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Published online by Cambridge University Press: 08 January 2013
1 The grand opéra repertory that became established all over the world in the mid nineteenth century consisted of eight works, more or less, all composed for and first performed at the Paris Opéra: La Muette de Portici (libretto by Eugène Scribe and Germain Delavigne; music by Daniel-François-Esprit Auber; premiere 29 February 1828), Guillaume Tell (Victor-Joseph Étienne de Jouy; Gioachino Rossini; 3 August 1829), Robert le diable (Scribe and Delavigne; Giacomo Meyerbeer; 21 November 1831), La Juive (Scribe; Jacques-Élie-Fromental Halévy; 23 February 1835), Les Huguenots (Scribe; Meyerbeer; 29 February 1836), Le Prophète (Scribe; Meyerbeer; 16 April 1849), L'Africaine (Scribe; Meyerbeer; 28 April 1865), and Don Carlos (François-Joseph Méry and Camille du Locle; Giuseppe Verdi; 11 March 1867). According to www.operabase.com, this year only Le Prophète was missing.
2 In 1965, in a broadcast performance; see the introduction to Robert Ignatius Letellier's facsimile edition of the vocal score (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2011): xii. Other performances since then include a BBC broadcast in 1975, festival one-offs at Ravenna (Teatro della Rocca, 20 July 1991) and Aachen (Theater Aachen, 21 July 2002), and André Bücker's production at the Anhaltisches Theater Dessau, April–June 2010. The 2012 production was directed by Emma Dante, with sets and costumes by Carmine Maringola and Vanessa Sannino, and lighting and choreography by Dominique Bruguière and Sandro Maria Campagna respectively.
Cormac Newark ‘Interpreting La Muette’, in Eugène Scribe und das europäische Musiktheater, ed. Sebastian Werr (Münster: LIT Verlag, 2007): 46–64Google Scholar
4 The libretto ends with the eruption of Vesuvius, general panic among the people of Naples, and the despairing mute heroine, Fenella, throwing herself into the lava. A spectacular climax and large crowd scenes went on to become hallmarks of grand opéra.
5 David Pountney's essay ‘Directing grand opera: Rienzi and Guillaume Tell at the Vienna State Opera’, in The Cambridge Companion to Grand Opera, ed. David Charlton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003): 131–146Google Scholar
6 The Deutsche Oper production dates from 1987; the performance recorded on the DVD was in 1991. The Opera Australia production is even older, from 1981, recorded in 1990. As for other grands opéras on DVD, Guillaume Tell (in Italian translation) is currently available only in the 1988 La Scala production by Luca Ronconi; La Juive in a 2003 performance of the 1999 Vienna Staatsoper production by Günter Krämer; and L'Africaine in a 1988 performance of the 1971 San Francisco Opera production (also by Lotfi Mansouri).
8 Sontag, Susan, ‘Fascinating Fascism’, The New York Review of Books (6 February 1975)Google Scholar
9 ‘Ich bin am Ort das größte Schwein, laß mich nur mit Hugenotten ein!’
10 Newark, Cormac, ‘Not Listening in Paris: Critical and Fictional Lapses of Attention at the Opera’, in Words and Notes in the Long Nineteenth Century, ed. Phyllis Weliver and Katharine Ellis (Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, forthcoming)Google Scholar
11 Meyerbeer added this aria for the London performances in 1848, apparently as a compliment to the famous alto Marietta Alboni. Similarly, Mansouri's decision is justified here only because the piece is so charmingly sung by Suzanne Johnston. To keep the action in the same gracious vein, he removes the page's crush on the Queen, just as he edits out the latter's attraction to Raoul – a dignified choice, for Sutherland in 1990 could hardly have been convincing as the sluttish twenty-something depicted in accounts of life at Charles IX's court.
12 Mark Everist ‘Grand Opéra – Petit Opéra: Parisian Opera and Ballet from the Restoration to the Second Empire’, 19th-Century Music 33 (2009–10): 195–231Google Scholar
13 Scribe, Die Hugenotten oder Die St. Bartholomäusnacht. (Les Huguenots.) Grosse Oper in fünf Akten. Nach dem Französischen des Eugen Scribe u. Emile Deschamps von J.F. Castelli. Musik von Giacomo Meyerbeer (Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, ?1878)Google Scholar
14 Matthias Brzoska (trans. Christopher Smith), ‘Meyerbeer: Robert le Diable and Les Huguenots’, in The Cambridge Companion to Grand Opera, 189–207Google Scholar
15 Again, Don Carlos is the best-known example; its difficult genesis was further complicated by the composer's subsequent reworkings – none definitive – of the score. See Ursula Günther's preface to her edition (with Luciano Petazzoni), Don Carlos: Edizione integrale delle varie versioni in cinque e in quattro atti (Milan: Ricordi, 1999; first published 1980): v–xxxiii.
16 Les Huguenots was perhaps the most successful of them all, becoming the first work to be performed 1,000 times there – in whichever combination or order of constituent numbers, and in whatever state of wholeness – in May 1906. See Brzoska, ‘Meyerbeer: Robert le Diable and Les Huguenots’, 206.
17 For an overview of the regulation and subsidy system governing opera production in France, see Hervé Lacombe, ‘The “machine” and the State’, in The Cambridge Companion to Grand Opera, 21–42. A similar system, somewhat less transparent, was operated by the Centre National de la Cinématographie (founded in 1946) as part of French post-war cultural reconstruction, and remains in place today; it has been debated in numerous contexts, from the critical (Les Cahiers du Cinéma, Positif, etc.) to the countercultural (it can be seen as part of the impetus behind the Nouvelle vague) and the global-commercial (US studios have often denounced it as a form of protectionism). The European Commission has recently (14 March 2012) launched plans to revise the rules governing member states’ support for the film industry.
19 D.W. Griffith's Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages (USA, 1916; starring Constance Talmadge)Google Scholar
20 The Sydney production is, on balance, more self-consciously cinematic: Virginia Lumsden, by effective use of different camera angles, particularly above the stage, close-ups and fade-ins, often succeeds in making the Sydney stage look bigger than it really is, and the chorus more numerous. Brian Large's approach is, as ever, very much to make a TV film of a night in the theatre.
21 Salter, Chris, ‘Forgetting, Erasure, and the Cry of the Billy Goat: Berlin Theatre Five Years After’, Performing Arts Journal 18 (1996): 18–28Google Scholar
Steinberg, Michael P., ‘A Season in Berlin, or, Operatic Responsibility’, New German Critique 95 (2005): 51–66Google Scholar
22 Les Huguenots is renowned as difficult to cast, even by grand opéra standards, because of its seven principal roles; the ‘Night of the Seven Stars’ Met performances also featured Lillian Nordica, Sofia Scalchi, Jean de Reszke, Édouard de Reszke, Victor Maurel and Pol Plançon.
23 Still available on CD as Opera d'Oro 1217 (in Italian) and Decca/London 430549 respectively.
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