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Fille de Roland, La (Ferrier / Rabaud)




A musical tragedy in four acts set to a libretto by Paul Ferrier after a drama of the same name by Henri de Bornier, La Fille de Roland was Henri Rabaud’s first opera. The premier was given at the Opéra-Comique on 16 March 1904, where it was revived on 27 October 1922. The subject of Bornier’s verse drama draws on one of the topoi of 19th-century French literature: the legend of Roland, a Frankish knight who died at the Battle of Roncevaux in 778. This episode in the Saragossa campaign, recorded in a 9th-century chronicle on the life of Charlemagne, occasioned a story called La Chanson de Roland, dating from the 11th century. In 1832, the philologist Henri Monin discovered a manuscript of this text in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, and it was published for the first time by the medievalist, Francisque Michel, in 1837. Following this discovery, and after other versions of the epic were unearthed in several towns in Europe, numerous works took up the story of the valiant knight, reflecting an unprecedented enthusiasm for the Middle Ages. The intensely dramatic action of Rabaud’s opera is set after Roland’s death. His daughter, Berthe, has been rescued by Gérald. The young couple are in love, but Gérald’s father (called Ganelon) cannot agree to their marriage, because he betrayed Roland and led him to his death—which is something his son does not know. Although Charlemagne mercifully pardons Ganelon for his crime, Gérald gives up the idea of marrying his beloved after the confession wrung from his father, and goes into exile with him. Rabaud’s music suits the serious mood of the libretto: the music is austere in character and the opera’s quasi-religious tone makes it similar in feel to an oratorio. After the work’s first performance, some critics objected to the opera’s restrained simplicity, while praising its elevated style.

    Persons - 2
  • FERRIER, Paul (1843-1920)
  • RABAUD, Henri (1873-1949)