The Voice | Eugène Scribe | Early Romantic | Classical
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 for almost every major European opera composer. His early opéra comique collaborations with Auber paved the way for La muette de Portici, a grand opera whose libretto included fishermen, peasants and aristocratic characters and incorporated popular verse forms as well as traditional arias and recitative. Scribe went on to refine his grand opera librettos with Meyerbeer, drawing in all the characteristics of the Romantic novel, in terms of tragic conflicts, passionate love and spectacular effects. Robert le diable (1831), for example, is a variation on the Faust story that also contains two love stories and features devils and debauched nuns cavorting in a moonlit cloister. More fundamentally, Les Huguenots contains a personal dilemma played out against and within a public drama, a technique which became central to grand opera. Scribe also provided librettos for Offenbach, and for Italian composers drawn to the Paris Opéra, including Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini and Verdi.
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