Digital resources for French Romantic music

Barbares, Les (Sardou & Gheusi / Saint-Saëns)




Tragédie lyrique en trois actes et un prologue. Livret de Victorien Sardou et Pierre Barthélemy Gheusi ; musique de Camille Saint-Saëns. Créée le 23 octobre 1901 à l’Opéra de Paris.


After Déjanire, performed at the arena in Béziers in 1898 and 1899, Saint-Saëns began a new work destined for the theatre in Orange, drawing his inspiration from the history of that Provençal town. The libretto was by Victorien Sardou and Pierre-Barthélémy Gheusi, and he worked on it in the autumn of 1900, not hesitating to make alterations so that it corresponded more closely to his dramatic concept. Since, when the score was finished, it proved physically impossible to stage the opera in Orange, the director of the Paris Opéra decided to put it on there. Les Barbares, a tragédie lyrique in one prologue and three acts, was performed in Paris on 23 October 1901, conducted by Paul Taffanel, with the contralto Meyrianne Héglon in the role of Livie, the young soprano Jeanne Hatto as Floria, and the tenor Charles Rousselière as Marcomir. For the occasion, a lengthy prologue was added to make the work longer: an opportunity for the composer to introduce and juxtapose all the score’s unifying motifs. Saint-Saëns had found it difficult to get his operas performed for many years. This was partly due to his failure in the Prix de Rome competition and also, paradoxically, a result of his immense success as a pianist and composer: condemned to excellence, he did not “need” to be performed at the Paris Opera. An aficionado of a type of “musical drama” that combined “singing, declamation and symphony” in equal parts, he used historical subjects which were well-suited to his dramatic genius and to his desire to use simple situations to reveal the internal workings of his heroes’ minds and the complexities of human nature. The opera was well-received: although the critics were bothered by the form of the work and its generic nature, audiences were delighted by the orchestral score and the way its colours reflected the opera’s changes in mood.

    Images - 14
  • Albert Vaguet en Marcomir (Les Barbares de Saint-Saëns)
  • Jean-François Delmas en Scaurus (Les Barbares de Saint-Saëns)
  • Jeanne Hatto en Floria (Les Barbares de Saint-Saëns)
  • Léa Piron en Bacchante (Les Barbares de Saint-Saëns)
  • Louise Mante en Bacchante (Les Barbares de Saint-Saëns)
  • Meyriane Héglon en Livie (Les Barbares de Saint-Saëns)
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    Libretto - 1
  • Barbares, Les (Sardou & Gheusi)
  • Persons - 3
  • GHEUSI, Pierre-Barthélemy  (1865-1943)
  • SAINT-SAËNS, Camille (1835-1921)
  • SARDOU, Victorien (1831-1908)
  • Themes - 2
  • Lieux de musique – Théâtres en plein air, arènes et théâtres antiques
  • Opéra – La tragédie lyrique après Gluck
  • Studies - 5
  • Douche, Sylvie – Les Barbares: contemporary criticism
  • Jardin, Étienne – The Roman theatre of Orange before Les Barbares
  • Soret, Marie-Gabrielle – Saint-Saëns and opera
  • Soret, Marie-Gabrielle – Saint-Saëns' Les Barbares: power struggles
  • Teulon Lardic, Sabine – À pleine voix et en plein air à Orange, Nîmes, Béziers : créations et reprises de Saint-Saëns (1894-1921)
  • Press articles -  8
  • Journal des débats, politiques et littéraires, 25 octobre 1901, p.3. [Les Barbares de Saint-Saëns]
  • L’Écho de Paris, 24 octobre 1901 [Les Barbares de Saint-Saëns]
  • La Revue blanche, tome 26 (sept-déc 1901), p. 473-474 [Les Barbares de Saint-Saëns]
  • La Revue politique et littéraire (ou « Revue bleue »), 23 novembre 1901, p. 666-669 [Les Barbares de Saint-Saëns]
  • Le Figaro, 24 octobre 1901, p. 1-2 [Les Barbares de Saint-Saëns]
  • Le Ménestrel, 27 octobre 1901, p.338-339 [Les Barbares de Saint-Saëns]
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    Document - 1
  • Mariéton, Paul – Le Théâtre antique d’Orange et ses chorégies (1908)