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Adrien (François-Benoît Hoffman)




Opéra en trois actes composé en 1791 et créé à l'Opéra de Paris (Théâtre de la République et des Arts) le 16 prairial an VII (4 juin 1799). 


Act I

The scene is set in a part of the city of Antioch, with a bridge over the river Orontes in the background, the palace of Adrien on the left and a temple on the right. Everything is decked in readiness for the entry of Adrien. Day is just beginning to dawn. Adrien is victorious. He has defeated the Parthians and has been crowned with the laurels of the Caesars. Among those who have not been taken captive are Cosroès, king of the Parthians and the father of Émirène, and Pharnaspe, a Parthian prince who is betrothed to Émirène. They are seeking a means of saving the princess, who is among the prisoners. They withdraw. Adrien enters the city with great pomp. He speaks to Émirène alone, and reassures her that she will come to no harm. Pharnaspe returns with Cosroès, the latter disguised as a Parthian soldier, and offers to pay a ransom for Émirène. Adrien refuses and the two men depart swearing revenge. Alone again with Émirène, Adrien declares his love to her and announces his wish to marry her. Dismayed, Émirène refuses, telling him that she is betrothed to Pharnaspe. This angers him. Just then, cries of terror are heard: the city is being attacked. The Roman and Parthian soldiers engage in battle. The Romans rout their enemies; Pharnaspe is captured. The act ends with songs of victory and triumph.

Act II

The stage represents a mountain, taking up all the space at the back and extending over the whole of the left side. This mountain is very steep and seemingly inaccessible; on the right, a ridge, covered with rocks and trees, presents a gentler slope. A large cave, in the corner on the left, serves as the entrance to a long and very dark underground passage, with a door at the far end. On the right, a gate and a flight of steps represent a wing of the palace; opposite, on the left, carved into the mountainside, is a temple to the Syrian goddess Derceto. Pharnaspe is sentenced to death. Émirène, still captive, pleads with Adrien to pardon the man she loves and offers to die in his place. He agrees to let Pharnaspe go, but the latter must leave before nightfall. He asks Émirène to marry him. But Rutile (a military tribune) enters and announces the arrival of Sabine, a Roman lady to whom Adrien is betrothed. He receives her coldly and then leaves. Alone with Émirène, Sabine sees the princess as the cause of Adrien’s rejection. But the arrival of Pharnaspe, who has come to bid Émirène farewell, reveals to her the truth of their love. Reassured, Sabine hatches a plan for the two lovers to escape. She fetches a man who will guide Pharnaspe to the river via the underground passage; there Pharnaspe will make ready for their departure, then come back for Émirène. Pharnaspe leaves with the guide and Sabine goes back into the palace. Alone, Émirène suddenly hears the sound of fighting. Afraid, she hides. Cosroès, her father, and his men are fighting a group of Romans on the mountain. The Parthians kill their adversaries and take their clothing and arms in order to disguise themselves as Romans. They clamber down the mountain and enter the cave, there to ambush and kill Adrien. Émirène returns, but she hears the noise of fighting coming from the cave and, recognising her father’s voice, she faints, falling out of sight behind a rock. Adrien and his men, having arrived through the underground passage, rout the Parthians. Cosroès emerges and goes to hide in the temple. Adrien and his men appear, having captured Pharnaspe, whom they take to be the author of this attempt on Adrien’s life. Émirène tells them that Pharnaspe is not guilty: she saw a Roman, with a bloody sword in hand, emerge from the cave and seek refuge in the temple. Cosroès comes out of hiding and admits his guilt. General amazement. Adrien sentences Cosroès and Pharnaspe to death. The soldiers take them away; Émirène clings to her father and will not leave him; Adrien goes back into the palace. 


The stage represents a vast peristyle in Adrien’s palace, and beyond that a garden stretching as far as the river Orontes; mountains on the skyline. Sabine is eager to leave and she asks the sailors to prepare the vessel for departure. Adrien appears. He attempts to apologise, but Sabine scornfully interrupts him: the Romans, she says, will avenge her. After she has gone, Cosroès is brought in in chains. Adrien offers to give him back his freedom and his power if he will consent to his marriage to Émirène. Cosroès pretends to agree and asks to see his daughter. But when she arrives he mockingly informs her of Adrien’s offer, before making her promise to hate Adrien as much as he, her father, does. Adrien has Cosroès taken away. Émirène is left alone. Pharnaspe enters. He urges her to agree to marry Adrien and thereby save her father. A chorus of Romans in the distance announces the triumphal procession in celebration of the new emperor. Adrien enters and Cosroès, who has been sentenced to death by the Senate, is brought before him. Pharnaspe declares that he is prepared to give up Émirène in order to save his king, but with magnanimity Adrien has Cosroès released, before declaring that Pharnaspe and Émirène shall be married. He asks Sabine to be his wife. Henceforth the Parthians and the Romans shall be at peace.

    Persons - 2
  • HOFFMAN, François-Benoît (1760-1828)
  • MÉHUL, Étienne-Nicolas (1763-1817)
  • Work - 1
  • Adrien (Hoffman / Méhul)
  • Study - 1
  • Dratwicki, Alexandre – Étienne-Nicolas Méhul : Adrien (1791)