Major Operas | Richard Coeur-de-Lion by André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry | Classical Era
Premiered: 1784, Paris
Libretto by Michel-Jean Sedaine
Richard I has disappeared on his way home to England from the Third Crusade. Blondel, his squire and a troubadour, is trying to find his master.
Peasants are returning in the evening to their homes near Linz Castle. A local boy, Antonio, leads on a blind man and tells him about the girl he will be seeing at a wedding tomorrow, before going to find lodgings for the night. When left alone the man, who is indeed Blondel, reveals that he is only pretending to be blind and that he believes Richard is a prisoner in the castle. Florestan, the castle governor, sends a love letter to Laurette, daughter of the Welsh knight Williams, who intercepts the letter. Blondel asks Antonio to read it aloud, including a reference to a very important prisoner. Laurette declares her love for Florestan, but Blondel warns her that Cupid wears a blindfold. Marguerite of Flanders, Richard’s beloved, arrives with her entourage. Blondel plays a tune the king had written for her and, when questioned, says he learned it from a crusader. He then leads the servants in a drinking song.
On the castle terrace, Richard despairs of his life as a prisoner. Blondel and Antonio appear below the wall. Richard recognizes Blondel’s voice and joins in the song. The soldiers threaten to arrest Blondel, who pretends to have a message from Laurette, inviting Florestan to a party tomorrow.
In Williams’ house, Blondel reveals his true identity to Marguerite and tells her about Richard. He outlines a plot he has formed in order to capture Florestan when he comes to visit Laurette. During the dancing Florestan is seized. Blondel leads the assault on the castle and Marguerite and Richard are reunited.
‘Une fèvre brûlante’
This is a song sung by the minstrel Blondel, which enables him to make contact with the imprisoned English King Richard I, whom he afterwards rescues. In various guises and tempos, this melody appears nine times in the opera as Blondel searches for the one prison that holds the king.
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