Home / Works / Assassinat du duc de Guise op. 128, L’ (Camille Saint-Saëns)

Print content of page

Assassinat du duc de Guise op. 128, L’ (Camille Saint-Saëns)




Music for the film L’Assassinat du duc de Guise (1908), directed by André Calmettes (1861-1942) and Charles Le Bargy (1858-1936), based on the screenplay by Henri Lavedan (1859-1940). 


The silent historical film L’Assassinat du duc de Guise depicts (more or less accurately) the events that took place on 23 December 1588, when Henri III, the last of the Valois kings, summoned his rival, Duc Henri de Guise, to his chambers at the Château de Blois and had him assassinated there by his bodyguards. The film was first shown on 18 November 1908 at the Salle Charras in Paris for the inauguration of the “Visions d'Art” programme; the event received considerable press attention. In taking part in this cinematographic undertaking with the production company Le Film d'Art, Saint-Saëns, then aged seventy-three, was the first major composer to write music specifically intended for the cinema. He dedicated it to his pupil, the composer and music critic Fernand Le Borne (1862-1929). Like the film, the music, scored for twelve players (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, five strings, piano and harmonium), comprises an introduction and five scenes. The composer’s biographer, Jean Bonnerot, tells us that Saint-Saëns worked out the music “scene by scene before the screen”. Keeping in line with the film’s action, it conveys very effectively the character of the protagonists and the various twists and turns in the plot: low-pitched rumblings in the Introduction, for instance, suggest dark conspiracy, and at the end the assassination is represented by a strong clarinet theme and another in the strings. 

    Person - 1
  • SAINT-SAËNS, Camille (1835-1921)
  • Theme - 1
  • Genre – musiques de scène et de film