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Amazones ou La Fondation de Thèbes, Les (Jouy / Méhul)

Date

1811.12.17

Description

Opera. 3 acts. Premiered at the Académie Impériale de Musique on 17 December 1811.

Text

Premiered on 17 December 1811, Méhul’s Les Amazones was composed for the lengthy celebrations in honour of the marriage between Napoleon and Marie Louise. The opera tells the story of the impossible love affair between the young Theban Amphion and the Amazon rebel Ériphile, who is being compelled to take part in the massacre of Thebes by Queen Antiope. The opera was a bitter failure and occasioned the composer’s most downhearted letter to his librettist, De Jouy: I’m wounded to the quick, I’m crushed, disgusted, discouraged! What I need is happiness, mine is all used up, I must, I want to take refuge in my peaceful pursuits. I want to live in the midst of my flowers, in the silence of retirement, far from society, far from cliques...”

The overture (Adagio. Allegro agitato): 

In accordance with the model in vogue at that time, the overture to Les Amazones adopts a bipartite form, a suspense-filled Adagio with understated motifs followed by a heroic Allegro agitato. However, in this overture, the initial section takes the time to develop a broad cantabile cello melody, which is already Romantic. The allegro opens with a dotted motif frequently found both in Méhul’s work and in that of his colleague Cherubini (particularly in the overture to Les Deux Journées). A lively martial bridge passage with rapid figures in the strings is followed by a more lyrical, sweeping second theme with its smooth division of violas and cellos. A short development precedes the thematic recapitulation, followed by a monumental coda which swells to fill the sound space. The score calls for pairs of woodwind, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani and strings. Although the energy of the piece extends the revolutionary style of the 1790s, it also features some exquisite subtleties of orchestration.

    Persons - 2
  • JOUY, Étienne de (1764-1846)
  • MÉHUL, Étienne-Nicolas (1763-1817)
  • Themes - 4
  • Institution – Opéra de Paris
  • Lieux de musique – Théâtre National de la rue de la Loi (salle Montansier)
  • Napoleon and music
  • Opéra – La tragédie lyrique après Gluck