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Les Barbares

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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.

Documents and archives

Mlle Torri dans Les Barbares

Press illustration, Picture of a scene, Photograph

Mlle Torri en Bacchante (Les Barbares de Saint-Saëns)

Rousselière dans les Barbares

Press illustration, Picture of a scene, Photograph

Charles Rousselière en Veilleur (Les Barbares de Saint-Saëns)

Riddez dans Les Barbares

Press illustration, Picture of a scene, Photograph

Jean Riddez en Hildibraht (Les Barbares de Saint-Saëns)

Les Barbares décor de l'acte II

Décor, Press illustration, Photograph

Décor des Barbares de Saint-Saëns : acte II

See the 26 listed document(s)


publication date : 25/09/23

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