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View Extract - Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Giacomo Meyerbeer
The Complete Libretti
in Eleven Volumes
(in the Original and in English
Translations by Richard Arsenty with
Introductions by Robert Ignatius Letellier)
Volume 11
The Meyerbeer Libretti
Grand Opéra 4
L'Africaine
Edited by
Richard Arsenty (translations)
and Robert Letellier (introductions)
Cambridge Scholars Publishing
The Meyerbeer Libretti: Grand Opéra 4 L'Africaine, Edited by Richard Arsenty (translations)
and Robert Letellier (introductions)
This book first published 2006 as part of The Complete Libretti of Giacomo Meyerbeer in Five
Volumes. This second edition first published 2008.
Cambridge Scholars Publishing
12 Back Chapman Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 2XX, UK
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Copyright © 2008 by Richard Arsenty (translations) and Robert Letellier (introductions)
All rights for this book reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system,
or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or
otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner.
ISBN (10): 1-84718-970-9, ISBN (13): 9781847189707
As the eleven-volume set: ISBN (10): 1-84718-971-7, ISBN (13): 9781847189714
Engraving from a photograph by John and Charles Watkins
(London, 1862)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Preface ........................................................................................................ ix
Introduction ................................................................................................ xi
The Libretti:
L'Africaine ................................................................................................... 1
PREFACE
Giacomo Meyerbeer, one of the most important and influential opera
composers of the nineteenth century, enjoyed a fame during his lifetime
unrivalled by any of his contemporaries. His four French grand operas
were in the standard repertory of every major opera house of the world
between 1831 and 1914. But his stage works went into an eclipse after
the First World War, and from then until the 1990s were performed only
occasionally. Now a rediscovery and reevaluation of his lyric dramas is
under way. More performances of his operas have taken place since 1993
than occurred during the previous twenty years. This presents a problem
for anyone who wants to study the libretti of his operas. The texts of
his early stage works are held by very few libraries in the world and
are almost impossible to find, and the libretti of his more famous later
operas, when come across, are invariably heavily cut and reflect the
performance practices of a hundred years ago. This eleven-volume set,
following on from the original five-volume edition of 2004, provides
all the operatic texts set by Meyerbeer in one collection. Over half of
the libretti have not appeared in print in any language for more than
150 years, and one of the early German works has never been printed
before. All of the texts are offered in the most complete versions ever
made available, many with supplementary material appearing in addenda.
Each libretto is translated into modern English by Richard Arsenty; and
each work is introduced by Robert Letellier. In this comprehensive
edition of Meyerbeer's libretti, the original text and its translation
are placed on facing pages for ease of use.
INTRODUCTION
L'Africaine (Vasco da Gama)
WORLD PREMIÈRE
28 April 1865
Paris, Opéra
Sélika .......................................................................................... Marie Sasse
Vasco de Gama.......................................................................Emilio Naudin
Nélusko........................................................................... Jean-Baptiste Faure
Inès ............................................................................................. Marie Battu
Don Pédro..................................................................... Jules-Bernard Belval
Don Diego ..................................................................... Armand Castelmary
Don Alva ................................................................ Victor-Alexandre Warot
Le Grand Prêtre de Brahma ............................................... Louis Henri Obin
Le Grand Inquisiteur..........................................................(Monsieur) David
Anna. ....................................................................................(Mlle) Levieilly
The Mancenillier Tree in Act 5.
xii
Giacomo Meyerbeer
The success of Meyerbeer's two opéras comiques could have kept the
composer working in this lighter vein: indeed in the last months of his life
he was considering subjects for another libretto. But his deteriorating
health meant that he needed to return to his long-neglected "navigator
project."
The text of L'Africaine is first mentioned on 16 September 1837, when
Scribe delivered acts 1 to 3 of a new libretto to Meyerbeer. The attention
of the collaborators was immediately taken up with the other text, Le
Prophète, even though a contract was drawn up on 1 January 1838. The
termination date was set for 24 August 1842. The contract conceded
postponement because of the illness of Cornelie Falcon, the brilliant
creator of Valentine, who was envisaged for the new role. However, her
ailment was to see the end of her career, and in the light of developments
at the Opéra in the 1840s, a serious discouragement to Meyerbeer's
creative interest in the project.
On 10 December 1841 he notes that "I... decided to begin preliminary
work on...L'Africaine in order to finish this provisionally, since I will soon
have to deliver it to Scribe [on 31 December 1843]."1 On 20 June 1843
Scribe handed over a revised version of the first two acts, and by 16
November the piano score was ready. A new contract was discussed with
Scribe on 24 November and during early December, and signed on 22
December 1843. There are even notes for a contract with Léon Pillet that
mention the new plan ("What about the Africaine?").
The official activities in Berlin, as well the composition of Feldlager,
Struensee and Le Prophète, meant that Meyerbeer did not even look to this
project. It was already becoming something of a legend, and even a talking
point among French ministers of state ("Thiers and Rémusat are extremely
keen that I should produce either Le Prophète or L'Africaine at the Opéra,"
16 January 1846). On 26 April he also notes that "it is Scribe's opinion that
I should now go ahead with L'Africaine", and on 23 January 1848 attended
a revue at the Théâtre de la Porte-Saint-Martin, La Fin du monde which
made fun of the composer's unproduced works, including the long-awaited
Africaine. However, Meyerbeer must have been working on the libretto,
even though his diary makes no mention of this, because on 11 and 12
March he notes that he "read through the sketches of my Africaine
carefully." After the tumult of the Prophète première, with his thoughts
turning to new projects, he reports on 5 June 1849 a conference with
Édouard Monnais (1798-1868), a well-known music critic and royal
commissaire, to whom he had given the libretto of Africaine for
examination: he tersely notes, "he is not happy with it."
1
The Diaries of Giacomo Meyerbeer (Madison, NJ: AUP, 2000), 2: 54-55.
The Meyerbeer Libretti
xiii
While the composer was unable to give Roqueplan, the new director of
the Opéra, any assurance of the new score for 1850, he did begin
conferring with Scribe about a revision to the existing libretto (16 October
1850), and in this connection, also read Camoëns's Lusiads in a French
translation (21 October). A new scenario was ready by 18 December 1851
("it does not please me very much"). A full scale revision was undertaken
by Scribe during 1852 after further conferences during his visit to
Meyerbeer in Berlin in May. On 14 June Meyerbeer wrote down his
observation on the new plan, two days later "took out several books on
India in order to research details for Vasco," and on 27 June "fetched the
copper engravings of the Indian journey made by Prince Soltikoff." Scribe
now prepared the new words, and at a meeting in Paris on 16 January 1853
Meyerbeer noted: "Scribe read out three acts, and then gave them to me.
They seem very lovely...." Acts 4 and 5 followed on 3 February.
Preliminary composition began soon after, but momentum was not
sustained because of the work on L'Étoile du Nord and then Le Pardon de
Ploërmel.
Conferences with Scribe were resumed in September 1855, and on 10
October the whole matter received an unexpected development when the
worm turned, and Scribe finally lost patience with the dilatory composer:
Conference with Scribe who has come out against the idea that I should
produce an opéra comique before completing either of the two grand
opéra libretti I have from him: I pacified him, and he stopped
protesting....2
As soon as he had completed the composition of Dinorah, and before
embarking on the demanding rehearsal period, he had another conference
with Scribe on 7 September 1856, and thoroughly reacquainted himself
with the libretto during November 1857. Composition began in earnest
while at Nice (December 1857 - April 1858) with the great Council Scene
in act 1. Once the frenetic activity surrounding the production of Dinorah
was completed in 1859, L'Africaine was to be the composer's constant
companion until the very days before his death (March 1860 - April 1864).
Scribe's demise in February 1861 precipitated another crisis. Who
would now help with the necessary revisions and alterations the composer
always required as any text was taking its final shape? Scribe was always
involved in the rehearsals and dramaturgy of the final production. There
was, further, the ownership of the libretto and the author's rights. The
potential difficulties with Scribe's estate were resolved by new contracts
2
The Diaries of Giacomo Meyerbeer (2002), 3:333-34.
xiv
Giacomo Meyerbeer
drawn up with Mme. Scribe in 1862 and 1863. For textual changes
Meyerbeer turned to Charlotte Birch-Pfeiffer in March, April and May
1861; she provided German revisions which were then translated into
French at different times during 1862 and 1863 by Joseph Duesberg (these
were mainly in acts 2 and 4). The alterations included new passages in the
Sélika's death scene written by the composer himself during November
and December 1863.
The original project of 1837 had been drawn from an unidentified
German tale and from a play by Antoine Lemierre (1723-93) (La Veuve de
Malabar, 1770) treating the love of a Hindu maiden for a Portuguese
navigator, a theme already used by Spohr in his Jessonda (1823).3 In this
earlier draft, the first two acts were set in sixteenth-century Seville; the
third on a ship commanded by a Spanish naval officer modeled on the
explorer Ferdinand de Soto; the fourth and fifth in central Africa. Despite
his dissatisfaction, Meyerbeer sketched an entire draft for this version. In
the second draft of 1852, the title became Vasco da Gama, the time moved
back a century, the first two acts relocated in Lisbon, the Spanish naval
officer became the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama; the third act was
still set on board, but now the fourth and new fifth acts were set in India.
The character of the former African queen was adjusted to this new
environment.
Meyerbeer died on 2 May 1864, the day after the completion of the
copying of the full score. The rehearsal period was always a time of
radical revision and excision for the composer, and he left a verbal request
that the work should not be produced if he were not alive to supervise it.
Minna Meyerbeer and César-Victor Perrin, the director of the Opéra,
however, entrusted the editing of a performing edition to the famous
Belgian musicologist François-Joseph Fétis, while the libretto was revised
by Mélesville. Because of the long public expectation, the original title
was restored, and attempted to reconcile this to the Hindu elements of the
action by shifting the action to the island of Madagascar. Much of the
music and action was suppressed, in spite of the damage this inflicted on
the internal logic of the story. Nonetheless, the work was produced on 28
April 1865, a great posthumous tribute to its famous creators. While used
to surprises of eye and ear in Meyerbeer's operas, the Ship Scene, the
exotic Indian act and the Scene of the Manchineel Tree exerted a new
fascination on audiences, and elicited new praise. The work began a
triumphal progress through the world, beginning with the big stages of
3
The hero is Tristan d’Acunha who rescues the widow of a rajah from ritual
immolation.
The Meyerbeer Libretti
xv
London and Berlin.4
While L'Africaine is not lacking in the grandeur of statement and
stirring climaxes for which the composer was so famous, there is a new
intimacy, a new intensity of melancholic lyricism. Like its famous
predecessors, it is basically an historical work, derived from the period of
sixteenth-century Renaissance questioning and rebellion so favored by the
collaborators. The account of Vasco da Gama's voyage of discovery
around the Cape of Good Hope and conquest of Calicut (1497-98) is
subjected to a fictional treatment that raises many interesting issues.
The framework is historical, but most of the characters and course of
action are not; in fact the end of the opera, which depicts the suicide of the
heroine, suddenly leaves the terra firma of reality, and transports us into
the mystical realms of the spirit. Dinorah, with its return to the legend and
folktale, had in fact conjured up something of the modality of Robert le
Diable, with its medieval universe of angels and devils, and its quest for
redemption. It is this mixture of modes that is central to the dramaturgy of
L'Africaine. The clue is provided by Meyerbeer's use of Camoëns's
Lusiads, where, in the conscious imitation of the ancient epics, there is a
mixture of the actions of men and gods, a confusion of history and
fairytale, and ancient certainties and challenging new discoveries. The
manchineel or upas tree that dominates the last act is typical of this
confusion of fact and fiction so typical of the age of discovery: botany and
superstition are combined to new effect, producing a myth that plays a
decisive part in the historical chronicle. The chorus of unseen spirits at the
end is similarly both a product of an hallucinogenic agent, and objective
reality, a wistful yearning for transcendence.5
The historical issues, exploration and aggressive colonialism, the
depiction of whole societies and their mutually destructive interaction,
could hardly be more epic. But the dramatic conflict narrows down
progressively until there is a single center of lyric consciousness, who, in
dying, realizes a spiritual ideal, and asserts decisively only one enduring
value, that of pure, sacrificial love. In the consideration of European power
in the drive to colonize whole continents, Scribe and Meyerbeer wrote an
opera about the self-offering of a single person who is a member of a dark
race that is held as inferior and soon to be subjugated. Like Valentine and
4
BECKER, Heinz, "Giacomo Meyerbeer: On the Occasion of the Centenary of His
Death". In Year Book IX of the Leo Baeck Institute. London, 1964; pp. 178-201.
5
LETELLIER, Robert Ignatius. "History, Myth and Music in a Theme of
Exploration: Some Reflections on the Musico-Dramatic Language of L'Africaine".
See THURNAU SYMPOSIUM 1991. Also in DÖHRING & JACOBSHAGEN
(eds.), Meyerbeer und das europäische Musiktheater, pp. 148-68.
xvi
Giacomo Meyerbeer
Fidès, this powerful female character stands for a noble and liberating
independence of thought and action that pits her against the overwhelming
trends and consensus of society.
No matter how private the motives of individuals, and how traditional
the intrigue, the actuality of the theme affects both the political and artistic
dimensions of the libretto. L'Africaine reflects something new in Scribe's
dramaturgy. No longer are questions being asked about the social origins
of the characters and their motivations (as in Le Prophète), but rather the
characters are presented as figures: the conquistador (Vasco), the admiral's
daughter (Inès), the black slave (Sélika), the noble savage (Nelusko), the
ruthless councillor (Don Pedro), are depicted in their functions, as is
society, in their different strata determined by politics (both secular and
religious spheres). No why, whence and wherefore are asked. The
ideological preoccupations of Les Huguenots and Le Prophète now give
way to new relationships of the characters to each other, a relationship that
eventually assumes a quasi-allegorical dimension (as in Robert le Diable).
In the background of the work is an abstract idea of conquest in which
Portugal must acquire new glory and living space without there being a
pressing motivation for this. All the characters in this opera are victims of
this idea; they must react to it, deciding and acting, whether it means
accepting it or being destroyed by it. Character motivation becomes less
determined, as picturesque elements become more important: the voyage
with its storm and shipwreck, the new exotic world with its social and
religious rites, the enraptured love duet under the influence of narcotics,
the mystical death under the legendary tree. The intensification of these
sound pictures in the last acts helps in the transition from the
verisimilitude to the mysteries of the fantastical love-death.
The tendency in L’Africaine is to emphasize trait rather more than
personality, a feature particularly noticeable in the handling of the soprano
and tenor parts. Inès becomes the embodiment of ancient Portuguese
virtue, reminding the hero of his high calling. Vasco represents the new
thrusting Renaissance spirit of exploration. Here there is again variation on
the Waverley type developed by Scribe and Meyerbeer from their first
collaboration. Robert seems transfixed by dilemma, incapable of
independent decision: his salvation is by grace. Raoul is almost
dangerously earnest, even naive, in his idealism. While John of Leyden
reveals a complex psychology, there is an unsettling ambiguity about his
actual motivation and intentions.
Vasco da Gama is recognizably in this Waverley mode, his personal
unpredictability and apparent vacillation rather puzzling. However, as
explorer and would-be conquistador, he is resolute and undeflectable; he is
The Meyerbeer Libretti
xvii
determined to find immortality, and this becomes his dominant trait. His
affection for Sélika is based on her exotic origins and what they symbolize
for his future: his love for her is induced by a love potion administered by
the High Priest. It is a delusion cast by the new-found paradise, and
prefigurative of the tragic outcome of this discovery. The man is subsumed
into the heroic abstraction when he responds to Inès’s voice of destiny.
The movement is away from the burden of personality into symbol: by the
fifth act Vasco has fragmented formally: his selfish pursuit of fame and
empire are irrelevant to the queen’s unique perception of love and its
demands.
The very nature of the textual, dramatic and musical fabric suggests
fragmentation and the diminution, even loss, of personal will. This
fragmentary nature is related in one sense to the premature death of both
collaborators. There is an impression of a working dramaturgy, in which
the relationship of the characters to each other are being constantly
subjected to new variations. The score is “a mosaic-like sequence of
abbreviated set pieces”6 in which assertion and personal conflict are
minimized; theatricality gives way to lyricism in concerted pieces (the
confrontation between Vasco da Gama and Don Pedro is the exception).
The act 3 septet, at the heart of the opera, should never be omitted: here all
the characters present their problems, but simultaneously, without separate
or sequential exploration. But the notion of fragmentation lies in the
material itself.
At the end of his creative life Meyerbeer was not repeating his earlier
conceptions, but replacing them with a new relationship of individuals to
each other, a venture into a new dramaturgical conception. The opera is
about letting go: it depicts relinquishment, abandonment, fragmentation,
deliquescence, transcendence. It is about taking leave, bidding farewell:
from the opening theme of the overture (the ballad of the Tagus), through
Inès's sad parting at the end of act 2, to the sacrificial death of Sélika on
the promontory looking over the vast ocean, where the ship carries away
the beloved Vasco, and she passes into ethereal realms, the characters are
involved in variants of separation and parting. It is as though Meyerbeer
subconsciously perceived he was writing his swansong. The opera bids
farewell to the work of Scribe and Meyerbeer, to the glorious traditions of
grand opéra, and the mellifluous style of bel canto that the composer had
served all his artistic career.
The opera is remarkable for its dramaturgical purposefulness, as in the
great Council Scene of act 1. Here the fluidity of text and music results in
6
CHARLTON, David. "Meyerbeer's L'Africaine". In The New OxfordHistory of
Music, IX: 351.
xviii
Giacomo Meyerbeer
an extended durchkomponiert ensemble that takes up most of the act. The
deliberations are riven by conservative and liberal factions who argue
about support for Vasco's project, with the chorus divided, the basses with
the bishops and Don Pedro representing the former, the tenors with Don
Alvar the latter, the two coming together only after Vasco has overstepped
the mark in insulting both state and church authorities. The power of this
dramatic understanding of the scene, the eschewal of private motivation,
represents a victory for the concept of historical opera.
There is also originality in formal developments, with the great tenor
scene in act 4 providing a new malleability in handling the constraints of
shape and genre: recitative, arioso and cabaletta have a fluent integration
in trying to explore the text more pointedly. The same is true of Sélika's
death scene under the poison tree: the various stages of her tragic
reflection and actions are realized in a rich and various sequence of
movement, almost symphonic in conception. The intensely dramatic
characterization of Nélusko further uses a variety of generic and rhythmic
forms that supply points of development in the drama: extended three-part
aria in act 2, with appended prayer, a version of vengeance aria; dramatic
recitative and ballad in act 3, the center of the drama: soliloquy and lament
in act 4.
Added to this is a sustained use of symbol, with the ocean and the
manchineel tree providing the points of reference. The text of the opera is
filled with allusion to the sea, with a restrained but recurrent use of
musical imagery to depict the ever present maritime agency in the story,
the great medium of travel, empire and transition. Religious pageant (both
Christian and Hindu) and displays of state function (occidental council and
oriental coronation) add to the sense of static formality, public celebration
and the great deliberations of nations.
The five-act structure follows its logical dramaturgical purpose. Act 1
is expository, and presents Inès, the embodiment of the loyal beloved of
romance, waiting for her hero to return from his apparently failed mission.
Vasco, the spirit of dynamic quest and intrepid enterprise, is fatally caught
up in the complex issues of political determinism, as conflicting theories
of empire and spheres of interest, idealism and pragmatism, battle over his
disturbing discoveries and plans of empire.
Act 2 develops the situation, and reveals the human reality behind the
slaves Vasco has brought back from his voyage. She must save him from
the hatred of her retainer Nelusko, who personifies the pride and
independence of the alien people. Inès in her turn must enable Vasco to
continue his call to fame by sacrificing herself for his freedom.
Act 3 is set at sea, the transition between the old and the new, the
The Meyerbeer Libretti
xix
known and the unknown. Don Pedro, who has gained control of the
enterprise to the East, and is leading a microcosm of European society into
unknown realms to establish empire. He is Vasco's nemesis, the
representative of benighted conservatism, is closed to all generously
offered insights, and must pay the price of destruction in alien tempest and
the climactic shipwreck. Nelusko is at the center of the act, and his Ballad
of Adamastor, the giant of the sea, announces that he is the pilot of
destiny, the agent of transition and transformation, bringing life and death
to all on board. His is a voice for freedom and liberty, qualities which
empower him, and enable him “to laugh at history”, to use Gabriella
Cruz’s phrase:7
Adamastor, roi des vagues profondes,
Au bruit des vents s’avance sur les ondes:
Et que son pied heurte les flots,
Malheur a vous, navire et matelots.
Act 4 sees the migration to the other world, a new Eden, completed,
and the reversal of fortunes as the slave becomes the queen, and the
conquerors are vanquished. But Vasco's heroic enterprise, full of the
promise of power and possession, survives and is preserved by Sélika's
generous love. The drugs of the marriage ceremony provide a delusion of
love, a temporary union of the old and new worlds. However, the
denouement comes when this is dispelled by Inès's voice of destiny that
breaks into the nuptial celebrations, and calls Vasco back to the reality of
his heroic calling.
Act 5 provides the resolution. The tangled knot of ambition and
misunderstanding can be severed only by an heroic act of self-sacrifice
provided by Sélika, who forgives her rival, and relinquishes her hopeless
love for Vasco. She gives them liberty, enabling them to leave her paradise
which is now lost, a poisoned and poisonous Eden. She seeks true freedom
in her own death and the unbounded realms of the spirit.
La haine m’abandonne,
Mon coeur est desarmé,
Adieu, je te pardonne,
Adieu mon bien-aimé.
Sélika provides the last word in Meyerbeer’s operatic creation, and
occupies a unique and appropriately symbolic position in the unfolding of
7
CRUZ, Gabriela, "Laughing at History: the third act of Meyerbeer's L'Africaine."
Cambridge Opera Journal 11:1 (March 1999): 31-76.
xx
Giacomo Meyerbeer
his mature artistic conceptions. The heroines of his great French operas in
fact become emblems of value and transmitters of meaning common to our
human experience and yearning. Isabella is a fairytale princess, the stuff of
romantic dreams, and Alice a saintly intercessor, a guardian angel and
representative of the Virgin Mary herself. Queen Marguerite de Valois is
the glamorous royal leader and peacemaker, a popular icon and failed
politician. Valentine represents the high ideal of the selfless beloved, a
role later taken on almost allegorically by Inès. Berthe is the tragic victim,
betrayed and broken by life’s cruelty, and Fidès the moving portrait of the
all-understanding, all-suffering mother, the mater dolorosa.
But Sélika becomes a fusion of them all, at once lover, spouse, mother,
virgin, queen, mediatrix and even a type of redemptrix. In the generosity
of her self-sacrificing actions, she draws together all perplexity and
futility, and is assumed into an elysium, a vision of true equality and
untrammeled rapture, where all is forgiven and explained in love.
L’Africaine was performed for the first time on 28 April 1865. Every
effort was made to carry out the composer's ideas; and the enthusiasm was
so great that..."it seemed like an apotheosis of his manes" (Dole,
'Meyerbeer,' 2:346). (The manes is the soul of a dead person as an object
of reverence.) In spite of the fact that Meyerbeer was not able to direct the
rehearsals of his opera (during which he always restructured and rewrote
extensively), and the adaptation by Fétis is far from ideal-indeed, probably
something of a distortion of aspects of the original intention-the opera was
an enormous success. It received 484 performances in Paris (-1902), 294
in Brussels (-1939), 253 in Berlin (-1925), 231 in Hamburg (-1929), 88 in
London (-1888), 70 in Milan (-1910), 58 in Vienna (- 1937), 55 in New
York (-1934), and 38 in Parma (-1882), as well as traveling all over the
world (e.g., Madrid, 1865; New York, 1865; St. Petersburg, 1866; Havana,
1866; Sydney; 1866; Stockholm, 1867; Algiers, 1869; Constantinople,
1869; Montevideo, 1869; Alexandria, 1869; New Orleans, 1869; Lisbon,
1870; Buenos Aires, 1870; Malta, 1870; Rio de Janeiro, 1870; Warsaw,
1870; Tifiis, 1872; Mexico, 1873; Santiago, 1876; Zagreb, 1879; Laibach,
1880; Reval, 1890; Helsinki, 1896). The opera, in fact, has never really
left the repertoire: during the interwar years it enjoyed repeated
performances: New York, 1923. 1929, 1933; Berlin, 1925; Verona Arena,
1932; Rome. 1937; Vienna, 1937; Stockholm, 1938; Brussels, 1938-39.
After the Second World War it was at the forefront of the Meyerbeer
revival: Berlin, 1951; Ghent, 1962; Munich, 1962; Naples, 1963; Florence,
1971; San Francisco, 1972 and 1987; Barcelona, 1977; London, 1978 and
1980; Bielefeld, 1990; and Berlin, 1991.8
8
The most comprehensive account of the involved composition of this opera is
The Meyerbeer Libretti
xxi
The Librettists
Augustin-Eugène Scribe (b. Paris, 14 Dec. 1791; d. Paris, 20 Feb. 1861).
He began his theatrical career as a writer of comedies, but by appreciation
of the theatrical condition in Paris and of the sensibility of his audience, he
gave opéra comique a new strength (Le Maçon, 1825), and animated the
genre of French grand opéra (La Muette de Portici, 1828). His keen sense
of historical awareness was inherited from Jouy's work for Spontini, and
he fully utilized the opportunities for staging on an elaborate scale at the
Paris Opéra. His plots draw on historical sources, but are reworked rather
than adapted. He often dealt with the clash of religious, national and
political issues, and the lives of famous and ordinary people caught up in
crisis. He captured an epic sense of the movement of peoples, and gave the
chorus a more dramatically functional role. He also used collaborators to
write verse for his strong stage situations. The effectiveness of his texts
resulted in great success for him and his composers. His brilliant sense of
the stage is confirmed by the number of composers who turned to him:
Adam (9), Auber (38), Audran (1), Balfe (1), Bellini (1, La Sonnambula),
Boieldieu (4, incl. La Dame blanche), Boisselot (1), Cherubini (1), Cilea
(1, Adriana Lecouvreur), Clapisson (6), Donizetti (5, incl. L'elisir d'amore
and La Favorite), Fétis (1), Gatzambide (1), Gomis (1), Gounod (1, La
Nonne sanglante), Grisar (1), Guénée (1), Halévy (6, incl. La Juive),
Hérold (2), Kastner (1), Kovarovic (1), Lavrangas (1), Macfarren (1),
Marliani (1), Massé (1), Meyerbeer (6), Moniusko (1), Montfort (2),
Offenbach (2), Reber (1), Rossi (1), Rossini (2 incl. Le Comte Ory),
Setaccioli (1), Södermann (1), Suppé (1), Verdi (2, Les Vêpres siciliennes,
Un ballo in maschera), Zandonai (1), and Zimmermann (1) (120 libretti
alone or in collaboration).
provided by John Howell Roberts, "The Genesis of Meyerbeer's L'Africaine"
(diss.. Univ. of California at Berkeley, 1977). For a reprint of contemporary critical
reactions, see the section devoted to L'Africaine in M. H. Coudroy, La Critique
parisienne des " grands-operas" de Meyerbeer (Saarbrucken: Musik Edition Lucie
Galland, 1988). For an account of its thematic and musical characteristics, see R. I.
Letellier, "History, Myth and Music in a Theme of Exploration: Some Reflections
on the Musico-Dramatic Language of L'Africaine, in Meyerbeer und das
europaische Musik theater; ed. Sieghart Dohring and Arnold Jacobshagen (Laaber:
Laaber Verlag, 1998), pp. 148-68, and Gabriela Cruz, "Giacomo Meyerbeer's
L'Africaine and the End of Grand Opera" (diss., Princeton University, 1999).
xxii
Giacomo Meyerbeer
Heinrich Joseph Maria Duesberg (b. Münster, 20 Sept. 1793; d. Paris, 6
July 1864). He was an historian, journalist, music critic and littérateur
living in Paris, where he made translations for Maurice Schlesinger’s
Revue et Gazette musicale, including articles by Richard Wagner from the
years 1840 to 1842. He also prepared the German version of Berlioz’s
Roméo et Juliette (1839). Meyerbeer employed him to translate the
German additions and alterations to Dinorah and L'Africaine into French.
Eugène Scribe (c. 1858).
L’AFRICAINE
OPÉRA EN CINQ ACTES
Paroles de
Eugène Scribe
Musique de
Giacomo Meyerbeer
THE AFRICAN MAIDEN
OPERA IN FIVE ACTS
Libretto by
Eugène Scribe
[with additional words by Charlotte Birch-Pfeiffer
and Giacomo Meyerbeer, translated into French
by Joseph Duesberg, with posthumous revision and
adaptation by Mélesville and François-Joseph Fétis]
Music by
Giacomo Meyerbeer
2
Giacomo Meyerbeer
Personnages (Dramatis Personae):
Don Pédro, président du conseil du roi de Portugal (Don Pedro,
president of the council of the king of Portugal)
Don Diego, membre du conseil (Don Diego, a member of the council)
Inès, sa fille (Inez, his daughter)
Vasco de Gama, officier de marine (Vasco da Gama, a naval officer)
Don Alvar, membre du conseil (Don Alvar, a member of the council)
Le Grand Inquisiteur de Lisbonne (The Grand Inquisitor of Lisbon)
Sélika, esclave (Selika, a slave)
Nélusko, esclave (Nelusko, a slave)
Le Grand Prêtre de Brahma (The High Priest of Brahma)
Anna, suivante d’Inès (Anna, Inez’s attendant)
Un huissier, évêques, conseillers du roi de Portugal, officiers de
marine, prêtres de Brahma, indiens malgaches des deux
sexes, huissiers du conseil, officiers, soldats, matelots
(An usher, bishops, counsellors of the King of Portugal,
naval officers, priests of Brahma, Malagasy Indians of both sexes,
ushers of the council, officers, soldiers, sailors)
WORLD PREMIÈRE
28 April 1865
Paris, Opéra
Sélika . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Marie Sasse
Vasco de Gama . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Emilio Naudin
Nélusko . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jean-Baptiste Faure
Inès . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Marie Battu
Don Pédro . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jules-Bernard Belval
Don Diego . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Armand Castelmary
Don Alvar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Victor-Alexandre Warot
Le Grand Prêtre de Brahma . . . . . . . . . . . . Louis Henri Obin
Le Grand Inquisiteur . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (Monsieur) David
Anna . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (Mlle) Levieilly
The Meyerbeer Libretti
3
SOURCES CONSULTED FOR TRANSLATION
L’Africaine; opéra en cinq actes. Eugène Scribe, Giacomo Meyerbeer.
Paris: Brandus & Dufour, 1865.
[First edition of the full orchestral score; it includes supplements and
many musical numbers omitted from other scores. Acts 1-4 of the
composer’s manuscript are held at the Biblioteka Jagiellonska in
Cracow, Act 5 with addenda is in the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin.]
L’Africaine: deuxième partie de l’opéra en 5 actes.
Eugène Scribe, Giacomo Meyerbeer. François-Joseph Fétis (éditeur).
Paris: Brandus & Dufour, 1865.
[Contains 22 musical numbers and fragments not performed at the
world première, and includes a few numbers lacking in the full score.]
L’Africaine; opéra en cinq actes. Eugène Scribe, Giacomo Meyerbeer.
Paris: Brandus & Dufour, 1865.
[First edition of the published libretto; used for additional stage
directions and scenic descriptions.]
4
Giacomo Meyerbeer
TABLE OF MUSICAL NUMBERS
ACTE I
Ouverture
1a. Scène .............................................................. Anna, qu’entends-je?
1b. Romance d’Inès ........................................ Adieu, mon doux rivage
2a. Scène ....................................................... Mon père, par votre ordre
2b. Terzettino ............................................. Il est mort!... Ou par devoir
3. Morceau d’Ensemble et Final
3a. Choeur d’Évêques .................................. Dieu que le monde révère
3b. Scène ...................................................... Depuis qu’aux Espagnols
3c. Entrée de Vasco de Gama ......................... J’ai vu nobles seigneurs
3d. Ensemble .......................................... Pour tant d’audace et de folie
3e. Entrée de Sélika et de Nélusko ....................... Esclaves, approchez!
3f. Ensemble des Membres du Conseil .................... Il faut avec ardeur
seconder sa vaillance
3g. Finale .............................................. Insensés, insensés, dites-vous?
ACTE II
Entr’acte et Scène ................................ Vogue, vogue, mon beau navire
4. Air du Sommeil................................... Sur mes genoux, fils du soleil
5a. Scène ........................................ Pour l’honneur de notre souveraine
5b. Air de Nélusko ............................... Fille des Rois, à toi l’hommage
6a. Récit ............................................................... Le maître a-t-il faim?
6b. Duo ............................................................. Combien tu m’es chère
6c. Scène .......................................... Silence... n’entends-je pas au loin
7. Finale
7a. Scène ......................................................... On nous l’avait bien dit!
7b. Septuor, 1re partie .......................... Pour elle, hélas! ah quel destin
The Meyerbeer Libretti
5
7c. Scène ......................................................................... Marché conclu
7d. Septuor, 2me partie ........................................ Immobile de surprise
ACTE III
Entr’acte
8. Choeur des Femmes ................................... Le rapide et léger navire
9a. Quatuor ................................ Debout, matelots! l’équipage, debout!
9b. Choeur des Matelots ........................................ Voyez-vous l’aurore
10a. Prière des Matelots ............................... Ô grand Saint Dominique
10b. Appel du Repas du Matin
10c. Ronde Bachique ....................................... Il faut du vin au matelot
10d. Récit et Scène ..................................... Ah! c’est vous, Don Alvar!
Holà, matelots, le vent change
10e. Scène ............................................................ Ah bâtonner, fouetter
Tra la la la la la la
11. Ballade de Nélusko .............. Adamastor, Roi des vagues profondes
12a. Récit ..................................... Un navire portant pavillon portugais
12b. Duo, 1re partie ............................ Je viens à vous malgré ma haine
12c. Duo, 2me partie ................................................ Généreuse perfide
12d. Duo, 3me partie ............................................... Je contiens à peine
13. Finale
13a. Récit ....................................... Au mât du vaisseau qu’on l’attache
13b. Septuor .............................. Dans l’effroi dont son âme est atteinte
13c. Récit .................................................... Qu’on l’entraîne à l’instant
13d. Duo de Sélika et de Nélusko ............ Eh bien! va pour le supplice
13e. Finale et Choeur des Indiens .................. Aux voiles aux cordages
Brahma! Brahma! Force et courage
ACTE IV
Entr’acte et Marche Indienne
6
Giacomo Meyerbeer
14a. Scène ....................................................... Nous jurons par Brahma
14b. Choeur des Sacrificateurs ................... Soleil qui sur nous t’élèves
15a. Récit .......................................... Pays merveilleux! Jardin fortuné!
15b. Grand Air de Vasco, 1re partie ............... Ô paradis sorti de l’onde
15c. Grand Air de Vasco, 2me partie ................. Conduisez-moi vers ce
navire
Scène .................................................. Vouloir le soustraire au supplice
16a. Cavatine de Nélusko ........................................ L’avoir tant adorée
16b. Morceau d’Ensemble ........................... Brahma! Wishnou! Shiva!
17a. Scène ........................................................... L’hymen que ton salut
17b. Duo de Sélika et Vasco ..................... Ô transports, ô douce extase
18. Choeur Dansé ...................................................... Remparts de gaze
ACTE V
Entr’acte
19a. Récitatif ................................................... Là-bas, sous l’arbre noir
19b. Arioso d’Inès ........................... Fleurs nouvelles, arbres nouveaux
19c. Scène ............................................................... Ne m’abusé-je pas?
20a. Duo de Sélika et d’Inès .......................... Avant que ma vengeance
20b. Récit ........................................................... Emmenez cette femme
21. Grande Scène du Mancenillier
21a. Récit ................................................. D’ici je vois la mer immense
21b. Cavatine ..................................................... La haine m’abandonne
21c. Scène et Ariette .......................... Ô riante couleur... Quels célestes
accords
22a. Choeur Aérien ...................... C’est ici le séjour de l’éternel amour
22b. Finale ............................................................... Ah! je veille encor.
8
Giacomo Meyerbeer
Ouverture
ACTE PREMIER
La salle du conseil de l’Amirauté à Lisbonne.
Il y a portes au fond et à chaque côté. A droite, le fauteuil du président, placé sur une estrade. A droite et à
gauche les siéges des conseillers.
Inès et Anna entrent.
INÈS (très agitée)
Anna, qu’entends-je... au conseil on m’attend?
Je dois y comparaître à la voix de mon père?
ANNA
Il s’agit, m’a-t-il dit, d’une importante affaire.
INÈS
Que me veut-on? Je crains, j’espère au même instant!
Que sait-on de la flotte, et de mon cher Vasco?
ANNA
Vous l’attendez toujours, après deux ans?
INÈS (doux avec tendresse)
J’espère! J’espère!
Si je n’espérais plus, ah! je ne vivrais pas!
S’il meurt, je le suivrai au delà du trépas!
C’est pour moi que Vasco, aspirant à la gloire,
Du grand marin Diaz, partageant les travaux,
Affrontant les vents et les flots
Vogue avec lui vers des pays nouveaux.
Ma main sera pour lui le prix de la victoire.
Protégé par l’amour, Vasco triomphera!
(Anna sort.)
Il reviendra! Je le sens là, au fond de l’âme.
Son chant d’adieu, je crois toujours l’entendre:

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