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Eugène Scribe (1791–1861) began his career as a dramatist for the Parisian popular stage, writing vaudevilles and comedies. This experience was crucial to his development of the French opera libretto, as he injected a new realism, pace and drama into serious and comic opera, and brought the two genres closer together. During his lifetime he wrote librettos ...

Source: Classical Music Encyclopedia, founding editor Stanley Sadie

1791–1861, French Eugène Scribe, the French librettist, scored his first success with Auber’s opéra comique La dame blanche (‘The White Lady’, 1825). However, Scribe concentrated mainly on French grand opéra, with libretti that matched the genre’s visual and musical grandeur and the dramatic on-stage action. Scribe formed a partnership with Auber, who set no less ...

Source: Definitive Opera Encyclopedia, founding editor Stanley Sadie

Bagpipe Somewhere, perhaps in Mesopotamia, about 7,000 years ago, a shepherd may well have looked at a goat skin and some hollow bones and had an idea for a new musical instrument: the bagpipe. In the early Christian era, the instrument spread from the Middle East eastward into India and westward to Europe. By the seventeenth ...

Source: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music, general editor Paul Du Noyer

Following the social and political upheaval of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, Europe enjoyed a short period of relative stability with Napoleon’s exile, the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in France and the establishment of the Vienna Peace Settlement in 1815. However, in the early 1820s a number of minor revolts broke out in Naples and ...

Source: Classical Music Encyclopedia, founding editor Stanley Sadie

The seven centuries covered here saw, essentially, the making of modern Europe. They saw the rise of the papacy and its numerous conflicts. They saw the shaping and reshaping of nations and empires. Yet beyond, and often because of, these conflicts and changes, they also saw the formation of great cultures. As nation met nation in ...

Source: Classical Music Encyclopedia, founding editor Stanley Sadie

Composed: 1902 Premiered: 1902, Milan Libretto by Arturo Colautti, after Eugène Scribe and Ernest Legouvé’s play Adrienne Lecouvreur Act I Backstage at the Comédie-Française, the stage manager Michonnet tries to propose to the actress Adriana Lecouvreur, but she loves Maurizio, who is the Count of Saxony in disguise. She gives Maurizio some violets. An intercepted letter ...

Source: Definitive Opera Encyclopedia, founding editor Stanley Sadie

Verdi’s five-act opera Don Carlos was taken from a drama written in 1787 by the German playwright Friedrich von Schiller (1759–1805). Written for the Paris Opéra, Don Carlos was first performed there on 11 March 1867. Schiller’s play was translated and the libretto written by Joseph Méry, who unfortunately died before it was completed, and Camille du Locle ...

Source: Definitive Opera Encyclopedia, founding editor Stanley Sadie

Khovanshchina (‘The Khovansky Affair’), a dark opera, full of conspiracy, gloom and imminent violence, was based on a historical event. In 1682, the future modernizing tsar Peter the Great (1672–1725) was made co-ruler of Russia with his mentally retarded half-brother Ivan V (1666–96). At this time, introducing Greek and Latin practices into the Russian Church was ...

Source: Definitive Opera Encyclopedia, founding editor Stanley Sadie

‘The Elixir of Love’ Donizetti’s prolific output owed a great deal to the speed with which he was able to compose. He could compose operas at the rate of three or four a year. However, even this rate of production was overtaken by the mere fortnight it took him to write the music for L’elisir d’amore. This pastoral comedy was ...

Source: Definitive Opera Encyclopedia, founding editor Stanley Sadie

‘The Sleepwalker’ Vincenzo Bellini’s two-act opera La sonnambula, which had a pastoral background, was first produced at the Teatro Carcano in Milan on 6 March 1831. The story derived from a comédie-vaudeville of 1819 and a ballet-pantomime of 1827, both part-written by the French dramatist Eugène Scribe. The title role, Amina, was created by Giuditta Pasta ...

Source: Definitive Opera Encyclopedia, founding editor Stanley Sadie

Le Comte Ory (1828) was another of Rossini’s bright, brilliant operas buffa. This one, based on an old Picardy legend, premiered at the Paris Opéra on 20 August 1828. The first performance in London took place at the Haymarket on 28 February 1829, and was possibly intended as a celebration for Rossini’s thirty-seventh birthday, the best ...

Source: Definitive Opera Encyclopedia, founding editor Stanley Sadie

‘The Huguenots’ Composed: 1836 Premiered: 1836, Paris Libretto by Eugène Scribe, Emile Deschamps and Gaetano Rossi Act I Nevers, a Catholic, has invited the Huguenot Raoul to a feast, as the king desires peace between the two factions. The guests describe their experiences of love. Raoul has fallen for a lady whom he saved from some ...

Source: Definitive Opera Encyclopedia, founding editor Stanley Sadie

‘The Pearl Fishers’ While the success of Carmen overshadows his other operas, Bizet’s first lasting success was with Les pêcheurs de perles, written when he was only 24. Set in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), it uses gently oriental inflections to portray the priestess Leïla torn between love and her sacred vows, and a more romantic and dramatic style for ...

Source: Definitive Opera Encyclopedia, founding editor Stanley Sadie

‘The Sicilian Vespers’ Verdi inherited the libretto for Les vêpres siciliennes (‘The Sicilian Vespers’) from Le duc d’Albe (‘The Duke of Alba’), an opera left unfinished when its composer, Donizetti, died. Verdi made it a five-act work and it had its first performance at the Paris Opéra, for which it was commissioned, on 13 June 1855. It ...

Source: Definitive Opera Encyclopedia, founding editor Stanley Sadie

‘A Masked Ball’ In 1857, Verdi was virtually asking for censorship trouble when he chose Gustavuse III, ou Le bal masqué (‘Gustavus III, or The Masked Ball’) for his next work. In 1792 King Gustavusus III of Sweden had been shot dead at a masked ball in Stockholm. Regicide was a taboo subject and the Neapolitan censors immediately ...

Source: Definitive Opera Encyclopedia, founding editor Stanley Sadie
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