Personalities | Pierre Corneille | Early & Middle Baroque | Opera
Pierre Corneille, the renowned playwright, wrote verse dramas on heroic and classical themes that were tailor-made for operatic treatment. Corneille’s list of plays that were turned into libretti is not nearly as long as William Shakespeare’s or Sir Walter Scott’s, but it is impressive enough. Corneille’s verse dramas were still attracting composers in the early twentieth century. In all, 13 of his plays were turned into 41 operas between 1664 and 1916. By far the most popular was Le Cid (‘The Lord’, 1637). Le Cid, more properly called Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, was the Spanish folk hero of numerous legends that told of his fight on behalf of Christian kings against the Moorish rulers of Spain. Between 1706 and 1916, no fewer than 20 operas were based on this play with music by such composers as George Frideric Handel (1685–1759) and Jules Massenet (1842–1912).
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