Opera in five acts
Libretto by E. Scribe and E. Deschamps
Marguerite Valois, the bride of Henry IV
Count de Saint-Brie, Catholic, Governor of the Louvre
Valentine, his daughter
Comte de Nevers
Raul de Nanji, Protestant
Marcel, a Huguenot soldier, Raoul’s servant
Urban, page of Queen Marguerite
Bois-Rose, the Huguenot Soldier
Morvere, friend of the Comte de Saint-Brie
Nobles, court ladies, soldiers, monks, gipsies.
Venue: Touraine and Paris.
Time: August 1572 year.
HISTORY OF CREATION
Soon after the production of “Robert-devil” directorate of the Parisian Bolshoi Opera Theater commissioned Meyerbe new work. The choice fell on the plot from the era of religious wars, based on the novel by P. Merimee (1803-1870) “The Chronicle of the Time of Charles IX,” which, with its appearance in 1829, was a great success. The permanent member of the composer, the famous French playwright E. Scribe (1791-1861) gave in his libretto a freely romantic interpretation of the events of the famous Bartholomew’s night from August 23 to 24, 1572. Scribe’s play “Huguenots” (which means – comrades in the oath) is replete with spectacular stage contrasts and melodramatic situations in the spirit of the French romantic drama. The creation of the text was also attended by the theater writer E. Deschamps (1791-1871); the composer himself played an active role.
Under the contract with the directorate of the theater, Meyerbeer undertook to present a new opera in 1833, but because of his wife’s illness he interrupted his work and was to pay a fine. The opera was completely finished only three years later. The first production on February 29, 1836 in Paris was a great success. Soon the triumphant procession of the Huguenots began on the theatrical stages of Europe.
The historical basis of the plot was the struggle between Catholics and Protestants in the 16th century, accompanied by mass persecution and ruthless mutual destruction. Against this backdrop, the love story of the protagonists of the opera – Valentina and Raul – unfolds. Before the moral purity and strength of their feelings, the cruelty of religious fanaticism turns out to be powerless. The work has a vivid anti-clerical direction, which was especially acutely perceived by contemporaries; it is permeated by the humanistic idea of the right of every person to freedom of belief, to genuine happiness.
“Huguenots” – a vivid example of the French “big opera.” Grandiose mass scenes, spectacular spectacular numbers are combined in it with the display of a touching lyrical drama. Contrast richness of scenic images allowed to unite in music various stylistic means: the Italian melodiousness with the methods of symphonic development coming from the German school, the Protestant chant – with the gypsy dances. Romantic elation of expression increases...the intensity of musical drama.
In the overture the melody of the Protestant chant of the 16th century sounds, which then passes through the whole opera.
In the first act, a festive atmosphere prevails. In serene, enlightened tones, the sensitive-gallant aria of Nevers with the chorus of “Rush the youth of the moment” is sustained. Courageous determination imbued with Arioso Raul “In Touraine here.” Choir “Leech in the cup” – a lively drinking song. Raoul’s dreamy romance “All the charm in it” is accompanied by a solo of the ancient string instrument viola d’amour. Contrast is made by the severe Protestant chant performed by Marcel. The song “Your Dying Is Resolved,” accompanied by visual effects (imitation of shots) sounds like a warrior. The graceful Cavatina of Urban’s “From one lovely lady” is a sample of Italian coloratura. The final ends with a drinking song.
The second act splits into two clearly delineated sections. The first is dominated by a feeling of calm and calm. A dazzling virtuoso brilliance captivates the aria of Margarita “In the land of his own.” The music of the second section of the act, at first solemnly majestic (the appearance of Catholics and Protestants), soon becomes strenuously dramatic. Restrained-severely sound unison oaths – a quartet with the choir “And the sword of battle.” The final choral scene is imbued with a violent-swift movement, then agitated-anxious, then vigorously active.
The drama of the third act is based on sharp contrasts. The bellicose song of the Huguenot soldier accompanies the bellicap of the drums. The unfolded duet of Valentine and Marcel from a feeling of alertness, secret expectation leads to a courageous and strong-willed rise. An energetic sephet with a march rhythm is crowned with a broad melodic culmination. In a dynamic quarrel scene, four different choruses collide: Catholic students, Huguenot soldiers, Catholic women and Protestants. The final scene is united by the joyful melody of the choir “Light Days”.
The fourth act is the pinnacle in the development of the lyric-romantic line of the opera. Romance of Valentina “In front of me” reveals the purity and poetry of her appearance. Another color has an ominously harsh scene of the plot, leading to a dramatic culmination – the consecration of swords. In the passionate duet of Valentina and Raul, the cantilena of wide breathing prevails.
In the fifth act comes the denouement of drama. Raul’s aria “Everywhere fires and murders” is full of excited declamation. The gloomy chorus of assassins is accompanied by the sharp tones of brass instruments. In the scene in the temple, the themes of the Protestant chant and the choir of their pursuers, Catholics, are encountered.