- Robert le diable (opera)
"Robert le diable" ("Robert the Devil") is an
operaby Giacomo Meyerbeer, often regarded as the first grand opera. The librettowas written by Eugène Scribeand Casimir Delavigneand has little connection to the medieval legend of " Robert the Devil".
The dramatic music, harmony and orchestration of "Robert", its melodramatic plot, and its sensational stage effects (especially the ballet of the nuns) made it an overnight success and instantly confirmed Meyerbeer as the leading opera composer of his age.
The opera was the first new production by the new manager of the Opéra,
Louis Véron, and its success underwrote his policy of commissioning similar works, which were to include Meyerbeer's " Les Huguenots", Fromental Halévy's " La Juive", and Daniel Auber's "Gustave III".
It premiered on
November 21st, 1831at the Paris Opéra, and was the work that brought Meyerbeer international fame. The success owed much to the opera's star singers - Nicolas Levasseuras Bertram, Adolphe Nourritas Robert.
The opera is based loosely on the
medievallegend of Robert the Devil, many versions of which allege that the father of Duke Robert the Magnificentof Normandy(father of William the Conqueror) was the devil.
Robert and his mysterious friend Bertram are carousing in
Palermo. The minstrelRaimbaud, not recognising Robert, sings a ballad referring to him as 'Robert the Devil'. Raimbaud begs for pardon and tells Robert that he is affianced to Robert's half-sister Alice. Alice enters and tells Robert she bears a dying message from their mother. Robert tells her to keep it till later, and asks her to take a letter to his own fiancée, the Princess Isabelle. Bertram challenges Robert to a game of dice, at which Robert loses his entire possessions.
The Prince of Granada challenges all comers for the hand of Isabelle, but Robert has been led astray by Bertram and does not respond.
Bertram reveals that he has undertaken to obtain Robert for the Devil by the end of the day, and this is echoed by a chorus of demons. He tells Robert that he can regain his fortunes by the aid of a magic branch, which can make him invisible. He leads Robert to the ruins of a convent, where the branch can be found. A ballet takes place of the ghosts of debauched nuns, rising from their coffins, led by their Abbess.
The invisible Robert enters Isabelle's chamber as she is preparing for her marriage with the Prince of Granada. He is intending to abduct her, but she admits that she loves him. In despair, Robert breaks the branch and the spell it has created, and is taken into custody.
The Cathedral of Palermo. Against a background of chanting monks, Bertram reveals to Robert that he is Robert's true father, and is willing to renege on his obligation to deliver him to the Devil. Enter Alice, with news that the Prince refuses to marry Isabelle. She also reads her mother's message, which is to shun the man who betrayed her (Bertram). With all this faffing around, time has passed - midnight now strikes and the time for Bertram's coup is past. Bertram falls down into Hell, Robert into the arms of Isabelle.
The influence of "Robert le diable"
The brilliant transcription of its themes made by the composer and virtuoso
Franz Lisztwas so popular that it became his calling card - on more than one occasion he was forced to interrupt his programmed concerts to play it because of the demands of the audience.
Italian pianist and composer
Adolfo Fumagallicomposed an elaborate fantasy on the opera for left hand alone as his Op. 106.
The work's popularity spawned many parodies and pastiches including one by
W. S. Gilbert, "Robert the Devil", which opened the Gaiety Theatre, Londonin 1868.
The opera and Meyerbeer are both refferenced in the musical Phantom of the Opera. "lot 664 a human skull, from this houses 1831 production of Robert Le Diable by Meyerbeer".
*"Robert le diable", with
Samuel Ramey, June Anderson, cond. by Thomas Fulton, live, Opéra de Paris (1985) (Legato LCD 229-3)
*"Roberto il diavolo", (in Italian) with
Boris Christoff, Renata Scotto, cond. by Nino Sanzogno, Opéra de Paris (Opera D'oro)
* [http://www.meyerbeer.com./robert.htm Meyerbeer Fan Club - Robert the Devil]
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