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Rienzi (Nuitter & Guilliaume / Wagner)

Date

1869.4.6

Description

Version française, pour le Théâtre-Lyrique, de l'opéra en cinq actes de Richard Wagner créé à Dresde le 20 octobre 1842.

Text

In 1838 Wagner began work on his third opera, a “grand tragic opera in five acts” based on Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s novel set in mid-fourteenth-century Rome, Rienzi, the Last of the Tribunes (1835). He completed the score in November 1840 in Paris, where he had hopes that it would be premièred at the Opéra. But for various reasons, including his lack of influence in the capital, that was not to be, and the first performance of Rienzi took place on 20 October 1842 at the Dresden Opera House. Despite its length – it runs over six hours, which led the composer to propose cuts or suggest it be given over two evenings – Rienzi was a success in Germany. Wagner had, however, amplified the features of French grand opera in order to make his work inaccessible to provincial German theatres, which he regarded as routine-bound and second-rate. The fate of the Roman tribune Rienzi (Cola de Rienzo), betrayed by the opponents he has pardoned, enabled him to contrast individual political idealism with the ineluctable motion of history, and intimate moments with spectacular collective scenes. The quest for grandiose effects is manifest in the presence of an extended ballet (Act II), pledge scenes, marches and the catastrophe represented in the finale, influenced by Auber’s La Muette de Portici. Using Italian flourishes (Adriano’s “In seiner Blüte”) as well as noble and intense lyricism (Rienzi’s prayer “Allmächt’ger Vater”), Wagner also gave the orchestra a prominent role and prepared the ground for his future “music dramas”. Following the performance of Rienzi, in a translation by Charles Nuitter and Jules Guilliaume, at the Théâtre-Lyrique in Paris in 1869, Théophile Gautier wrote: “It is not so much an opera in the general acceptance of the term as a magnificent symphony with choruses.”

    Persons - 3
  • GUILLIAUME, Jules (1825-1900)
  • NUITTER, Charles (1828-1899)
  • WAGNER, Richard (1813-1883)
  • Themes - 3
  • Courant – Le wagnérisme en France
  • Institution – Théâtre-Lyrique
  • Lieux de musique – salle du Théâtre-Lyrique (Théâtre de la Ville)