to cross it. For though the story is named after Chéri, Léa is its principal character, and Chéri the agent through which Léa confronts the inevitable: not just her loss of Chéri, but, more crucially, the loss of her own youth and the sexual powers on which her identity has always depended.
The affair of Léa and Chéri is doomed because of age, alas. And the depredations of age are always with us, not only when they are an impediment to love, but when we catch sight of ourselves in the mirror or gaze into the faces of the next generation or the one that gave birth to us. It will eternally be a subject that stirs us to reflection, to poetry and to song.
a finalist for the Richard Rodgers Award in Musical Theater