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Caravane du Caire, La (Étienne Morel de Chédeville)




Comédie lyrique en 3 actes créé à Fontainebleau le 30 octobre 1783.


Act I

A caravan on the way to Cairo makes a stop on the banks of the Nile. Amongst the travellers we find Husca, a slave dealer, who expects to sell his current band of slaves for a good price, in particular the fair Z.lime, the daughter of a Nabab, and Saint-Phar, her husband. Enslaved Frenchmen and women sing and dance to pass the time. The caravan gets under way again, but is immediately attacked by a band of Arabs. Saint-Phar begs Husca to undo his chains so that he can fight the Arabs; in exchange for this heroic gesture, Husca promises to set Saint-Phar free. Saint-Phar’s valour causes the Arabs to flee. Husca fulfils his promise and sets Saint-Phar free, who then requests Z.lime’s freedom as well, even at the cost of his own. Husca refuses in spite of their pleading: he is very much aware of the value of his beautiful captive. The caravan continues on its way to Cairo.

Act II

Having arrived at the Pasha’s palace, Husca tells Tamorin, the harem eunuch, that he has brought several beautiful slaves who will soon revive his master’s joy in life. Despite his melancholic mood, the Pasha wants to organise a celebration of the courage of Florestan, the leader of a troop of Frenchmen who saved his ship during a storm. Alma.de, the head wife of the Pasha, is only too conscious that his affection for her decreases as his melancholy increases. She therefore attempts to rekindle his affections by organising an entertainment involving all the women of the harem, but her lover remains distant and prostrate. Tamorin tries to convince the Pasha that infidelity will drive away his gloom and calls in Husca, who describes the beauty of the slaves that he has for sale. The Pasha, intrigued by the idea of Dutch and French female slaves, decides to go to the Cairo bazaar and possibly buy one or two. Once arrived, he watches as the slaves display their various talents: a Frenchwoman plays the harp, an Italian woman sings with bravura, a German woman sings a folk song, Georgians and Indians perform the dances of their respective lands. The Pasha, however, only has eyes for Zélime and takes her away with him, despite the protestations of Saint-Phar who was on the point of handing over the price of her ransom. Saint-Phar swears that he will get her back. 


Florestan is getting ready for the Pasha’s celebration and confides to his friend Furville with great sadness that his own son seems to have disappeared for good. Alma.de, however, is now in a state of desperation because of the transfer of the Pasha’s affections to the fair Zélime. Osmin, one of the harem slaves, tells her that Saint-Phar is nearby and that he seeks Zélime, leading her to think that she can further her own ends by ridding herself of her rival. Florestan comes into the Pasha’s presence to the sound of a solemn march; he thanks the Pasha for his help in repairing the ships that were damaged in the storm. There is general rejoicing. The festivities have scarcely begun when shouts and cries from within the palace announce that Zélime has been kidnapped. Tamorin comes running and claims, to Florestan’s horrified disgust, that a Frenchman is responsible. The Pasha and Florestan swear vengeance, the Pasha because he has lost Zélime, and Florestan because the unknown Frenchman has brought shame upon his nationality. Zélime is soon recaptured and publicly declares her love for Saint-Phar. Florestan shudders: his son is found, but is a criminal! Zélime, Alma.de and Florestan, each for their own reasons, beg the Pasha to have mercy. The Pasha displays his munificence by freeing Saint-Phar and granting him his beloved. The festivities resume with redoubled joy.

    Persons - 2
  • GRÉTRY, André-Ernest-Modeste (1741-1813)
  • MOREL DE CHÉDEVILLE, Étienne (1751-1814)
  • Work - 1
  • Caravane du Caire, La (Morel de Chédeville / Grétry)