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Soret, Marie-Gabrielle – Proserpine: from genesis to reception




Having read and been impressed by Proserpine, an early play in verse by the poet and dramatist Auguste Vacquerie (1819-95), written in 1838 and published in 1872 in his collection Mes premières années de Paris, Camille Saint-Saëns thought of setting it to music in the form of an ‘Italian opera’, as the locale and plot suggested. In July 1880 he was in England negotiating with the impresario Carl Rosa, who wanted to commission a work from him. Saint-Saëns had him read the play, but Rosa thought it ‘too marked’ in character, and the project came to nothing. The composer nevertheless persisted with his idea and – not without difficulty – obtained Vacquerie’s assent to working up the project of a libretto in Italian. But it was when the two men met at a dinner at Victor Hugo’s house in 1883 that – the idea of an adaptation of the work for the Théâtre-Italien having finally been abandoned – Saint-Saëns persuaded Vacquerie to agree to having his play reworked and convinced him that the librettist Louis Gallet was the ideal collaborator for such a transformation.

From the CD-Book Proserpine de Saint-Saëns (Palazzetto Bru Zane, collection Opéra français, 2017). Translation: Charles Johnston.

    Person - 1
  • SAINT-SAËNS, Camille (1835-1921)
  • Work - 1
  • Proserpine (Gallet / Saint-Saëns)