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Giacomo Meyerbeer
 
 
 
 
Giacomo Meyerbeer, original name Jakob Liebmann Meyer Beer (born Sept. 5, 1791, Tasdorf, near Berlin—died May 2, 1864, Paris), German opera composer who established in Paris a vogue for spectacular romantic opera.
 
Born of a wealthy Jewish family, Meyerbeer studied composition in Berlin and later at Darmstadt, where he formed a friendship with C.M. von Weber. His early German operas, produced at Munich, Stuttgart, and Vienna, were failures, and after a journey to Paris and London he settled in 1816 in Italy, where he produced five operas in the style of Rossini. The best of these was Il crociato (Venice, 1824), given the following year in London and Paris. His first French opera, written in association with Eugène Scribe, was Robert le Diable (Paris, 1831), produced on an extremely lavish scale and calculated to appeal to the current romantic taste for medievalism, the supernatural, and the macabre.

Its success was immediate, establishing this work as the model of French grand opera. Les Huguenots was similarly successful in 1836. In 1842 Meyerbeer temporarily returned to Berlin, where he became music director to the King of Prussia and where he prompted the production of Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer. During this period he wrote a German opera, Ein Feldlager in Schlesien (1844), in which Jenny Lind took the principal part. His third romantic opera on a libretto of Scribe, Le Prophète, was given in Paris in 1849. He then turned to a lighter style and produced two works in the tradition of the opéra comique, L’Etoile du nord (1854) and Le Pardon de Ploërmel (1859). His last opera, L’Africaine, was in rehearsal at the time of his death.

Meyerbeer enjoyed an enormous vogue in his day, but his reputation, based on his four Paris operas, did not survive long.

 
Yet he exercised a considerable influence on the development of opera by his conception of big character scenes, his dramatic style of vocal writing, and his original sense of orchestration—particularly his novel use of the bass clarinet, the saxophone, and the bassoon. Berlioz came under his influence, and operas such as Verdi’s Don Carlos and Puccini’s Turandot are traced to Meyerbeer not only for their spectacular elements but also for their effective manipulation of ensembles and arias. A number of his operas, most notably L’Africaine, were revived in the 20th century, and a ballet suite, Les Patineurs, based on Le Prophète, was arranged by Constant Lambert.

Encyclopædia Britannica

 
 
 

Meyerbeer enjoyed a privileged upbringing as the son of a rich and influential Jewish merchant who was an official contractor to the army in Germany and owner of sugar factories. His mother's family were well-regarded bankers and their borne near Berlin was something of a focal point for gatherings of the cultural elite, including nobility — Meyerbeer's music teacher also coached the royal princes. The composer made his first public appearance as a pianist at the age of seven.

By the age of 19 he had collaborated with the head ballet-master of the Royal Opera and created a "ballet pantomime" called Der Fischer und das Milchmadchen (The Fisher and the Milkmaid). In the same year, 1810, he moved to Darmstadt to continue his musical education. There he met other students and under the loose leadership of Carl von Weber formed a circle who wrote reviews ot each other's work under pen names. During this period he wrote two operas, Der Admiral (The Admiral) and Jephtas Gelubde (Jephta's Vow). He travelled to Munich and managed to have Jeplnas Geliibde staged at the end of 1812, to a rather indifferent audience; the following year, a comic opera, Wirth und Gast (Host and Guest), met the same fate in Stuttgart. In 1814 Meyerbeer became court composer to the Grand Duke of Hesse.

Meyerbeer's compositions continued to receive mixed receptions, while his playing generated much admiration. His friend Salien suggested he lighten the rather heavy Germanic construction of his operas and in 1816 Meyerbeer travelled to Italy to absorb the freer approaches of the Italian style. With interruptions to oversee foreign productions, he remained in Italy for nine years. During this time he was greatly influenced by the works of Rossini and wrote six increasingly successful operas. Of these, Il Grociato in Egitto (The Crusader in Egypt) in 1824 was a particular triumph and led to productions in London and Paris, where Meyerbeer met the well-known librettist Eugene Scribe.

In 1827 he and Scribe began their first collaboration, the Grand Opera Robert le Diable (Robert the Devil), performed to huge acclaim in 1831. Initially conceived as an opera comique, it was revised so that its theme of good versus evil would create a greater impression. The Revue Musicale of 1831 shows its impact: "... the score of Robert le Diable is not just M. Meyerbeer's masterpiece; it is a work remarkable in the history of art ... It incontestably places M. Meyerbeer at the head of the present German school."' Seventy-seven theatres in a dozen countries staged the opera, later described by Wagner as having a sinister "deathless" atmosphere. Meyerbeer was awarded the Legion d'Honneur three-years later, and finally settled in Fans.

Within a year of this success Meyerbeer and Scribe were again at work on Meyerbeer's greatest accomplishment, Les Huguenots, premiered at the Paris Opera in 1836. The opera drew on the conflicts between Catholics and Huguenots in sixteenth-century France, and, typically of Grand Opera, included as many ballets, choruses, and crowd scenes as possible. It was an overwhelming success and was the first opera to be performed more than one hundred times at the Paris Opera.

Scribe and Meyerbeer followed up with Le prophete, performed successfully in 1849. Meyerbeer's last opera, L'Africaine, was based on the travels of the explorer Vasco da Gama. Begun in 1837, it was laid aside for work on Le prophete and was not completed until 1863, receiving its first performance the year after Meyerbeer's death m 1865.

In all Meyerbeer's Grand Operas he gave preference to singers over the orchestra, and showed himself a composer who loved experimentation and considered music to be entertainment rather than high art. His operas made him a rich man, and although praise for his works turned to criticism in later years, his influence can be felt throughout nineteenth-century opera, especially in Verdi's Don Carlos and Aida and in Wagner's early opera Rienzi. The recommended work, Les patineurs, is a ballet score by English composer Constant Lambert, written for the Sadler's Wells Ballet, London, in 1 937. It draws on music from two Meyerbeer operas, Le prophete and L'Etoile du Nord.

 
 
 

Scene and romance of Valentina from "Hugenotes"

(Irina Vasileva)

   
 

Robert le Diable

 

Le prophete

 

Dinorah

 

L'Africaine

 

Margherita d'Anjou

 

 
 
 
 
Robert le diable (Robert the Devil) - 1831
 
 
Robert le diable (Robert the Devil) is an opera in five acts composed by Giacomo Meyerbeer from a libretto written by Eugène Scribe and Germain Delavigne. Robert le diable is regarded as one of the first grand operas at the Paris Opéra. It has only a superficial connection to the medieval legend of Robert the Devil.

The opera was immediately successful from its first night on 21 November 1831 at the Opéra; the dramatic music, harmony and orchestration, its melodramatic plot, its star singers and its sensational stage effects compelled Frédéric Chopin, who was in the audience, to say, "If ever magnificence was seen in the theatre, I doubt that it reached the level of splendour shown in Robert...It is a masterpiece...Meyerbeer has made himself immortal". Robert initiated the European fame of its composer, consolidated the fame of its librettist, Scribe, and launched the reputation of the new director of the Opéra, Louis-Désiré Véron, as a purveyor of a new genre of opera. It also had influence on development of the ballet, and was frequently mentioned and discussed in contemporary French literature.

Robert continued as a favourite in opera houses all over the world throughout the nineteenth century. After a period of neglect, it began to be revived towards the end of the twentieth century.


Background

Giacomo Meyerbeer's early studies had been in Germany, but from 1816 to 1825 he worked in Italy. There he studied opera, then dominated by Gioachino Rossini, and wrote his own Italian operas, which were moderately successful and also had some performances in other European countries. The success of Il crociato in Egitto (1824) throughout Europe, including at Paris in 1825, persuaded Meyerbeer, who was already thirty-three years old, to fulfil at last his ambition to base himself in Paris, and to seek a suitable libretto for an opera to be launched there.

Meyerbeer first mentions Robert le diable in his diaries in February 1827. The Journal de Paris announced on 19 April 1827 that the libretto of Scribe and Delavigne had been passed by the censor and that 'the music is to be entrusted to a composer, M. Meyer-Beer, who, having acquired a brilliant reputation in Germany and Italy, is extending it to our country, where several of his works have been already successfully represented.'

The libretto was fabricated on the basis of old legends about Duke Robert the Magnificent of Normandy, the father of William the Conqueror, alleged in some versions to have been the son of the Devil. The librettists padded out this outline with a variety of melodramatic incidents. The plot reflected 'the fantastic legendary elements which fascinated the opera public of 1830', a taste which had evolved from the 1824 Paris production of Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischütz (in its French version Robin des bois), which also features a doubtful hero befriended by a demon promising him success.

The libretto was originally planned as a three-act opéra comique for the Opéra-Comique theatre. Meyerbeer stopped work on the opera in 1827 when the theatre underwent financial difficulties. In August 1829, the composer and librettists agreed to refashion the work in a five act form to meet the requirements of the Paris Opéra. This entailed some significant rewriting of the storyline, reducing the essentially comic role of Raimbaut (who vanishes after Act 3 in the final version, but whose antics – including the spending of Bertram's money – continued throughout in the earlier libretto). It also meant that the traditional 'pairing' of lovers in opéra comique (Robert/Isabelle paralleled throughout by the 'lower-class' Raimbaut/Alice) was swept aside in favour of concentration on the more sensational story-line of Robert's diabolic ancestry.

The contract for the opera, specifying it as a "grand opera in five acts and seven scenes", was signed by the then director of the Opéra, Émile Lubbert, on 29 December 1829. Meyerbeer completed the composition of the work in Spa, Belgium in June and July 1830. Its characterisation as a 'grand opera' placed it in succession to Auber's La muette de Portici (1828) and Rossini's Guillaume Tell (1829) in this new genre. The composer undertook further work on the opera in early 1831, converting spoken passages to recitatives and adding ballet episodes, including, in act 3, the "Ballet of Nuns", which was to prove one of the opera's great sensations, and which Henri Duponchel had suggested to replace the original humdrum scenario set in Olympus. He also rewrote the two major male roles of Bertrand and Robert to suit the talents of Nicolas Levasseur and Adolphe Nourrit, respectively.



Degas: "Ballet of the Nuns" from act 3 of Robert le diable (1876 version)
 

Performance history
Premiere seasons in Paris

The opera premiered on 21 November 1831 at the Paris Opéra. The success owed much to the opera's star singers – Levasseur as Bertram, Nourrit as Robert — and to the provocative "Ballet of the Nuns" in the third act, featuring the great ballerina, Marie Taglioni.

The choreography for the ballet was elaborated by the ballerina's father, Filippo Taglioni. The audience's prurient delight in this scandalous scene is well conveyed by the reviewer for the Revue des Deux-Mondes:

A crowd of mute shades glides though the arches. All these women cast off their nuns' costume, they shake off the cold powder of the grave; suddenly they throw themselves into the delights of their past life; they dance like bacchantes, they play like lords, they drink like sappers. What a pleasure to see these light women...

The set for the ballet was an innovative and striking design by Henri Duponchel and Pierre-Luc-Charles Ciceri. Duponchel had also introduced technical innovations for the staging, including 'English traps' for the sudden appearance and disappearance of the ghosts. (Meyerbeer was led to complain that the spectacle was too much and was pushing his music into the background). Taglioni danced the Abbess only six times in Paris; she was replaced by Louise Fitzjames, (who danced the role 232 times).

At the invitation of Nourrit, Cornélie Falcon made her debut at the age of 18 at the Opéra in the role of Alice on 20 July 1832. The cast included Nourrit. Although suffering from stage fright, Falcon managed to sing her first aria without error, and finished her role with "ease and competence." Her tragic demeanor and dark looks were highly appropriate to the part, and she made a vivid impression on the public, which included on that night Auber, Berlioz, Halévy, Maria Malibran, Giulia Grisi, Honoré Daumier, Alexandre Dumas and Victor Hugo. On hearing her in the role, Meyerbeer himself declared his opera at last 'complete'.

By April 1834 the opera had received over 100 performances in Paris. Nourrit sang the role of Robert until 1837, when he was replaced as premier tenor at the Opéra by Gilbert Duprez, whom, however, Meyerbeer did not like in the role; nor did he approve of an alternative, Lafont. However, he was impressed by the newcomer Mario (Cavaliere Giovanni Matteo di Candia), and wrote for him a new aria for Robert which was performed at his debut in the revival of the opera on 30 November 1838. Mario's debut was the launch of his very successful career. Others singing in the 1838 revival included Julie Dorus-Gras (Alice), Prosper Dérivis (Bertram) and François Wartel (Raimbaut). By Meyerbeer's death in 1864 the opera had been performed over 470 times in Paris alone.

Early performances outside Paris

A succession of representations throughout Europe and in the Americas launched Meyerbeer's international fame. A version of the opera – under the title of The Fiend-Father, by Rophino Lacy – was first presented in London at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on 20 February 1832; the original version appeared at the Haymarket Theatre on 11 June of that year. Lacy's version was given in New York on 7 April 1834. In 1832 the opera reached Berlin, Strasbourg, Dublin and Liège; in 1833 Brussels, Copenhagen, Vienna and Marseilles; in 1834 Lyon, Budapest, The Hague, Amsterdam and Saint Petersburg; in 1835 (12 May) it obtained its first American performance in the original French at the Théâtre d'Orléans in New Orleans. Italian versions were given in Lisbon in 1838, and in Florence in 1840.

Meyerbeer took particular care over the first London and Berlin productions. He travelled to London to check the singers and production for the original version, and requested that the German translation for Berlin be undertaken by the poet Ludwig Rellstab, strongly recommending that Taglioni and her father Fillipo be re-engaged, and that Ciceri's sets should be reproduced. Although Taglioni danced and the sets were retained, the translation was eventually carried out by Meyerbeer's friend Theodor Hell. Meyerbeer wrote additional ballet music for Taglioni for the Berlin production.

The Danish choreographer August Bournonville saw Fitzjames's performance as the Abbess in Paris in 1841, and based his own choreography, which was used in Copenhagen between 1833 and 1863, on this. This choreography, which has been fully preserved, represents the only record of Filippo Taglioni's original.

In 1847 Felix Mendelssohn attended a London performance of Robert – an opera which musically he despised[24] – in order to hear Jenny Lind's British debut, in the role of Alice. The music critic Henry Chorley, who was with him, wrote "I see as I write the smile with which Mendelssohn, whose enjoyment of Mdlle. Lind's talent was unlimited, turned round and looked at me, as if a load of anxiety had been taken off his mind."

Twentieth century

During the early twentieth century, Meyerbeer's operas gradually disappeared from the stage, partly due to expense, partly due to their denigration by supporters of Wagnerian opera. In 1898, George Bernard Shaw, in The Perfect Wagnerite, had already cast scorn on Robert and commented that "Nowadays young people cannot understand how anyone could have taken Meyerbeer's influence seriously."

Nevertheless productions of Robert included those in New Orleans and Nice in 1901, Paris (at the Gaité Lyrique) in 1911, Barcelona in 1917, at the Vienna Volksoper in 1921 and Bordeaux in 1928. The first production after the Second World War was in Florence in 1968, a shortened version with a cast including Renata Scotto and Boris Christoff. In 1984 the revival at the Paris Opéra with Rockwell Blake (Robert), Samuel Ramey (Bertram), Walter Donati (Raimbaut), Michèle Lagrange (Alice) and June Anderson (Isabelle) was the first performance there since 1893. In 1999 a new production was mounted at the Prague State Opera.

Twenty-first century

A performance of a new critical edition of Robert le diable by Wolfgang Kühnhold was presented at the Berlin State Opera in March 2000[28] with Jianyi Zhang (Robert), Stephan Rügamer (Raimbaut), Kwangchul Youn (Bertram), Marina Mescheriakova (Alice), and Nelly Miricioiu (Isabelle), conducted by Marc Minkowski.

A new production of the opera, directed by Laurent Pelly, was premiered at the Royal Opera House London on 6 December 2012, the first time it had been performed there since 1890.



Guéymard as Robert (Courbet, 1857)


Synopsis


The plot of the opera has been often cut or rearranged in various productions. The outline given below follows the description given in The New Grove Dictionary of Opera (1992).[33]

Act 1
On the shore at Palermo

Robert and his mysterious friend Bertram are among a group of knights who are preparing to compete in a tournament for the hand of Princess Isabelle. They all praise wine, women and gambling (Versez à tasses pleines). Robert's attendant Raimbaut sings a ballad about a beautiful princess from Normandy who married a devil; the princess had a son, Robert, known as 'le diable'. Robert indignantly reveals that he is the son in question and condemns Raimbaut to death. Raimbaut begs for pardon and tells Robert that he is engaged to marry. Robert relents and relishes the thought of the droit du seigneur. Raimbaut's fianceé arrives; Robert recognizes her as his foster-sister Alice and pardons Raimbaut. Alice tells Robert that his mother has died and that her last words were a warning about a threatening dark force (Va! Va! dit-elle). She offers Robert his mother's will. Robert is too overcome to read it and asks Alice to keep it for the present. Robert expresses his longing for his beloved Isabelle and Alice offers to take a letter to her. Alice warns Robert to beware of Bertram but he ignores her. With Bertram's encouragement, Robert gambles with the knights and loses all of his money, as well as his armour.

Act 2
A room in the palace at Palermo

Isabelle is sad at Robert's absence and expresses her unease that their marriage will never take place (En vain j’espère). She is delighted when she receives Robert's letter. Robert arrives and the pair express their pleasure at being together again. Isabelle provides him with new armour for the tournament. Robert is preparing for the tournament when Bertram suddenly appears and persuades Robert to go to a nearby forest, claiming that the Prince of Granada, his rival for Isabelle's love, wants to fight with him. When Robert has left, the court gathers to celebrate the marriage of six couples with dancing. The Prince of Granada enters and asks Isabelle to present him with arms for the tournament. Isabelle expresses her sorrow at Robert's disappearance but prepares to open the tournament, singing in praise of chivalry (La trompette guerrière).

Act 3
The countryside near Palermo

Bertram meets Raimbaut, who has arrived for an assignation with Alice. He gives him a bag of gold and advises him not to marry Alice as his new wealth will attract plenty of women (Ah! l’honnête homme). Raimbaut leaves and Bertram gloats at having corrupted him. Bertram reveals that Robert, to whom he is truly devoted, is his son; he then enters an adjoining cave to commune with the spirits of hell. Alice enters and expresses her love for Raimbaut (Quand je quittai la Normandie). She overhears strange chanting coming from the cave and decides to listen; she learns that Bertram will lose Robert forever if he cannot persuade him to sign away his soul to the Devil by midnight. On emerging from the cave, Bertram realizes that Alice has heard everything (Mais Alice, qu’as-tu donc?). He threatens her and she promises to keep silent. Robert arrives, mourning the loss of Isabelle, and Bertram tells him that to win her he should seize a magic branch from the tomb of Saint Rosalia in a nearby deserted cloister. Although to take it is sacrilege, the branch will give Robert magical powers. Robert declares that he will be bold and do as Bertram instructs. Bertram leads Robert to the cloister. The ghosts of nuns rise from their tombs, beckoned by Bertram, and dance, praising the pleasures of drinking, gambling and lust. Robert seizes the branch and fends off the demons who surround him.

Act 4
A room in the palace

Isabelle is preparing for her marriage with the Prince of Granada. Alice rushes in to inform her of what she has learnt about Robert, but she is interrupted by envoys of the Prince who enter bearing gifts. Robert arrives and, using the power of the branch, freezes everyone except himself and Isabelle.

Unsettled by the power he's wielding, he confesses to Isabelle that he is using witchcraft, but begs her not to reject him. She expresses her love for him and implores him to repent (Robert, toi que j'aime). Robert breaks the branch and the spell it has created, and is taken into custody by Isabelle's attendants.


Act 5 scene 1, with Levasseur, Nourrit, and Falcon, as painted by the costume designer, François-Gabriel Lépaulle(fr) (1835)



Act 5

Outside Palermo Cathedral

A group of monks extol the power of the Church. Bertram has freed Robert from the guards and the two arrive to prevent the marriage of Isabelle to the Prince of Granada. Bertram attempts to get Robert to sign a document in which he promises to serve Bertram for all eternity. He reveals to Robert that he is his true father and Robert decides to sign the oath from filial devotion. Before he can do so, Alice appears with the news that the Prince has been prevented from marrying Isabelle. Alice prays for divine help (Dieu puissant, ciel propice) and hands Robert his mother's will. Robert reads his mother's message, in which she warns him to beware the man who seduced and ruined her. Robert is wracked by indecision. Midnight strikes and the time for Bertram's coup is past. He is drawn down to hell. Robert is reunited with Isabelle in the cathedral, to great rejoicing.


Reception


A number of factors influenced the opera's very favourable reception. The initial cast contained leading singers of the period and, as it changed, equally brilliant stars (e.g. Falcon) were introduced as replacements. The sensational plot and the notoriety of the Nuns' ballet ensured that the opera was a hot topic in journals and reviews. This was assisted by the marketing skills of the director Véron and the publisher Schlesinger. The scenery was of exceptional quality: "This was as much an opera to see as to hear, and it has been argued that the real hero behind Robert le diable was Cicéri, the designer." Meyerbeer was keen to keep influential persons on his side. For example, he sent free tickets for 'a good box' to Heinrich Heine. And of course the businessman Véron knew how to use (and pay) the claque and its leader Augustin Levasseur.

But undoubtedly the novelty and colour of the music of Meyerbeer deserves major credit. The alliance of his German musical training, along with his study of opera for many years in Italy, was highly attractive to a Parisian audience which 'asked only to be astonished and surprised.' [38] The critic Ortigue wrote that Meyerbeer 'straight away [took] his position at the crossroads where Italian song and German orchestration have to meet.' Meyerbeer paid close attention to unusual combinations and textures and original orchestration, examples being the use of low brass and woodwind playing chromatic passages associated with Bertram; the use of a brass band and male choir to characterise the demons in Act 3; and so on. Hector Berlioz was particularly impressed; he wrote an entire article in the Revue et gazette musicale, entitled 'On the Orchestration of Robert le diable ', which concluded:

Robert le Diable provides the most astonishing example of the power of instrumentation when applied to dramatic music; ... a power of recent introduction which has achieved its fullest development in the hands of M. Meyerbeer; a conquest of modern art which even the Italians will have to acknowledge in order to prop up as best they can their miserable system which is collapsing in ruins.
The opera was perceived to have weaknesses of characterization. For example, Robert's dithering behaviour led to one comment that "what is least diabolical in Robert le diable is Robert himself." But the critic Fétis gave the consensus opinion: "Robert le diable is not only a masterpiece; it is also a remarkable work within the history of music ...[it] seems to me to unite all the qualities needed to establish a composer's reputation unshakeably."

The success of the opera led to Meyerbeer himself becoming a celebrity. King Frederick William III of Prussia, who attended the second performance of Robert, swiftly invited him to compose a German opera, and Meyerbeer was invited to stage Robert in Berlin. In January 1832 he was awarded membership of the Légion d'honneur.[43] This success – coupled with Meyerbeer's known family wealth – inevitably also precipitated envy amongst his peers. Berlioz wrote "I can't forget that Meyerbeer was only able to persuade [the Opéra] to put on Robert le diable ... by paying the administration sixty thousand francs of his own money"; and Chopin lamented "Meyerbeer had to work for three years and pay his own expenses for his stay in Paris before Robert le diable could be staged ... Three years, that's a lot – it's too much."

Influence

The success of Robert had profound consequences, for the institution of the Paris Opéra itself, for the music, staging and popularity of nineteenth century opera as a whole, and for ballet.

The fortuitous timing of the opera's premiere, not long after the July Revolution, and its sensational and novel effects, meant that it was widely identified with the new, liberal, ideas of the July Monarchy. As Berlioz commented, Meyerbeer had "not only the luck to be talented, but the talent to be lucky." Honoré de Balzac (in his novella Gambara) and Heinrich Heine (in his poem Angélique) are just two of the contemporary writers to express their fascination with the opera. Alexandre Dumas set a chapter of The Count of Monte Cristo between two acts of Robert; and George Sand wrote about it at length in her Lettres d'un voyageur. It is the only nineteenth-century opera to have a rose named after it.

Also, the absence of starchy historical content in Robert doubtless played a part in attracting the bourgeoisie to the opera, until then regarded as primarily an aristocratic entertainment. The success of the opera also justified the government's policy of 'privatization' in selling the management to Véron, and this was a landmark in the dilution of state control and patronage in the fine arts. Although Véron had not commissioned it (having taken control only after the Revolution), Robert was his first new production as manager of the Opéra, and its success underwrote his policy of commissioning similar works. These were to include Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots, Fromental Halévy's La Juive, and Daniel Auber's Gustave III. However, while they used 'the same dazzling theatrical rhetoric' as Robert, they led to 'uniformly horrific dénouements' with 'gripping moral urgency', their more sophisticated plot-lines reflecting the changes in taste of the new opera clientele. They established Paris as Europe's opera capital, with the Opéra itself as its centre, in the period 1830 until 1850.

The Act 3 ballet is regarded by some as the first of the ballets blancs (whereby the principal ballerina and the corps de ballet are all clothed in white) which became a favourite of the nineteenth-century repertoire. Later examples include La Sylphide (1832) (also choreographed by Filippo Taglioni and danced by his daughter), Giselle (1841), Pas de Quatre (1845) and Les Sylphides (1909).

Music from the opera became the subject of numerous virtuoso works of the time. The brilliant transcription of its themes (Reminiscences de Robert le diable) made by the composer and virtuoso Franz Liszt was so popular that it became his calling card: on more than one occasion he was forced to interrupt his programmed concerts to play it because of the demands of the audience. On the day of its publication by Maurice Schlesinger, the edition of 500 was completely sold out and it had to be immediately reprinted. Indeed the success of Robert, whose score was also published by Schlesinger, was said to have saved him from bankruptcy. Frédéric Chopin and Auguste Franchomme jointly composed a Grand duo concertant on themes from the opera, for cello and piano, in 1832, and the Italian pianist and composer Adolfo Fumagalli composed an elaborate fantasy on the opera for left hand alone as his Op. 106.

Other pieces based on the opera included works by Adolf von Henselt and Jean-Amédée Méreaux.

Edgar Degas painted the scene of the Nuns' ballet twice. The earlier version (1871) is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. In 1876 Degas painted a larger version for the singer Jean-Baptiste Faure (who had sung the part of Bertram); this version is in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The work's popularity spawned many parodies and pastiches including one by W. S. Gilbert, Robert the Devil, which opened at the Gaiety Theatre, London in 1868.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
 
 
ROBERT LE DIABLE - GIACOMO MEYERBEER - 1985 ( PARIS )
 
Robert - Rockwell Blake
Alice - Michèle Lagrange
Isabelle - June Anderson
Bertram - Samuel Ramey
Raimbaut - Walter Donati
Albert - Jean-Philippe Marlière

Conductor - Thomas Fulton
Orchestra - L'Opéra National de Paris
Chorus - L'Opéra National de Paris

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Les Huguenots - 1836
 
 
Les Huguenots (French pronunciation: ​[lez‿ygəno]) is a French opera by Giacomo Meyerbeer, one of the most popular and spectacular examples of the style of grand opera. In five acts, to a libretto by Eugène Scribe and Émile Deschamps, it premiered in Paris in 1836.


Composition history

Les Huguenots was some five years in creation. Meyerbeer prepared carefully for this opera after the sensational success of Robert le diable, recognising the need to continue to present lavish staging, a highly (melo)dramatic storyline, impressive orchestration and virtuoso parts for the soloists – the essential elements of the new genre of Grand Opera. Coming from a wealthy family, Meyerbeer could afford to take his time, dictate his own terms, and to be a perfectionist. The very detailed contract which Meyerbeer arranged with Louis-Désiré Véron, director of the Opéra, for Les Huguenots (and which was drawn up for him by the lawyer Adolphe Crémieux) is a testament to this. While Meyerbeer was writing the opera, another opera with a similar setting and theme (Le pré aux clercs by Ferdinand Hérold) was also produced in Paris (1832). Like Meyerbeer's, Hérold's work was extremely popular in its time, although it is now forgotten.

Performance history
Les Huguenots premiered at the Paris Opera on 29 February 1836 (conductor: François Habeneck), and was an immediate success. Both Adolphe Nourrit and Cornélie Falcon were particularly praised by the critics for their singing and performances. It was indeed Falcon's last important creation before her voice so tragically failed in April of the following year. Hector Berlioz called the score "a musical encyclopaedia". Les Huguenots was the first opera to be performed at the Opéra more than 1,000 times (the 1,000th performance being on 16 May 1906) and continued to be produced regularly up to 1936, more than a century after its premiere. Its many performances in all other of the world's major opera houses give it a claim to being the most successful opera of the 19th century.

Other first performances included London (Covent Garden Theatre), 20 June 1842, and New Orleans (Théâtre d'Orléans) on 29 April 1839. Due to its subject matter it was sometimes staged under different titles such as The Guelfs and the Ghibellines (in Vienna before 1848), Renato di Croenwald in Rome, or The Anglicans and the Puritans (in Munich), to avoid inflaming religious tensions among its audiences.

Les Huguenots was chosen to open the present building of the Covent Garden Theatre in 1858. During the 1890s, when it was performed at the Metropolitan Opera, it was often called 'the night of the seven stars', as the cast would include Lillian Nordica, Nellie Melba, Sofia Scalchi, Jean de Reszke, Édouard de Reszke, Victor Maurel and Pol Plançon.

Soviet adaptation
In the Soviet Union, the opera was given a new libretto as Dekabristi, about the historical Decembrists.

Modern revivals
The critic Arthur Elson wrote in 1901, "Les Huguenots contains many passages of supreme beauty. Marcel's powerful battle song ("Piff Paff"), the bright gaiety of the garden scene, the "Rataplan" of the Huguenot soldiers, and the impressive "Benediction of the Poignards" are made of truly dramatic material, while Raoul's farewell to Valentine affords a climax that remains undimmed by the lapse of years." But like others of Meyerbeer's operas, Les Huguenots lost favor in the early part of the twentieth century and it no longer forms part of the standard operatic repertoire.

One reason for the lack of revivals is cost. Another is the extraordinary difficulty in casting the work. Les Huguenots has seven leading roles—two sopranos, one mezzo-soprano, two baritones, a tenor, and a bass. Moreover, the tenor part, Raoul, is one of the most taxing in all of opera. He is on stage for large sections of all five acts and his music is filled with extremely difficult high notes. Certainly, there is lack of modern-day virtuoso singers capable of performing Meyerbeer's operas with the sort of grace, stamina and technical panache that they need to have lavished upon them, if the composer's musical intentions are to be fully realised.

Dame Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge were the major force in the opera's revival during the second half of the 20th century. Sutherland chose the opera for her final performance at the Sydney Opera House on 2 October 1990, Bonynge conducting the Opera Australia Orchestra.

In recent years, the opera has sometimes been performed in concert form, and there have been occasional revivals by European opera companies, including Leipzig (1974), The Royal Opera, London, Bilbao (1999), Metz (2004), Liège (2005), and Brussels (2011). In 1975, the New Orleans Opera Association staged the epic, with Marisa Galvany, Rita Shane, Susanne Marsee, Enrico Di Giuseppe, Dominic Cossa, and Paul Plishka heading the cast.

Bard SummerScape in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, presented the opera in a fully staged production in August 2009, conducted by Leon Botstein, directed by Thaddeus Strassberger and designed by Eugenio Recuenco (decor), Mattie Ullrich (costumes) and Aaron Black (lighting). The cast included Alexandra Deshorties, Michael Spyres, Erin Morley, Andrew Schroeder, Peter Volpe, Marie Lenormand and John Marcus Bindel.

A new production opened at the Staatstheater Nürnberg in 2014, conducted by Guido Johannes Rumstadt with stage direction by Tobias Kratzer, a co-production with Opéra de Nice.


Synopsis

The story culminates in the historical St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in 1572 in which thousands of French Huguenots (Protestants) were slaughtered by Catholics in an effort to rid France of Protestant influence. Although the massacre was a historical event, the rest of the action, which primarily concerns the love between the Catholic Valentine and the Protestant Raoul, is wholly a creation of Scribe.

Act 1
The chateau of the Count

A short orchestral prelude, featuring the Lutheran chorale Ein feste Burg, replaces the extended overture Meyerbeer originally intended for the opera. The Catholic Count of Nevers is entertaining his fellow noblemen. They await the arrival of Raoul, and are surprised to hear that this emissary of the Court is a Huguenot. After a drinking song at Raoul's entry, the newcomer is prevailed upon to give a tale of love. Raoul tells of an unknown beauty he has rescued and fallen in love with. (With a daring and unusual stroke of orchestration, Meyerbeer accompanies this aria with a solo viola d'amore). Raoul's Protestant servant Marcel is shocked to see his master in such wicked company and sings a hearty Protestant prayer (to the tune of 'Ein feste Burg'). He then sings a Huguenot battle song from the siege of La Rochelle, Pif, paf.

The arrival of a mysterious lady stranger to speak to Nevers (off stage) interrupts the proceedings. Raoul recognises her as his mysterious beauty. In fact she is Nevers' intended bride, Valentine (daughter of St. Bris), instructed by the Queen to break off her engagement. The page Urbain enters with a secret message for Raoul, daring him to come blindfolded to a secret rendezvous.

Act 2
The gardens at the Château de Chenonceaux

Queen Marguerite looks into a mirror held by her enamoured page Urbain, and sings the virtuoso pastorale, O beau pays de la Touraine. Valentine enters and reports that Nevers has agreed to break the engagement. Marguerite's entourage of ladies enter dressed for bathing. This leads to a ballet. Raoul enters blindfolded and the ladies tease him. With his sight restored, the Queen orders Raoul to marry Valentine to cement relations between the Protestant and Catholic factions. In a complex final ensemble, while a chorus of nobles swears friendship, Raoul, who believes Valentine is the mistress of Nevers, refuses to comply with the Queen's command. The nobles then swear revenge, and Marcel reproaches Raoul for mixing with Catholics.

Act 3
Paris, the 'Pré aux clercs' on the left bank of the Seine, at sunset

The act opens with extensive scene setting of citizens, soldiers, church-goers and gypsies. Valentine has just married Nevers, but remains in the chapel to pray. Marcel delivers a challenge from Raoul. Saint-Bris decides to attack Raoul, but is overheard by Valentine. A watchman declares curfew (the scene anticipating a similar one in Wagner's Die Meistersinger). Valentine, in disguise, tells Marcel of the plot against Raoul. The duel is interrupted by rival factions of Protestant and Catholic students, and only the arrival of the Queen stems the chaos. Raoul realises that Valentine has saved him and that his suspicions of her were unfounded. However, now she is wedded to his enemy. Nevers leads her away in a splendid procession.

Act 4
A room in Nevers' Parisian town-house

Valentine, alone, is surprised by Raoul who wishes to have one last meeting with her. The sound of approaching people leads Raoul to hide behind a curtain, where he hears the Catholic nobles, accompanied by three monks, who bless their swords, pledge to murder the Huguenots. Only Nevers does not join in the oath. This scene is generally judged the most gripping in the opera, and is accompanied by some of its most dramatic music. When the nobles have departed, Raoul is torn between warning his fellows and staying with Valentine, but finally duty triumphs over love. Valentine faints as Raoul makes his escape.


Painting by François Dubois, a Huguenot painter, of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day


Act 5

Scene 1: A ballroom

The Protestants are celebrating the marriage of the Queen to Henry of Navarre. The tolling of a bell interrupts the proceeding, as does the entrance of Raoul, who informs the assembly that the second stroke was the signal for the Catholic massacre of the Huguenots.

[A performance tradition existed in some centres of ending the opera with Scene 1 and its suggestion of the massacre]


Scene 2: A cemetery: in the background, a ruined Protestant church

Nevers dies protecting Marcel, who is wounded; Valentine agrees to become a Protestant to marry Raoul and Marcel carries out the nuptials. A 'chorus of murderers' shoots all three, after they express their vision of heaven, 'with six harps'. Wounded, they are finally murdered by St. Bris and his men, he realising only too late that he has killed his own daughter. (Cf. the closing scene of Fromental Halévy's opera, La Juive, libretto also by Scribe, produced a year earlier than Les Huguenots). The entrance of the Queen, and the chorus of soldiers singing 'God wants blood!', brings the opera to a close.



John Everett Millais, A Huguenot, on St. Bartholomew's Day, Refusing to Shield Himself from Danger by Wearing the Roman Catholic Badge (1852)
 

Influence
Following five years after Meyerbeer's own Robert le diable and a year after Fromental Halévy's La Juive, Les Huguenots consolidated the genre of Grand Opera, in which the Paris Opéra would specialise for the next generation, and which became a major box-office attraction for opera houses all over the world. Hector Berlioz's contemporary account is full of praise, with 'Meyerbeer in command at the first desk [of violins] […] from beginning to end I found [the orchestral playing] superb in its beauty and refinement […] The richness of texture in the Pré-aux-Clercs scene [of act III] […] was extraordinary, yet the ear could follow it with such ease that every strand in the composer's complex thought was continually apparent – a marvel of dramatic counterpoint'. The immense success of the opera encouraged many musicians, including Franz Liszt and Sigismond Thalberg, to create virtuosic piano works based on its themes. A military slow march based on the prelude to Les Huguenots is played every year during the ceremony of Trooping the Colour at Horse Guards Parade in London.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
 
 
 
Giacomo Meyerbeer - Les Huguenots (1836)
 
Cyril Diederich
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Giacomo Meyerbeer - Margherita d'Anjou (Complete)
 
Conductor: David Parry
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Prophet - 1849
 
 
Le prophète (The Prophet) is an opera in five acts by Giacomo Meyerbeer. The French-language libretto was by Eugène Scribe.

Performance history

The opera was first performed by the Paris Opera at the Salle Le Peletier on 16 April 1849. The creators of the three main roles were Anaïs Castellan as Berthe, Pauline Viardot as Fidès, and Gustave Roger as Jean. The second city to hear it was London, at Covent Garden on 24 July of the same year. It was given all over Germany in 1850, as well as in Vienna, Lisbon, Antwerp, New Orleans, Budapest, Brussels, Prague and Basel. Its tremendous success continued throughout the 19th and into the early 20th century.

Since the Second World War there have been few notable productions: Zurich in 1962, Deutsche Opera Berlin in 1966 (both starring Sandra Warfield and James McCracken) and the Metropolitan Opera in 1977 with Marilyn Horne as Fidès, directed by John Dexter.



Act 4, scene 2, of the original production, set design by Charles-Antoine Cambon and Joseph Thierry


Synopsis

Time: The religious wars of the 16th century
Place: Dordrecht and Münster
Jean de Leyde (based on the historical John of Leiden), whose beloved, Berthe, is coveted by Count Oberthal, ruler of Dordrecht, is persuaded by a trio of sinister Anabaptists to proclaim himself king in Münster.

Meyerbeer originally wrote a long overture for the opera which was cut during rehearsals, along with various other sections of the work, due to the excessive length of the opera itself. For over a century, the overture was thought to survive only in piano arrangements made at Meyerbeer's request by Charles-Valentin Alkan, but Meyerbeer's manuscript full score was rediscovered in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris in the early 1990s, the original parts were discovered in the archives of the Paris Opèra shortly thereafter, and a newly edited edition was published in 2010.

Act 1
Before Oberthal's castle

Berthe explains to Fidès that she needs the Count's permission to marry Jean whom she has loved ever since he rescued her from the Meuse. Three Anabaptists enter, Jonas, Matthisen and Zacharie, singing their chorale, Ad nos ad salutarem (to a tune created by Meyerbeer) and arouse the interest of local peasants in their revolutionary ideas. Oberthal emerges from his castle and recognizes Jonas as a former steward and orders soldiers to beat the three men. Taken by Berthe's beauty, he refuses her request and arrests the two women. The people become angry, and with the returning Anabaptists, threaten the castle.

Act 2
Jean's inn at Leyden

The Anabaptists enter with merrymaking peasants and try to persuade Jean that he is their destined leader, claiming that he closely resembles the picture of King David in Münster cathedral. Jean recounts to them a dream in which he was in a temple with people kneeling before him. Berthe hurries in, having fled Oberthal; the Count next arrives and threatens to execute Jean's mother Fidès unless Berthe is returned to him. In despair, Jean gives in and hands over Berthe to Oberthal. When the Anabaptists return Jean is ready to join them in vengeance against Oberthal; he goes, without letting Fidès know.

Act 3
The camp of the Anabaptists in a Westphalia forest

The first scene includes a 'skating' ballet interlude set on the ice of a lake. Jean has been proclaimed to be a prophet. The Anabaptists determine to seize Münster; their decision is overheard by Oberthal who has entered the camp in disguise. On his detection he is arrested; but when he informs Jean that he has seen Berthe alive in Münster, Jean cancels the order for his execution. An attack on Munster led by the three Anabaptists fails, and the returning rabble are rebellious. However, Jean, as Prophet and Leader, inspires the Anabaptist troops with a celestial vision of their impending success.

Act 4
Münster

In the first scene Jean, who wishes to make himself Emperor, has taken the city, whose citizens are in despair at his rule. Berthe recognises Fidès begging in the streets; she has been shown the bloody clothes of Jean whom she believes is dead. Berthe, when told that her love has been killed, determines to kill the wicked Prophet. The second scene is Jean's coronation in the cathedral and is preceded by a Coronation March. Fidès is determined to carry out Berthe's plan for revenge but when she hears Jean say that he is anointed by God, she recognizes his voice and cries out "my son!". This threatens Jean's plan and he pretends not to know her. He calls on his followers to stab him if the beggar woman claims again to be his mother. This forces Fidès to retract, saying her eyes have fooled her.

Act 5
John's palace in Münster

The Anabaptist trio resolve to hand over Jean to the German Imperial armies to buy their own protection. Fidès has been summoned by Jean to his palace, and he implores forgiveness for what he has done. The mother finally forgives her son when convinced that he has acted only in revenge for the wrongs committed against Berthe. Berthe now enters intent on killing the prophet whom she thinks killed her love. She has set a slow fire to the palace which will soon reach the powder magazine. When she realises that Jean is the Prophet she has come to destroy, her joy is swiftly followed by realization that Jean and the murderous Prophet are the same, she stabs herself. During the banquet to celebrate his coronation, Jean and Fides join the revelers, determined to die with them in the fire, which, as the magazine explodes, brings the palace down in smoke and flames on all within.

Influence
The musical and theatrical influences of the opera can be felt in, amongst others, Liszt's monumental Fantasy and Fugue on the chorale "Ad nos, ad salutarem undam" for organ which is based on the Anabaptists' chorale, the duet between mother and lost child in Giuseppe Verdi's Il trovatore, and the catastrophic finale of Richard Wagner's Götterdämmerung. The tremendous success of Le prophète at its Paris première also provoked Wagner's anti-Jewish attack on Meyerbeer, Das Judenthum in der Musik.

Ballet
In 1937 Constant Lambert arranged excerpts from this opera and from L'étoile du nord into the ballet Les Patineurs, choreographed by Sir Frederick Ashton.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
 
 
 
 
Giacomo Meyerbeer - Le Prophète (complete opera)
 
 
 
 
 
 
Giacomo Meyerbeer - Le Prophete - Coronation March
 
Le Prophète - Coronation March
Compositor.- Giacomo Meyerbeer

Es tan hermosa desde el minuto: 0:42

La interpretaciòn de esta marcha corre a cargo de:Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Giacomo Meyerbeer - Clarinet Quintet in E-flat major (1813)

 
Clarinet quintet in E-flat major (1813)

Mov.I: Allegro moderato 00:00
Mov.II: Adagio - Andante 08:51
Mov.III: Rondo: Allegro scharzando 14:54

Clarinet: Dieter Klöcker
Violin I: Daniel Stabrawa
Violin II: Christian Stadelmann
Viola: Niethard Resa
Cello: Jan Diesselhorst

Painting: Portrait of Meyer Beer (Jacob Liebmann Beer). aged 11 (1803) by Friedrich Georg Weitsch.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Giacomo Meyerbeer - Struensée - Ouverture
 
Struensée, play in five acts with music, 19 September 1844, Schauspielhaus, Berlin.

Libretto: Michael Beer, Giacomo's brother

Ouverture

Orchestra: Radio-Philharmonie Hannover des NDR

Conductor: Michail Jurowski

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Giacomo Meyerbeer - Fest-Ouvertüre im Marschstyl for the London Expo 1862
 
Fest-Ouvertüre im Marschstyl for the London Expo 1862

Orchestra: Radio-Philharmonie Hannover des NDR

Conductor: Michail Jurowski

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Giacomo Meyerbeer - Dinorah ou Le Pardon de Ploërmel - Ouverture
 
Dinorah ou Le Pardon de Ploërmel, opéra comique in three acts, first performance 4 April 1859, Opéra-Comique, Paris,

Libretto: Jules Barbier/Michel Carré/Giacomo Meyerbeer after Carré, Les Chercheurs de trésor.

Ouverture with chorus

Chorus: Geoffrey Mitchell Choir

Orchestra: Philharmonia Orchestra

Conductor: James Judd

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Giacomo Meyerbeer - L'étoile du nord - Ouverture
 
L'étoile du nord, opéra comique in three acts, first performance 16 February 1854, Opéra-Comique, Paris.

Libretto: Eugène Scribe after Vielka and his ballet-pantomime La Cantinière.

Ouverture

Orchestra: National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland

Conductor: Vladimir Jurowski

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
L'Africaine (The African Woman) - 1865
 
 
L'Africaine (The African Woman) is a grand opera, the last work of the composer Giacomo Meyerbeer. The French libretto was written by Eugène Scribe. The opera is about fictitious events in the life of the real historical person Vasco da Gama. (Meyerbeer's working title for the opera was Vasco da Gama.)


Performance history

The opera was premiered by the Paris Opéra at the Salle Le Peletier on 28 April 1865 in a performing edition undertaken by François-Joseph Fétis, as the composer had not prepared a final version by the time of his death the previous year. It is Fétis who gave the work its present title; Meyerbeer had referred to it as Vasco de Gama. In fact it is clear from the text, with its references to Hinduism, that the heroine Sélika hails not from Africa, but from a region of, or island nearby, India. Madagascar has been suggested as a compromise reconciliation. Gabriela Cruz has published a detailed analysis of the historical context of the events of the opera and the opera setting itself.

Meyerbeer was working on the score from 1854 to 1855, and had intended the role of Sélika for the soprano Sophie Cruvelli, but Cruvelli's abrupt retirement from the public stage in January 1856 interrupted his plans.

The work had its British premiere at Covent Garden Theatre, London, on 22 July 1865, and in New York on 1 December 1865. It also received its Italian premiere in 1865 in Bologna, conducted by Angelo Mariani and was staged four times at La Fenice between 1868 and 1892. It was also performed in Melbourne, Australia, in July 1866.

The opera was enormously successful in the 19th century, but today it is rarely revived. Plácido Domingo has sung it in at least two productions: a revival at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco that premiered on November 13, 1973; and in 1977 at the Liceu in Barcelona, with Montserrat Caballé. To mark the 150th anniversary of Meyerbeer's death, the work was performed again at La Fenice in November 2013. Most modern performances and recordings are severely cut to give prominence to the parts of da Gama and Sélika, and therefore they cannot give a full idea of the composer's conception, which in any case has been to some extent obscured by the version prepared by Fétis.

In 2013, Meyerbeer's original version in a new critical edition by Jürgen Schläder (de) was performed by Chemnitz Opera under the original title Vasco de Gama.[ The production was a success with audiences and critics and won the poll of German critics award presented by Opernwelt magazine annually as "Rediscovery of the year" in 2013.

The best known part of the opera is the act 4 tenor aria "Pays merveilleux ... O, paradis", which has been recorded many times.

 


The four principal singers at the premiere, from left to right: Naudin, Battu, Sasse, Faure


Synopsis

The opera depicts fictional events in the life of the explorer Vasco da Gama.

Place: Lisbon, at sea, and in an exotic new land
Time: late 15th century

Act 1
The council chamber, Lisbon

The beautiful Inès is forced by her father, the Grand Admiral Don Diego, to marry Don Pédro instead of her true love, Vasco da Gama. Da Gama, who is thought to have died in the expedition of Bartolomeu Dias, appears at the Grand Council saying he has discovered a new land, and displaying Sélika and Nélusko as examples of a newly discovered race. His request for an expedition is refused, causing da Gama to attack the Grand Inquisitor, who anathematises him. Da Gama is then imprisoned.

Act 2
The prison

Sélika, who is in fact queen of the undiscovered land, saves da Gama, whom she loves, from being murdered by Nélusko, a member of her entourage. Inès agrees to marry Don Pédro if da Gama is freed; da Gama, not realising that Inès has made this bargain, and noticing her envy of Sélika, gives her Sélika and Nélusko as slaves. Don Pédro announces he is to mount an expedition to the new lands that were da Gama's discovery. Nélusko offers his services as pilot.

Act 3
On Don Pedro's ship

Nélusko is navigating the ship, but is secretly planning to destroy the Europeans. He sings a ballad of the legend of Adamastor, the destructive giant of the sea. Nélusko gives orders which will direct the ship into an oncoming storm. Da Gama has followed Don Pédro in another ship, and begs him to change course to avoid destruction. Don Pédro refuses, and orders him to be chained. The storm breaks out. Nélusko leads the local people to kill all the Europeans on the ships and only da Gama is spared.

Act 4
Sélika's island

Sélika is met with a grand celebration and swears to uphold the island's laws, which include the execution of all strangers. Da Gama is captured by priests, who intend to sacrifice him. He is amazed by the wonders of the island, and sings the most famous aria of the opera O Paradis! (O Paradise!). Sélika saves him by saying that he is her husband, forcing Nélusko to swear this is true. Da Gama resigns himself to this new life, but hearing the voice of Inès, who is being taken to her execution, he rushes to find her.

Act 5
The island

The reunion of da Gama and Inès is interrupted by Sélika, who feels betrayed. When she realises the strength of the lovers' affection, she allows them to return to Europe, telling Nélusko to escort them to da Gama's boat. She then commits suicide by inhaling the perfume of the poisonous blossoms of the manchineel tree. Nélusko follows her into death.

Set designs for the premiere
The stage designs for the original production at the Paris Opera were created by Auguste-Alfred Rubé and Philippe Chaperon for act 1 (Council Scene) and act 2 (Dungeon Scene); Charles-Antoine Cambon and Joseph-François-Désiré Thierry for act 3 (Sea Scene and Shipwreck) and act 4 (Hindu Temple); Jean Baptiste Lavastre for scene 1 of act 5 (Queen's Garden, not shown); and Edouard-Désiré-Joseph Despléchin for scene 2 of act 5 (The Manchineel Tree). Engravings depicting the amazing sets appeared in periodicals throughout Europe. The final scene designed by Despléchin received special praise for its originality. Possibly because of advance publicity and high expectations, the Shipwreck Scene of act 3, executed by numerous stagehands, was deemed by the press to be somewhat disappointing. However, Arthur Pougin writing in 1885 identified the scene as the epitome of the company's grand opera mise en scène.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
 
 

Set designs for the original production at the Salle Le Peletier
 
 
Giacomo Meyerbeer - L'Africaine - Prelude
 
L'Africaine, Grand opéra in five acts, first performance 28 April 1865, Opéra, Paris.

Libretto: August Eugène Scribe/Birch-Pfeiffer

Prelude

Orchestra: Radio-Philharmonie Hannover des NDR

Conductor: Michail Jurowski

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Mario Lanza - O Paradiso (L'Africaine)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Mario del Monaco "O Paradiso" L`Africana
 
Gaetano Merola, conductor
San Francisco 1950
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Luciano Pavarotti sings "O Paradiso" from Meyerbeer's L'Africaine - Poliedro de Caracas 1991
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Plácido Domingo - Meyerbeer: "Pays merveilleux!...O paradis" L'Africaine
 
 
 
 
 
     
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