Personalities | Victor Hugo | High Romantic | Opera
Like the Scots novelist Sir Walter Scott, the French writer Victor Hugo had the happy facility for writing fiction that naturally lent itself to opera. Apart from his genius as a story-teller, Hugo’s secret lay in his vigorous attachment to Romantic principles, which exercised profound influence over librettists and composers of Romantic opera. Hugo himself made one attempt at writing a libretto, Esmeralda (1836). This text, written for the French composer Louise-Angélique Bertin (1805–77) was an adaptation of his own famous novel, Notre-Dame de Paris. This was the first of at least 21 operas subsequently based on this novel. Many more Hugo stories were turned into operas, notably by Verdi, who used Hugo’s Hernani (1830) for his opera Ernani, which he composed in 1844, and his Le roi s’amuse for Rigoletto.
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