Armide (Gluck)

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Armide is an opera by Christoph Willibald Gluck, set to a libretto by Philippe Quinault. Gluck's fifth production for the Parisian stage and the composer's own favourite among his works, it was first performed on 23 September 1777 by the Académie Royale de Musique in the second Salle du Palais-Royal in Paris.

Background and performance history[edit]

Gluck set the same libretto Philippe Quinault had written for Lully in 1686, based on Torquato Tasso's Gerusalemme liberata (Jerusalem Delivered). Gluck seemed at ease in facing French traditions head-on when he composed Armide. Lully and Quinault were the very founders of serious opera in France and Armide was generally recognized as their masterpiece, so it was a bold move on Gluck's part to write new music to Quinault's words. A similar attempt to write a new opera to the libretto of Thésée by Jean Joseph de Mondonville in 1765 had ended in disaster, with audiences demanding it be replaced by Lully's original. By utilizing Armide, Gluck challenged the long-standing and apparently inviolable ideals of French practice, and in the process he revealed these values capable of renewal through "modern" compositional sensitivities. Critical response and resultant polemic resulted in one of those grand imbroglios common to French intellectual life. Gluck struck a nerve in French sensitivities, and whereas Armide was not one of his more popular works, it remained a critical touchstone in the French operatic tradition and was warmly praised by Berlioz in his Memoirs. Gluck also set a minor fashion for resetting Lully/Quinault operas: Gluck's rival Piccinni followed his example with Roland in 1778 and Atys in 1780; in the same year, Philidor produced a new Persée; and Gossec offered his version of Thésée in 1782. Gluck himself is said to have been working on an opera based on Roland, but he abandoned it when he heard Piccinni had taken on the same libretto.

The first modern revival of Armide was presented at the Théâtre National de l’Opéra (now named the Opéra National de Paris) in 1905 with Lucienne Bréval in the title role. Other cast members included Alice Verlet, Agustarello Affré, Dinh Gilly, and Geneviève Vix.[1]

Roles[edit]

Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 23 September 1777 [2]
(Conductor)
Armide, a sorceress,
Princess of Damascus
soprano Rosalie Levasseur
Renaud, a Crusader haute-contre Joseph Legros
Phénice, Armide's confidant soprano M.lle LeBourgeois
Sidonie, Armide's confidant soprano M.lle Châteauneuf
Hidraot, a magician,
King of Damascus
baritone Nicolas Gélin
Hate contralto Céleste [Célestine] Durancy [3]
The Danish Knight, a Crusader tenor Étienne Lainez (also spelled Lainé)
Ubalde, a Crusader baritone Henri Larrivée
A demon in the form of Lucinde,
the Danish Knight's beloved
soprano Anne-Marie-Jeanne Gavaudan "l'aînée"[4]
A demon in the form of Mélisse,
Ubalde's beloved
soprano Antoinette Cécile de Saint-Huberty
Aronte, in charge of Armide's
prisoners
baritone Georges Durand
Artémidore, a Crusader tenor Thirot
A naiad soprano Anne-Marie-Jeanne Gavaudan "l'aînée"[5]
A shepherdess soprano Anne-Marie-Jeanne Gavaudan "l'aînée"[4]
A pleasure soprano Antoinette Cécile de Saint-Huberty[5]
people of Damascus, nymphs, shepherds and shepherdesses, suite of Hate, demons, Pleasures, coryphaei

Synopsis[edit]

Rinaldo in the garden of Armida, painting by Fragonard

For the storyline, see Armide by Lully. Gluck kept the libretto unchanged, although he cut the allegorical prologue and added a few lines of his own devising to the end of Act Three. Similarly, the roles and the disposition of the voices are the same as in Lully's opera.

Recordings[edit]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Giroud, Vincent, liner notes for Marston 52059-2, Early French Tenors, Volume 1: Émile Scaramberg, Pierre Cornubert, and Julien Leprestre, accessed December 3, 2009
  2. ^ Roles and premiere cast from The New Kobbés Opera Book ; Jeremy Hayes, Armide (ii), in The New Grove Dictionary, I, p. 202; Pitou, p. 52; Lajarte, p. 291; Amadeusonline Almanach by Gherardo Casaglia (accessed 11 September 2010).
  3. ^ stage name of Madeleine-Céleste Fieuzal (or Fieusacq) de Frossac
  4. ^ a b Source: "Mercure de France" (October 1777), as cited by Arthur Pougin (Figures d'Opéra-comique, Paris, Tresse 1875, pp. 151-152 (accessible for free online in archive.org).
  5. ^ a b Source: Armide. Tragédie Lyrique de Quinault (Partition Piano et Chant Réduite et Annotée par F.-A. Gevaert), Paris/Bruxelles, Lemoine, 1902, p. XVII (a copy at Internet Archive).
Sources
  • Earl of Harewood and Antony Peattie, eds., The New Kobbés Opera Book, G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1997 (ISBN 0091814103)
  • (French) Théodore de Lajarte, Bibliothèque Musicale du Théatre de l'Opéra. Catalogue Historique, Chronologique, Anecdotique, Parigi, Librairie des bibliophiles, 1878, Tome I (accessible on-line in scribd.com – accessed 20 February 2011, ad nomen, pp. 290-293)
  • Spire Pitou, The Paris Opéra. An Encyclopedia of Operas, Ballets, Composers, and Performers – Rococo and Romantic, 1715-1815, Greenwood Press, Westport/London, 1985 (ISBN 0-313-24394-8)
  • Stanley Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, Grove (Oxford University Press), New York, 1997 (ISBN 978-0-19-522186-2)

External links[edit]