Dinorah, originally Le pardon de Ploërmel ("The Pardon of Ploërmel"), is an 1859 French opéra comique in three acts with music by Giacomo Meyerbeer and a libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré. The story takes place near the rural town of Ploërmel and is based on two Breton tales by Émile Souvestre, "La Chasse aux trésors" and "Le Kacouss de l'Armor", both published separately in 1850 in the Revue des deux mondes.
The opera was first performed at the Opéra-Comique (Salle Favart), in Paris, on 4 April 1859 under the title Le pardon de Ploërmel. The stage designs for Acts 1 and 3 were by Edouard-Désiré-Joseph Despléchin and Jean-Louis Chéret. Those for the more technically demanding Act 2, which included onstage running water, were by Joseph and Karl Wilhelm Mühldorfer.
The principal singers were highly acclaimed: "Marie Cabel for her vertiginous-virtuoso interpretation of Dinorah; Sainte-Foy for his overwhelmingly convincing characterization of Corentin, lyrically as well as dramatically; Jean-Baptiste Faure for his fascinating stage presence as Hoël, Meyerbeer's first big baritone role." The supporting singers were also greatly admired, in particular, Barreille as the huntsman and Warot as the harvester. Meyerbeer's music was praised for its originality, but the libretto was found incomprehensible and even met with derision. In the initial run of performances up to the end of 1859, changes were made, the most significant being the casting of the contralto Palmyre Wertheimber in the role of Hoël.
The opera remained very successful in Paris up to 1912. Under its original title it was revived at the Opéra-Comique on 27 August 1874, 23 May 1881, 6 June 1896, and 16 March 1912, by which time it had been performed over 200 times by the company. It was revived in Brussels as late as 11 January 1939.
Meyerbeer composed recitatives to replace the spoken dialog for performances abroad. The opera was translated into Italian for the premiere in London on 26 July 1859 (with Miolan-Carvalho) and became known internationally as Dinorah, but it was first performed in America on 4 March 1861 at the French Opera House in New Orleans in French.
Dinorah was performed in New York (at the Academy of Music) in Italian on 24 November 1862. As a novelty, it attracted a great deal of attention and (starring the now nearly forgotten Angelina Cordier) was much "ballyooed". One of its attractions was to be the appearance of an actual, live goat on stage, which "inspired a vast dissemination of facetious goat-lore in all the papers." Unfortunately, the opera followed close on the heels of a highly successful production of Bellini's Norma, and Meyerbeer's work suffered by comparison. The reviewer in Dwight's Music (6 December 1862) was highly critical, writing: "Beside such music as this (the heaviest of light operas), Bellini's melodies are golden and Rossini's operas classic." 
Nevertheless, Dinorah was initially performed quite often outside of France and became a great favorite of Adelina Patti, but is nowadays virtually forgotten except for the famous virtuoso aria for soprano "Ombre légère", sometimes known as the Shadow Song as it is a one-sided 'duet' by Dinorah with her shadow. Other sopranos who have enjoyed considerable success in the role of Dinorah are Amelita Galli-Curci, Ilma di Murska, Luisa Tetrazzini and Maria Barrientos.
Although the opera has been largely neglected in recent years, a rare broadcast performance of the overture by Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra from 12 November 1938, has been preserved. This unusual overture has several sections with chorus, ample percussion, and is seen to compare favorably with those of Rossini and Verdi.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere cast, 4 April 1859
|Dinorah, a peasant girl||coloratura soprano||Marie Cabel|
|Corentin, a bag-piper||tenor||Charles-Louis Sainte-Foy|
|Hoël, a goat-herd||baritone||Jean-Baptiste Faure|
|A harvester||tenor||Victor Warot|
|Chorus: peasants and villagers|
- Time: Nineteenth century
- Place: Brittany
In the Breton village of Ploërmel
During the annual pilgrimage to the chapel of the Virgin, Dinorah has gone mad because her bridegroom Hoël disappeared following a storm that interrupted their wedding on the same day the previous year. Hoël returns to the village, having discovered the whereabouts of a treasure. He enlists Corentin to help him recover the riches, but not without sinister intent, since according to the legend, the first to touch them will perish.
A mysterious valley
They descend upon the cache where Dinorah also happens to be. From her, Corentin learns about the legend, and later he and Hoël invite each other first to inspect the treasure. During that time, Dinorah, in pursuit of her pet goat, steps on a tree trunk by a river as it is hit by lightning, and falls in the water and is swept away by the current. Hoël having witnessed the scene leaps to her rescue.
Hoël admits his love and regrets to Dinorah as she regains consciousness. She recognizes him and regains her sanity. The villagers arrive and sing a hymn of forgiveness and lead the two lovers to the chapel where they will be married.
- Dinorah – Deborah Cook (Dinorah), Christian du Plessis (Hoël), Alexander Oliver (Corentin) – Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, Philarmonia Orchestra – James Judd (conductor) – Opera Rara (1979)
- The aria "Ombre légère" has been recorded by many coloratura sopranos, including Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland, Anna Moffo, and Natalie Dessay.
- Isabelle Philippe (Dinorah), Armand Arapian (Hoël), Frédéric Mazzotta (Corentin) – Théâtre français de la musique, Cori Spezzatti, Orchestre de L’Opéra d’Etat Hongrais Failoni, Olivier Opdebeeck (conductor), Pierre Jourdan(fr) (adaptation and production) – Recorded in performance in October 2002 at the Théâtre impérial de Compiègne. Cascavelle DVDELD7000 (PAL, Region 0). OCLC 717423316. Kultur D4013 (NTSC, Region 1) ISBN 978-0-7697-7983-6.
Libretto and scores
Meyerbeer's manuscripts have not been found, and most published libretti reflect cuts to the score made in almost all productions. A complete libretto has recently been published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing as part of the series Giacomo Meyerbeer: The Complete Libretti in Eleven Volumes. The following are the early printed sources which were used in the preparation of that libretto:
- Le Pardon de Ploërmel; opéra-comique en trois actes. Paris: Brandus & Dufour, 1859. (First edition of the full orchestral score with spoken dialogue.)
- Le Pardon de Ploërmel; opéra en trois actes. “Edition contenant les récitatifs et les morceaux ajoutés par l’auteur.” Paris: Benoit, 1885. (Score with sung recitatives in place of spoken dialog.)
- Le Pardon de Ploërmel; opéra-comique en trois actes. Paris: Michel Lévy Frères, 1859. (Second edition of the libretto used for additional stage directions and scenic descriptions.)
- In France the opera is most often performed as Le pardon de Ploërmel. The translation "The Pilgrimage of Ploërmel" is by Huebner (1992) and is not generally used as the title in English-speaking countries. Some revivals in France and most performances outside of France have used the name Dinorah. Other French titles have included Le Pardon de Notre-Dame d'Auray and Les Chercheurs d'or (Wild and Charlton, p. 353).
- Additions to the libretto were made in German by Meyerbeer and Charlotte Birch-Pfeiffer and translated into French by Georges-Frédéric Burguis and Joseph Duesburg respectively (Arsenty, p. 1).
- Wild and Charlton, p. 353; Letellier, p. 187. (Letellier gives the title of the second story as "Le Kacouss de l'amour".)
- Henze-Döhring 2004, p. 682, identifies the set designer Chéret as Jean Louis Chéret (1810–1882). Letellier, p. 196, gives the name Jules Chérets (probably confusing him with the painter Jules Chéret).
- Letellier, p. 196.
- Loewenberg 1978, column 942.
- Wolff 1953, p. 135.
- Huebner 1992, p. 1180.
- Belsom 2007; Joyce & McPeek 2001. Loewenberg 1978, column 942 has the exact date and language, but not the venue. Note that Brown 2001, p. 576, and Belsom 1992, p. 584, say it was given at the Théâtre d'Orléans.
- Lawrence 1999, p. 514.
- Quoted in Lawrence 1999, pp. 514–515.
- Kobbé comments: "...Meyerbeer evidently wanted to write a pastoral opera... now, instead of pastoral it sounds pasteurised."
- Wilson, John (2002). "Toscanini Discography". ToscaniniOnline.com. Retrieved 7 November 2010.
- The real name of the bass singer using the stage name of Barreille was Alexandre-Maximilien Bonvoux (Letellier, p. 241).
- Arsenty, pp. 2–3.
- Arsenty, Richard, editor (2008). The Meyerbeer Libretti: Opéra Comique 2 Le Pardon de Ploërmel (with an introduction by Robert Letellier). Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars. ISBN 978-1-84718-969-1.
- Belsom, Jack (1992). "New Orleans" in Sadie 1992, vol. 3, pp. 584–585.
- Belsom, Jack (2007). "A History of Opera in New Orleans" at the Wayback Machine (archived May 31, 2008)
- Brown, Clive (2001). "Giacomo Meyerbeer" in Holden 2001, pp. 570–577.
- Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). Search for "4 April 1859" in Almanacco di Gherardo Casaglia at Amadeusonline.
- Henze-Döhring, Sabine, editor (2004). Giacomo Meyerbeer: Briefwechsel und Tagebücher, 1856–1859 (German), volume 7. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-018030-5.
- Holden, Amanda (2001). The New Penguin Opera Guide. New York: Penguin Putnam. ISBN 0-14-029312-4.
- Huebner, Steven (1992). "Dinorah [Le pardon de Ploërmel ('The Pilgrimage of Ploërmel")]" in Sadie 1992, vol. 1, pp. 1179–1180.
- Huebner, Steven (2008). "Dinorah" at Grove Music Online.
- Joyce, John; McPeek, Gwynn Spencer (2001). "New Orleans" in Sadie 2001.
- Kobbé, Gustav; Harewood, Earl of (1958). Kobbé's Complete Opera Book. New York: Putnam. OCLC 560129867, 10720244 and 637971238.
- Lawrence, Vera Brodsky (1999). Strong on Music: The New York Music Scene in the Days of George Templeton Strong. Volume III: Repercussions, 1857-1862. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226470160.
- Letellier, Robert Ignatius (2008). An Introduction to the Dramatic Works of Giacomo Meyerbeer: Operas, Ballets, Cantatas, Plays, p. 195. Hampshire, England: Ashgate. ISBN 978-0-7546-6039-2.
- Loewenberg, Alfred (1978). Annals of Opera 1597–1940 (third edition, revised). Totowa, New Jersey: Rowman and Littlefield. ISBN 978-0-87471-851-5.
- Sadie, Stanley, editor (1992). The New Grove Dictionary of Opera (4 volumes). London: Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-56159-228-9.
- Sadie, Stanley, editor (2001). The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd edition. London: Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-56159-239-5 (hardcover), OCLC 419285866 (eBook), and Grove Music Online.
- Wild, Nicole; Charlton, David (2005). Théâtre de l'Opéra-Comique: Repertoire 1762–1972 (French). Sprimont, Belgium: Mardaga. ISBN 978-2-87009-898-1.
- Wolff, Stéphane (1953). Un demi-siècle d'Opéra-Comique (1900–1950). Paris: André Bonne. OCLC 250469567, 459125672 and 2174128.