Conte lyrique in 3 acts and 1 prologue premiered at the Opéra-Comique (Paris) on 20 November 1901. After Grisélidis by Armand Silvestre and Eugène Morand.
It was in 1891 that Grisélidis, a three-act mystery by Silvestre and Morand featured on the bill for several months at the Comédie-Française. Its success piqued Massenet’s interest as Silvestre, who had already penned a large number of poems for his songs, was a friend of his. Inspired by a 12th-century legend, the work tells the story of Grisélidis, the loyal wife of the Marquis de Saluce, who has gone off to wage war in the Holy Land. Although the Devil puts her loyalty to the test, causing her former lover, Alain, to appear to her, the virtuous wife does not yield to temptation, drawing strength from her role as a devoted mother. Grisélidis was begun in the autumn of 1893, when Massenet took great pleasure in the time he spent working with Silvestre. Completed at the end of 1894, the work was put to one side in favour of Cendrillon, then Sapho whose premiere was brought forward owing to the homage arranged for Daudet and the phenomenal success of Calvé in La Navarraise. Set aside on numerous occasions, the score for Grisélidis was entirely reworked in the autumn of 1900. The musical writing deftly handles the juxtaposition of religious, lyrical and comic registers, while the vocal writing is particularly apposite, finely shaping the psychological moods of each of the characters. In Lucienne Bréval (Grisélidis), Lucien Fugère (the Devil), Adolphe Maréchal (Alain) and Hector Dufranne (the Marquis), Massenet found the ideal performers, capable of nuanced yet robust performances. The ingenious production by Albert Carré, with its telling use of disappearances, appearances and lighting effects, undoubtedly contributed to the work’s success when it was premiered at the Salle Favart.
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Décor, Press illustration