Major Operas | Médée by Luigi Cherubini | Early Romantic


Composed: 1797
Premiered: 1797, Paris
Libretto by François Benoit Hoffman, after Pierre Corneille

Act I

At the palace of Corinth, Glaucé, daughter of King Créon, prepares for her approaching marriage to Jason. She fears the wrath of Médée, a sorceress who helped Jason to steal the Golden Fleece from Cholcis. Médée betrayed her family to help Jason and later bore him two children, who are now in Jason’s care. Créon and Jason reassure Glaucé. Médée arrives and orders Jason not to marry Glaucé, but he defies her, warning her against incurring Créon’s wrath. She curses him and swears vengeance.

Act II

Créon has banished Médée from the city, but she insists on seeing her children; he allows her to remain for one more day. She asks Jason to see them but he refuses. Realizing how much he loves the children, she resolves to kill them in order to spite him. He eventually allows Médée to look after the children until she leaves the city. Médée admits to her servant Néris that she considers the children to belong only to Jason, and that she does not love them. She gives Néris a cloak and diadem to deliver to Glaucé as wedding gifts and then gleefully looks on as the wedding guests arrive.


Néris brings the children to Médée. Momentarily recovering her maternal instincts, she embraces them. Cries from the temple signify that Glaucé has been killed by Médée’s gifts, which were steeped in poison. Remembering Jason’s treachery, Médée resumes her path of revenge and takes the children into the temple. Jason arrives with an angry crowd; Néris tries to tell him of Médée’s plans but it is too late. Médée, having slaughtered her sons, emerges from the temple covered in blood and surrounded by Furies. As the temple burns, Médée vanishes into the air with the Furies, promising to meet Jason in the underworld.

Personalities | Luigi Cherubini | Early Romantic | Opera


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