Robert le Diable
Grand opéra en 5 actes créé à l'Académie royale de musique (salle Le Peletier) le 21 novembre 1831.
During the vogue in France for the roman noir, the figure of the Devil gave rise to a whole series of works in the first third of the nineteenth century. Among them, L’Histoire de Robert le Diable duc de Normandie, et de Richard sans peur son fils – reviving the legend of Duke Robert the Magnificent of Normandy, alleged to have been the son of the Devil – enjoyed wide circulation and was the subject of numerous literary and theatrical adaptations, including this five-act grand opera by Delavigne, Scribe and Meyerbeer. Robert le Diable, premièred at the Paris Opéra on 21 November 1831, was an immediate success. In a Paris beset by political, social and religious unrest, the production was a major event, its sensational plot ensuring that it was a hot topic in newspapers and reviews. The work’s popularity may also be gauged by the many parodies it spawned. The consensus opinion, expressed by Fétis, was that “Robert le Diable is not only M. Meyerbeer’s masterpiece, but it is also a remarkable work within the history of music. [...] Its composition seems to me to unite all the qualities needed to establish a composer’s reputation lastingly.” The libretto was praised for combining several of the key ingredients of the Romantic drama, including a supernatural plot with devilish machinations and a combination of the picturesque and the exotic. The musical effects were widely appreciated, as were the unexpected twists and turns in the plot. The work’s success also owed much to an exceptionally well-matched cast of singers, providing all the power and refinement required: Laure Cinti-Damoreau (Isabelle), Julie Dorus-Gras (Alice), Adolphe Nourrit (Robert) and Nicolas Levasseur (Bertram). The provocative Act III “Ballet of the Nuns” featured the famous ballerina Marie Taglioni.
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