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Herculanum (Méry & Hadot / David)




Grand opéra en 4 actes créé au Théâtre impérial de l'Opéra (salle Le Peletier) le 3 avril 1859.


Premiered at the Paris Opéra on 4 March 1859, Félicien David’s Herculaneum is one of the last productions of French grand opéra: in the tradition of Rossini’s, Halévy’s and Meyerbeer’s major works, it bears witness at the same to the Verdian revolution that was beginning to sweep the French operatic stage (Les Vêpres siciliennes was premiered in Paris in June 1855). As in Halévy’s La Magicienne (premiered in 1858) – and in keeping with Emperor Napoleon III’s political orientations – the libretto was very clearly intended to promote Christianity. The eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, which buried Herculaneum, Pompeii and Stabiae, is presented as the consequence of the decadence of ancient civilisation and the persecution of the first Christians. Joseph Méry and Térence Hadot’s libretto favours the spectacular: the luxury of the costumes, props, scenery, machinery and dances prompted Berlioz to write in his Journal des Débats column (12 March 1859), “I believe that nothing more magnificent has been done at the Opéra than the staging of Herculaneum.” As Félicien David’s only work for this theatre, Herculaneum surprised many of his contemporaries by the scope and solemn accents of a style that regularly departed from the symphonic exoticism he had displayed in Le Désert. Many numbers were critically acclaimed: Hélios’s seduction scene in Act I; Act II, with its Schubertian reminiscences; Act III’s ballet airs; and, above all, Hélios and Lilia’s Act IV duet.

    Images - 3
  • Herculanum (Méry & Hadot / David)
  • Herculanum (Méry & Hadot / David)
  • Page de titre du quadrille Herculanum d’après David (Strauss)
  • Libretto - 1
  • Herculanum (Méry & Hadot)
  • Persons - 3
  • DAVID, Félicien (1810-1876)
  • HADOT, Terence (-)
  • MÉRY, Joseph (1797-1866)
  • Themes - 4
  • Institution – Opéra de Paris
  • Lieux de musique – Salle Le Peletier
  • Opera – Opera in France in the nineteenth century
  • Opéra – Le grand opéra français
  • Studies - 7
  • Braam, Gunther – The reception of Herculanum din the contemporary press
  • Dratwicki, Alexandre – Félicien David, from one genre to another
  • Dratwicki, Alexandre – Herculanum in a time of change in French grand opéra
  • Jardin, Étienne – Herculanum in David's output
  • Locke, Ralph P. – Félicien David : une étoile plutôt qu'un satellite
  • Ramaut, Alban – L'Antiquité sur scène sous le Second Empire
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    Press articles -  6
  • Journal des débats, 12 mars 1859 [Herculanum de David]
  • La France musicale, 13 mars 1859 [Herculanum de David]
  • La France musicale, 6 mars 1859 [Herculanum de David]
  • Le Ménestrel, 13 mars 1859 [Herculanum de David]
  • Le Ménestrel, 6 mars 1859 [Herculanum de David]
  • Revue et Gazette musicale, 13 mars 1859 [Herculanum de David]