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Proserpine (Gallet / Saint-Saëns)




Drame lyrique in four acts premiered at the Paris Opéra-Comique on 14 March 1887


While we might have expected the supposedly “classical” Saint-Saëns’s imagination to be fired by his interest in the fate of the ancient Proserpine, we surprisingly discover that his heroine is nothing less than a Renaissance courtesan cultivating illicit love. Saint-Saëns skilfully summed up the real dramatic stakes of his drame lyrique, far removed from the repertoire of the Opéra-Comique, where it was premiered: “Angiola is innocence, candour, pure and virginal love; Proserpine is a damned woman, for whom true love is a forbidden fruit; as soon as she touches it, it becomes a torture. [...] What happens is both unexpected and terrible: the chaste love of the saint seems little compared to the infernal passions of the courtesan. A frightening problem, indeed! Satan, the eternally cursed rebel, crushes the faithful angels with his superiority! [...] It’s the bloodthirsty beast that is admirable, the gentle being is only pretty and sympathetic.” Visibly transported by this delight in horror, Saint-Saëns indulges in an unprecedented orchestral modernism, piling up dissonances under the cries of fury or despair of his characters. And he concluded: “Of all my theatrical works, Proserpine is the most advanced in the Wagnerian system.”

    Libretto - 1
  • Proserpine (Louis Gallet)
  • Persons - 2
  • GALLET, Louis (1835-1898)
  • SAINT-SAËNS, Camille (1835-1921)
  • Themes - 3
  • Institution – Opéra-Comique de Paris
  • Lieux de musique – Salle Favart
  • Opera – Opera in France in the nineteenth century
  • Studies - 3
  • Condé, Gérard – Proserpine: a look through the score
  • Macdonald, Hugh J. – Proserpine, Goddess of the Underworld
  • Soret, Marie-Gabrielle – Proserpine: from genesis to reception
  • Press articles -  10
  • Journal des débats, 27 mars 1887 [Proserpine de Saint-Saëns]
  • Le Figaro, 17 mars 1887 [Proserpine de Saint-Saëns]
  • Le Figaro, 18 mars 1887 [Proserpine de Saint-Saëns]
  • Le Figaro, 20 mars 1887 [Proserpine de Saint-Saëns]
  • Le Gaulois, 17 mars 1887 [Proserpine de Saint-Saëns]
  • Le Ménestrel, 13 mars 1887 [Proserpine de Saint-Saëns]
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    Document - 1
  • Saint-Saëns, Camille – Quelques mots sur Proserpine (1902)