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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 5
The Meyerbeer Libretti
Grand Opéra 1
Robert le Diable
Edited by
Richard Arsenty (translations)
and Robert Letellier (introductions)
Cambridge Scholars Publishing
The Meyerbeer Libretti: Grand Opéra 1 Robert le Diable,
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 2009.
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): 1-84718-964-4, ISBN (13): 9781847189646
As the eleven-volume set: ISBN (10): 1-84718-971-7, ISBN (13): 9781847189714
Half-portrait of Meyerbeer in early middle age.
Lithograph from the early 1830s.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Preface ........................................................................................................ ix
Introduction ................................................................................................ xi
The Libretti:
Robert le Diable .......................................................................................... 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
Robert le Diable
WORLD PREMIÈRE
21 November 1831
Paris, Académie Royale de Musique [L’Opéra]
Robert .................................................................................. Adolphe Nourrit
Bertram................................................................Nicolas-Prosper Levasseur
Alice ................................................................................... Julie Dorus-Gras
Isabelle....................................................................... Laure Cinti-Damoreau
Raimbaut ............................................................................. Marcelin Lafont
Héléna (danseuse) ................................................................. Marie Taglioni
Alberti..............................................................................................Heurtaux
Un prêtre.............................................................................Ferdinand Prévôt
Un héraut d’armes ........................................................ Jean-Etienne Massol
The Cloister Scene in act 3 of Robert le Diable
xii
Giacomo Meyerbeer
The success of Margherita d'Anjou and Il Crociato in Egitto had made
Meyerbeer internationally known, but for years he wrote nothing new for
the theater. Following on his famous letter to Levassuer written in 1822,
he was now preparing to met the challenges of the French stage. He was
aware that he was not yet ready to create something new in the highly
wrought French manner, and buried himself in the study of French
civilization, its history, literature, graphic arts and theater.
The composer's exhaustive exploration of the théâtre lyrique made him
an authority on the repertoire of the Opéra, while his researches into the
spoken theater were to bring him into contact with the principal
collaborator of his life, the dramatist Eugène Scribe. Using French
bourgeois life for his principal theme, and with a staff of co-workers, he
produced a long series of plays, vibrant with actuality. His work as a
librettist also showed him instinctively understanding of the needs of the
stage, and the psychology of his composers and audiences, as he distilled
the very aspirations of the age.
Meyerbeer was already acquainted with the Neoclassical conception of
grand opéra elaborated by Spontini during the Empire, and with the first
gusts of nationalistic ferment and demands for freedom expressed in
Auber's La Muette di Portici (1828) and Rossini's Guillaume Tell (1829).
It would be his role to transform the genre into a sumptuous choreographic
popular form. The theater he constructed with his principal librettist
participates in the historical fiction of stirring times and intrigue, as
exemplified by the works of Sir Walter Scott, Ponson du Terrail and
Alexandre Dumas (père); it also transposes into music the great historical
frescoes of Robert Fleury and Paul Delaroche.
The Journal des Débats of May 1827 records the first mention of
Meyerbeer and Scribe’s collaboration: "The directors of the Théâtre
Feydeau have accepted the libretto Robert le Diable by Scribe and
Germaine Delavigne and have assigned the music to M. Meyerbeer, in
whom all place high hopes."1
The basis of the drama was a French thirteenth-century romance about a
childless woman who obtains a son by praying to the devil; the son is
strong and wicked, and lives a lawless life, but finally repents of his
misdeeds and is reconciled to the Church. The tale was attached to Robert,
sixth duke of Normandy, father of the Conqueror, about whom many
legends gathered on account of his violence and cruelty. It was the subject
of a French romance, and also appeared in various English versions.
Adolphe Jullien's comparative study of the Edouard Fournier's edition
1
EVERIST, Mark. "The Name of the Rose: Meyerbeer's opéra comique, Robert le
Diable". Revue de Musicologie 80:2 (1994): 211-50.
The Meyerbeer Libretti
xiii
(1878) of the fourteenth-century mystery play and Scribe's libretto2 shows
how the playwright had carefully adapted the material to the sensibilities
of his public (Revue et Gazette Musicale de Paris 46 [1849]). The savage
Robert of history became a pathetic, half-tragic rogue, who does not suffer
degrading penances, but is led to repentance and marriage with an angelic
princess. By the time Meyerbeer had revised it, it had been withdrawn
from Théâtre Feydeau, and recast as an intensely Romantic five-act drama
for production at the Opéra.3
In thirteenth-century Palermo, Robert, duke of Normandy, the son of a
mortal and a devil, falls in love with the Princess Isabella. Disguised under
the name of Bertram, the devil tries to gain Robert's soul; he prevents
Robert from winning Isabella in a tournament, and then Robert is prepared
to use diabolical means. At a midnight orgy with ghostly nuns, Robert is
induced to acquire a magic branch with which he gains access to Isabella.
She persuades him to break it. Robert withstands the pleading of his father,
and is married to Isabella. To the medieval legend and its mystery play
adaptation, Scribe added the strain of dark Romanticism represented in the
genre of horror literature which had exerted a strong influence in France
from the late eighteenth century. The theme of demonic temptation is
fundamentally Faustian, and the basic situation of demonic filiation was
found in a popular German Schauerroman, Christian Heinrich Spiess's
Das Petermännchen (1791). From the English Gothic school he took ideas
from Matthew Lewis's novel The Monk (the motif of the magic branch),
while the powerful character of the demon-father is partly modeled on the
grim title role in Charles Robert Maturin's tragedy Bertram (1816), the
powerful anti-hero who stands outside of society, challenging or mocking
its values, a source of disruption. This is like Mephistopheles in Faust, or
the legendary Don Giovanni, supremely confident of his powers, and
defiant of both earthly and supernatural forces.
Another important aspect of Scribe's assimilation of the Romantic
literary heritage was his appropriation of the so-called 'Waverley' hero.
This type was established by Sir Walter Scott in his great cycle of
historical novels (1814-31), where the central protagonist of all the stories
is a very ordinary young man, a passive, approachable figure, down to
earth, a sentimental hero in chivalrous dress. He often suffers exclusion or
2
FOURNIER, Edouard (ed.). Le Mystère de Robert le Diable, mis en 2parties avec
transcription en vers modernes, en regard du texte du XIVe siècle. Paris: E. Dentu
[1879].
3
Adolphe Jullien, "Robert le Diable, le Mystère: l'opèra-comique avant l'opéra".
Revue et Gazette Musicale de Paris 46:48 (30 Nov. 1879): 386-88; 46:49 (7 Dec.
1879): 395-96; 46:50 (14 Dec. 1879): 403-04.
xiv
Giacomo Meyerbeer
rejection, and may come across as misguided or weak.4
Dans mon destin funeste, ami,
Je t’entraîne avec moi.
observes Robert sadly when tempted by Bertram to gamble away all his
possessions. Later, torn between the forces of light and darkness at the
crucial moment of his life, he asks the helpless question: “Que faut-il
faire?”
But the mistake is to see this passivity as insipidity. For Scott this kind
of hero becomes the central experiencing consciousness, committed to
prudence and the superiority of civil society. Many important roles in
Scribe's stories are modeled on this type of figure, where his weakness or
lack of resolution are used by Scribe to light major social or political
issues, brought into focus by the love interest and the courageous,
committed and loving women characters. Many of the tenor heroes are
depicted in this way, and in the context of a tripartite relationship with a
powerful, frightening villain figure who is a source of disruption, and a
noble and self-sacrificing heroine who sees the way forward very clearly.
Scribe's text goes radically further than anything Rossi had dared in
loosening the formal structures of the operatic text. Having worked with
Auber on La Muette de Portici, he already had a vivid sense of the
exigencies of a new approach to an old genre, as most recently developed
by Jouy and Spontini. In the interests of a more sustained dramatic
scenario, Scribe radically diminished the role of the solo aria. These are
used sparingly, and often as a way of conveying information or continuing
the drama (think of Raimbaud's ballad and Alice's cavatina in act 1); only
rarely is the aria used for lyrical introspection (as with Isabella at the
beginning of act 2). The two most famous arias in the opera, Bertram's
evocation in act 3 (“Nonnes qui reposez”) and Isabella's plea in act 4
(“Robert, toi que j’aime”), combine lyrical reflection with urgently
dramatic function, and represent crucial moments in the unfolding of the
plot.
Take Bertram’s great scene in act 3. Here the work of darkness is
revealed in all its sinister power. The words effectively conjure up the
desolation of the ruined monastery, with all its implications for the
spiritual struggle in this moral universe. The simple imagery of the dead
sleepers under the cold stones in fact propels one into a dark inversion of
the struggle between good and evil, that culminates in the parody of the
4
Alexander Welsh, The Hero of the Waverley Novels. New Haven and London:
Yale University Press, 1963.
The Meyerbeer Libretti
xv
resurrection on the Last Day. But Bertram is a demon, and only a
necromancer. The tragedy of his lost soul, the agony of his damned
torment, comes through in his identification with the abandoned spirit of
the profligate nuns. The tragedy of his lost humanity, his hopelessness,
rather like that of Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost, will become fully
apparent in the last act. Scribe makes this apparent in Bertram’s complete
identification with the nuns. In his aria, not only is the power of evil
manifested unambiguously, but the unresolved conflict between light and
darkness is intensified through revelation of character.
Nonnes qui reposez
sous cette froide pierre,
m’entendez vous?
Pour une heure
quittez votre lit funéraire,
relevez-vous!
Ne craignez pas
D’une sainte immortelle.
Ne craignez pas
le terrible courroux!
Roi des enfers, c’est moi qui vous appelle.
C’est moi, c’est moi, c’est moi,
moi damné comme vous
Nonnes, m’entendez-vous?
Scribe increased the importance of the chorus as a protagonist in its
own right: the knights in act 1 function as a corporate entity, a character in
their own right, as they comment, react and interact with the principles,
and shape the course of the action in their drinking and gambling. The
demons in act 3 actively further the interests of hell, while the monks in
act 5 embody the providential interests of heaven. In acts 2 and 4 the
courtiers and people fulfill the more traditional role of background and
commentary, like the old Greek chorus; they nonetheless have a powerful
and vivid presence, and are inadvertently caught up in the weaving or
Bertram's net of deception, the active power of his magic, at the moments
of its inception (the foiled tournament), or its foiling (the magic sleep
induced by the talismanic branch, and its breaking).
Scribe's dramaturgy results in a more integrated notion of the concept
of the ensemble as part of an ongoing dramatic unfolding rather than a
static moment of general mediation: the gambling scene in act 1 and the
movements in and out the magic slumber in act 4 illustrate this.
This revolutionary restructuring of the conventional libretto gave the
composer the impetus to develop further concepts already emerging in the
xvi
Giacomo Meyerbeer
last of the Italian operas. He could now use the orchestra more than ever as
dramatic protagonist, using instrumental timbres, groups, solos, and
combination with thematic purposefulness in the enhancing and
underscoring of dramatic situation and exigency. The trombones announce
the presence of dark forces, and the eschatological implications of
Bertram's role; the harps speak of heaven and the promise of redemption.
Alice is associated with the horns and high woodwinds, Bertram with the
deep brass and bassoons. The necromantic figures of the Prince of
Granada and the ghostly nuns call forth novel and bizarre orchestral
effects (solo timpani, and the strange timbres of trombones, high bassoons
and the tam-tam).
This, and the different approach to the role of the aria in the dramatic
Gestalt, had a radical influence on Meyerbeer’s use of melody, no longer
necessarily tied to the formal constraints of set aria with its classical
treatment of structure and expectations of formal development. Melody
would now essentially be molded according to the bidding of the various
emotions and situations of the text, in a succession of unelaborated motifs
or tune-forms. It is therefore not exaggerated to say that the vast fame of
this work exercised an enormous influence on the development of opera:
Scribe and Meyerbeer produced a work which "changed the face of opera
and influenced even those who would become the composer's musical
adversaries" (William J. Collins).5 With this perspective, it is easy to see
why Hugo Riemann could see Meyerbeer's work as a major step in the
evolution of the Wagnerian concept of music drama. the essential dramatic
concepts and musical plasticity, as well as the integration of words, music,
dance, scenery and dramaturgy (in other words the Gesamtkunstwerk)
were already in place.6
Meyerbeer took an active role in shaping the libretto, both on planning,
writing and rehearsing the work. This is no where better illustrated than in
the evolution of the thematically central scene of the Ballet of the Nuns,
which was conceived in its present form at a very late stage. The scene
represents the heart of darkness, the temporary triumph of demonic forces,
the urgency of temptation, the very disintegration of order and control, all
in terms of the Romantic preoccupation with irrational forces, the
nightmare, the harnessing of the Gothic traditions of Romantic literature.
The complete inversion of systems is illustrated by the profanation of
traditional symbols: what is thought of as good and holy is shown to be
5
COLLINS, William J. "Robert le Diable". In International Dictionary of Opera,
II: 1123-25.
6
RIEMANN, Hugo. "Meyerbeer". In Musik-Lexicon [1882]. Rev. and rewritten
periodically. 9-11th ed. Alfred EINSTEIN. 11th ed. Berlin: M. Hesse, 1929.
The Meyerbeer Libretti
xvii
full of corruption, and becomes an image of both sensual profligacy and
spiritual sacrilege.
But there are other reasons for the vital place of this scene in the
evolution of opera. The integral role of dance in the drama, and the power
of the scenery and choreography, constituted a revolution in the history of
dance, the very initiation of the Romantic, or "white ballet", the source of
Giselle, Swan Lake and La Bayadère. The sequence became legendary in
its own right, carrying the message of Romanticism to which audiences
responded intuitively.7 Fanny Appleton, the future wife of the poet
Longfellow, described her reactions:
"It was magnificent and terrific and diabolical and enchanting and
everything else fine. The music and the show and the dancing! The famous
witch's dance, in the freezing moonlight in the ruined abbey, was as
impressive as I had expected....They drop in like flakes of snow and are
certainly very charming witches with their jaunty Parisian figures and most
refined pirouettes!...The diabolical music and the dead rising from their
tombs and the terrible darkness and the strange dance unite to form a stage
effect almost unrivaled" (15 January 1836, from Mrs Longfellow: Selected
Letters and Journals [New York, 1956], pp. 27-28). 8
The dramaturgical implications of the Gesamtkunstwerk are clear.
Scribe's concept of dramatic structure is essentially classical, and he
constructed every grand opera scenario according to the lines of
Shakespearian drama: exposition, complication, crisis, denouement,
resolution. Each act has its own shape, theme and color. In Robert the
drama is dominated by the trio of Robert with his evil mentor Bertram and
good angel Alice. This configuration dominates act 1, act 3 and act 5. Act
1 presents Robert tempted by Bertram, but central is Alice's account of his
mother's death and her guiding prayers from heaven. In act 3 she resists
Bertram, at the foot of the cross, and tries to pull Robert from his
influence. The same problem is confronted decisively in Act 5 where the
reading of the maternal will and the approaching terminus of Bertam's
influence mean that Alice wins the struggle, and Robert can be
reintegrated into terrestrial and heavenly society.
The symbol of Romantic love, which is tarnished and dishonored in
Bertram's temptation, is the Princess Isabella. She dominates acts 2 and 4:
in act 2 the web of enchantment begins to weave itself around Robert and
7
RIEMANN, Hugo and HUTCHINSON GUEST, Ann. Robert le Diable: The
Ballet of theNuns. (Language of Dance Series, 7.) Amsterdam: Gordon & Breach
Publishers, 1997.
8
Mrs Longfellow: Selected Letters and Journals [New York, 1956], pp. 27-28).
xviii
Giacomo Meyerbeer
his beloved: the Prince of Granada is a demon agent of Bertram. The circle
closes in the great temptation scene in the symbolically ruined cloister.
Robert is induced into sacrilege, and in act 4 would complete his ruin by
the dishonor of all decency in the abduction Isabelle. Her pleading pierces
his heart, and becomes a type of repentance, leading him to break the
magic branch, and symbolically the circle of evil that has closed around
him. Bertram now beseeches him in human terms, and the way is open for
his salvation in the last act.
Act 1 unfolds like two great frescoes, the drinking and gambling
scenes, linked by the thematically central ballad of Robert le Diable, and
the symbolically vital aria of Alice in which she declares the interests of
heaven. Temptation and loss underpin the vulnerability of the hero and the
satanic influence of his mentor.
Act 2 is like a medieval tapestry, rich in color and static motion, as
Robert courts the princess, and the great tournament takes place off stage,
as at a remove. This is because enchantment is in the air. The advent of the
Prince of Granada, and his theme, announces the presence of Bertram's
destructive magic, and the reign of deception.
Act 3, a study in nocturnal landscapes of ragged rocks and ruined
abbeys, is dominated by Bertram, with his power in the ascendant. One by
one he does away with Raimbaud, Alice and Robert, and appears to
triumph in all his satanic majesty in the evocation and resurrection of the
faithless nuns amidst the desolation of the cloister. The necromantic
seduction has achieved its end: he wins Robert for the forces of darkness.
Act 4 returns to the formal and statuesque imagery of the tapestry, in
the depiction of Isabella's court, first in homage, and then held in thrall by
the power of the evil talisman. Her violent duet with Robert and the
passionate pleading of her famous cavatina mark the denouement, and the
turn in the symbolic fortunes of the plot. When Robert agrees to break the
magic branch, the power of evil is broken, and the friezes bursts into the
pulsating life of the concluding ensemble.
Act 5, presided over by the architectural vastness of Palermo
Cathedral, is the resolution, when the opposing forces of good and evil are
openly pitted against each other before the closed doors of the church. The
hidden monks speak of God's providence. Bertram tries to win Robert's
heart with ties of human affection. Alice calls him to consider the issues of
spiritual life and death, and calls on divine aid.
Dieu puissant, ciel propice,
Que ton nom protecteur
À son coeur retentisse,
et le rende au bonheur!
The Meyerbeer Libretti
xix
He is saved more by grace than personal decision when the fatal bell of
midnight chimes. The final great static chorus, with the interior of the
cathedral displayed, is a terrestrial vision of the heavenly sanctuary, and
the vindication of providential order celebrated in the sacrament of
marriage.
Robert le Diable was one of the greatest successes in operatic history.
The Parisians talked of nothing but Meyerbeer and his new opera:
contemporary criticism showed that the French, and indeed all Europe,
seemed to see in it a symbol of their own epoch, with all its ardors,
despairs and general ambiguities. The spirit of Romanticism had inspired
both author and composer.9
By appealing to the intelligence of the public, by a perception of the
importance of accessories, color and contrast, by a new and bold use of the
religious idea, librettist and composer had addressed the spirit of the age.
The choice of the Norman legend, with its various hues and dramatization
of the eternal struggle in the human soul between light and darkness, good
and evil, was a skillful adaptation of the Faust theme central to so many
Romantic concerns.10
Robert le Diable was one of the greatest successes in the history of
opera. Meyerbeer provided a list of the cities where Robert le Diable had
been produced in the first two years of its history. This was later published
in the Revue musicale, 1834, p. 372. France: Paris, Bordeaux (47 times),
Marseilles (51), Tou1ouse (54), Lyons (32), Rouen, Nantes (27), Lille,
Strasbourg, Brest (19), Metz, Nancy, Le Havre (21), Grenoble, Nimes,
Angouleme, Chalons-sur-Marnes, Bourg, Macon, C1ermont, Amiens (14),
Dijons (25), Poitiers, Angers, Douai, C1ermont-Ferrand, Besancon,
Avignon, Perpignan, Montpe1lier, Valenciennes, Bourges, Laval, Autun,
Bou1ogne-sur-Mer, Montauban, A ix, Moulins, Gras. German lands:
Vienna, Berlin, Munich Dresden, Hamburg, Cologne, Frankfurt-am-Main,
Frankfurt-an-der-Oder, Weimar, Mainz, Wiesbaden, Hanover, Breslau,
Glogau, Liegnitz, Brunnswick, Leipzig, Bremen, Stuttgart, Wurttemberg,
Cassel, Freiburg, Lippe-Detmold. There were further productions In
England,.Belgium,.Holland, Denmark, Hungary, Switzerland, and Russia.
This comes to thirty-nine cities In France, twenty-three cities in the
German-speaking lands, and seven other countries, a total of sixty-nine
9
JOIN-DIETERLE, Catherine. "Robert le Diable: le premier opéra romantique".
Romantisme: Revue de la Société des Études Romantiques 28-29 (1980): 147-66.
10
TARDEL, Hermann. Die Sage von Robert den Teufel in neueren deutschen
Dichtungen und in Meyerbeers Oper. (Forschungen zur neueren deutschen
Literatur Geschichte, 14.) Berlin: Alexander Duncker, 1900. Rpt. Hildesheim,
1977.
xx
Giacomo Meyerbeer
different theatres. The list can be further expanded chronologically: 1832
(London, Liege, Berlin, Strasbourg, Dublin), 1833 (Antwerp, Vienna),
1834 (New York, Budapest, Pressburg, St. Petersburg, The Hague), 1835
(Prague, Bucharest), 1836 (Basel, Calcutta, Laibach), 1837 (Warsaw),
1838 (Lisbon), 1839 (Stockholm), 1840 (New Orleans). Within eight years
the opera has been performed in a total of 1,843 European theaters. The
1840s saw it triumph in Italy: Florence (1841, 1842, 1843), Padua (1842,
1844, 1845), Trieste (1842, 1844), Brescia (1843), Cremona (1843, 1844),
Livorno (1843), Venice (1843, 1845), Milan (1844,1846), Rome (1844),
Verona (1844), Bassano (1845), Turin (1846), Bologna (1847) (thirteen
cities in all).
It was performed 754 times at the Paris Opéra until 28 August 1893
(there were performances every year apart from 1869, 1875 and 1880) and
revived there in 1985. The opera spread to even the remotest corners of the
world (including Calcutta 1836, Mauritius 1841, Valparaiso 1847, Batavia
1850, Melbourne 1866). It was performed 260 times in Berlin (-1906), 241
times in Hamburg (-1917), 111 times in Vienna (-1921), 57 times in
Parma (-1882) and 54 times in London (-1890). A series of reviews are
reprinted in BT (II, 617-20), and by Marie-Hélène Courdroy in La critique
parisienne des "grands opéras" de Meyerbeer (Saarbrücken, 1990) in the
section devoted to Robert le Diable. Various arrangements of the airs from
the opera followed by Chopin, Herz, Adam, Kalkbrenner and Liszt, among
others.
The Librettist
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:
The Meyerbeer Libretti
xxi
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).
Eugène Scribe in early middle age.
ROBERT LE DIABLE
OPÉRA EN CINQ ACTES
Paroles de
Eugène Scribe et Germain Delavigne
Musique de
Giacomo Meyerbeer
ROBERT THE DEVIL
OPERA IN FIVE ACTS
Libretto by
Eugène Scribe and Germain Delavigne
Music by
Giacomo Meyerbeer
2
Giacomo Meyerbeer
Personnages (Dramatis Personae):
Robert, Duc de Normandie (Robert, Duke of Normandy)
Bertram, son ami (Bertram, his friend)
Alice, soeur de lait de Robert (Alice, foster sister of Robert)
Isabelle, Princesse de Sicile (Isabelle, Princess of Sicily)
Raimbaut, troubadour normand (Raimbaut, a Norman troubadour)
Héléna, supérieure des nonnes (Helena, mother superior of an abbey)
Alberti, un chevalier (Alberti, a knight)
Un prêtre (A priest)
Un maître des cérémonies (A master of ceremonies)
Un héraut d’armes (A herald at arms)
Une dame d’honneur d’Isabelle (A maid-of-honor to Isabelle)
Le Roi de Sicile, le Prince de Grenade, le chapelain de Robert,
chevaliers, écuyers, pages, valets, joueurs, seigneurs et dames,
paysans, paysannes, soldats du Roi de Sicile, moines, nonnes démons
(The King of Sicily, the Prince of Granada, Robert’s chaplain, knights,
squires, pages, valets, gamblers, lords and ladies, peasant men and
women, soldiers of the King of Sicily, monks, nuns, demons)
La scène se passe en Sicile vers 1300. (The action takes place in
Sicily around the year 1300).
The Meyerbeer Libretti
WORLD PREMIÈRE
21 November 1831
Paris, Académie Royale de Musique [L’Opéra]
Robert . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Adolphe Nourrit
Bertram . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Nicolas-Prosper Levasseur
Alice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Julie Dorus-Gras
Isabelle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Laure Cinti-Damoreau
Raimbaut . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Marcelin Lafont
Héléna (danseuse) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Marie Taglioni
Alberti . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Heurtaux
Un prêtre . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Ferdinand Prévôt
Un héraut d’armes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Jean-Etienne Massol
SOURCES CONSULTED FOR TRANSLATION
Robert le Diable; opéra en cinq actes.
Eugène Scribe et Germain Delavigne (paroles), Giacomo
Meyerbeer (musique). Paris: Maurice Schlesinger, 1831.
[First edition of the published score. Acts 2-5 of the composer’s
autograph are held at the Biblioteka Jagiellonska in Cracow]
Robert le Diable; opéra en cinq actes.
Eugène Scribe et Germain Delavigne (paroles), Giacomo
Meyerbeer (musique). Paris: J. N. Barba,1831.
[First edition of the published libretto.]
3
4
Giacomo Meyerbeer
TABLE OF MUSICALNUMBERS
ACTE I
1. Ouverture et Introduction
1a. Ouverture
1b. Choeur des Buveurs ..................................... Versez à tasses pleines
1c. Ballade ................................................... Jadis règnait en Normandie
1d. Suite et Fin de l’Introduction ............ C’en est trop... qu’on arrêt un
vassal insolent
Récitatif ......................................................Ô mon Prince! ô mon maître!
2. Romance .................................................... Va, dit-elle, va, mon enfant
Récitatif ..................................................... Je n’ai pu fermer sa paupière
3. Final
3a. Sicilienne ........................................................ Le Duc de Normandie
3b. Scène du Jeu ............................................. J’ai perdu... ma revanche
ACTE II
4. Air d’Isabelle ............................................................. En vain j’espère
Récitatif .................................. Courage, allons montrez vous à ses yeux
5. Duo ......................................................... Avec bonté voyez ma peine
Récitatif ........................................................................ Silence! on vient
6. Choeur Dansé ............................................ Accourez au devant d’elle
7. Pas de Cinq
8a. Récitatif .................................................. Quand tous nos chevaliers
8b. Choeur ................................. Sonnez, clairons, honnorez la bannière
8c. Final ............................................................... La trompette guerrière
ACTE III
9a. Entr’acte
9b. Récitatif .............................. Du rendez-vous, voici l’heureux instant
9c. Duo Bouffe, 1re partie ..................................... Ah! l’honnête homme
The Meyerbeer Libretti
5
9d. Duo Bouffe, 2me partie .............. Le bonheur est dans l’inconstance
Récitatif .................................... Encor un de gagné! glorieuse conquête
10. Valse Infernale (choeur) ............................. Noirs démons, fantômes
Récitatif ................................ Raimbaut! Raimbaut! dans ce lieu solitaire
11a. Couplets .......................................... Quand je quittai la Normandie
11b. Scène ......................................................... Ô ciel! le bruit redouble
12a. Duo ...................................................... Mais Alice, qu’as-tu donc?
12b. Scène ................................................................. Oui! tu me connais
13. Trio (sans accompagnement) ............... Cruel moment, fatal mystère
Récitatif ..................................................... Qu’a-t-elle donc?... Qui sait?
14. Duo ........................................................ Des chevaliers de ma patrie
15. Final
15a. Récitatif ....................... Voici donc les débris du monastère antique
15b. Évocation ........................................................ Nonnes qui reposez
15c. Bacchanale
15d. Récitatif .......................... Voici le lieu, témoin d’un terrible mystère
15e. 1er Air de Danse
15f. 2me Air de Danse
15g. 3me Air de Danse
15h. Choeur Dansé .............................................................. Il est à nous
ACTE IV
16. Entr’acte et Choeur de Femmes ..................... Noble et belle Isabelle
Récitatif .................................... Mais n’est-ce pas cette jeune étrangère
17. Choeur ......................................... Frappez les airs, cris d’allégresse!
18. Final
18a. Scène ............................. Du magique rameau qui s’abaisse sur eux
18b. Cavatine ......................................................... Ah! qu’elle est belle
18c. Duo ........................................ Grand Dieu, toi qui vois mes alarmes
18d. Cavatine ........................................... Robert, Robert, toi que j’aime
18e. Choeur et Stretta .................... Quelle aventure! est-ce un prestige?
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Giacomo Meyerbeer
ACTE V
19. Entr’acte et Choeur des Moines ................ Malheureux ou coupable
20. Choeur (prière) .............................................. Gloire à la providence
21a. Scène ................................ Viens... pourquoi dans ce lieu me forcer
21b. Duo avec Choeur (reprise de la prière) .............. Eh quoi! déjà ton
coeur balance?
Récitatif ......................................................... Je conçois que ces chants
22. Air de Bertram ............................................... Ton malheur, ô mon fils
Récitatif .................................................................. L’arrêt est prononcé
23. Grand Trio ......................................... À tes lois je souscris d’avance
24. Choeur Final ........................................... Chantez, troupe immortelle
8
Giacomo Meyerbeer
Ouverture
ACTE PREMIER
Le théâtre représente le Lido avec le port de
Palerme en vue. Plusieurs tentes élégantes sont placées sous l’ombrage des arbres. Pendant l’introduction on voit arriver des barques d’où descendent des
étrangers.
Au lever du rideau, Robert et Bertram sont à
une table à gauche du spectateur; plusieurs valets et
écuyers sont occupés à les servir. À droite, une table
où plusieurs chevaliers boivent ensemble.
CHEVALIERS
Versez à tasses pleines,
Versez ces vins fumeux,
Et que l’ivresse amène
L’oubli des soins fâcheux!...
Au seul plaisir fidèles,
Consacrons-lui nos jours.
Le vin, le jeu, les belles,
Voilà nos seuls amours!
ROBERT
Oui, voilà mes seuls amours!
ALBERTI
Oui, voilà mes seuls amours!
CHEVALIERS
Au seul plaisir fidèles,
Consacrons-lui nos jours.
Le vin, le jeu, les belles,
Voilà nos seuls amours!...
(Il présentent leurs verres vides aux pages pour les
remplir.)

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