Le Cid (opera)

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Le Cid is an opera in four acts and ten tableaux by Jules Massenet to a French libretto by Louis Gallet, Édouard Blau and Adolphe d'Ennery. It is based on the play of the same name by Pierre Corneille.[1]

It was first performed by a star-studded cast at the Paris Opéra on November 30, 1885 in the presence of President Grévy, with Jean de Reszke as Rodrigue, and had been seen 150 times there by 1919 but faded from the repertory after that. While the opera itself is not in the standard operatic repertory, the ballet suite is a popular concert and recording piece which includes dances from different regions of Spain.

Performance history[edit]

After the premiere the Paris Opera continued to revive Le Cid until 1919,[2] reaching over 150 performances at the theatre.[3]

Local premieres took place in Frankfurt, Antwerp, and Vienna in 1887, followed by Rome, New Orleans Geneva and Milan in the years following.[2] In New York, the premiere at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1897 was revived in 1901 and 1902, and a cut concert performance on 8 March 1976 at Carnegie Hall with Plácido Domingo and Grace Bumbry was later issued as a commercial recording.[2] In Saint-Etienne it was produced in 1979 then at the 1994 Massenet Festival under Patrick Fournillier with Michele Command and Chris Merritt.[2] Other modern productions include 1981 in San Francisco under Julius Rudel with Carol Neblett and William Lewis, 1984 and 1993 in Rouen, 1999 at Seville, and a 2001 production by the Washington Opera, starring Domingo, which was shown on PBS television,[4] and was seen in Zurich in January 2008.[5] In June 2011 the opera was staged at the Opéra de Marseille[6] in a production directed by Charles Roubaud, conducted by Jacques Lacombe, with Roberto Alagna singing the role of Rodrigue.


Original poster
Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 30 November 1885
(Conductor: Ernest Altès)
Chimène soprano Fidès Devriès
Rodrigue tenor Jean de Reszke
Don Diègue bass Edouard de Reszke
Le Roi bass Léon Melchissédec
Le comte de Gormas bass Pol Plançon
L'Infante soprano Rosa Bosman
Saint Jacques baritone Lambert
L'envoyé maure basse chantante Balleroy
Don Arias tenor Girard
Don Alonzo bass Sentein
Chorus: Noblemen, Ladies of the court, Bishops, Priests, Monks, Captains and Soldiers, People ; Dancers (for 2nd Act ballet).


The death of Gormas, Act II, Scene 3, from L'Illustration's coverage of the opera's première

Rodrigue returns from victory over the Moors and receives knighthood from King Ferdinand, at the house of Count Gormas, whose daughter, Chimène, is in love with the warrior. The King and his family approve, although the King's daughter herself loves Rodrigue. The latter match, however, is impossible since the hero is not of royal blood. The King bestows upon Don Diego, father of Rodrigue, a governorship expected by Count Gormas. The enraged Count insults Don Diego, who, too old to fight, calls upon his son to uphold his honor—without naming his adversary. Although grieved upon learning his adversary's identity, Rodrigue is obliged to go through with the duel, and more by accident than design kills the Count. Chimène swears vengeance.

Act II, Scene 4: The Envoy of Boabdil of the Moors declares war with the King of Castille

In the great square before the palace of the King at Burgos a crowd of merrymakers has gathered for a festival day. In the midst of the revelry Chimène appears and begs the King to bring revenge upon Rodrigue. The King refuses, and learning that the Moors are advancing, bids her delay her vengeance until the close of the campaign, for Rodrigue is to lead the Spanish forces. Before departing, Rodrigue gains an interview with Chimène, and finds that her love is as strong as her desire for retribution.

At first seemingly near defeat, Rodrigue prays and resigns his fate to Providence. Saint James appears to him in a vision, and the saint promises him that Rodrigue's army will win the battle. There is a sudden turn of fortune and the Spaniards are victorious.

Act III, Scene 6, The Ballet at Cid's Camp

First reports come that the army has been defeated and its leader slain. Chimène has her revenge, but is prostrated with grief and fervently declares her love. A second report reverses the news and Rodrigue returns to find his beloved still implacable. The King, shrewdly enough, now promises Chimène he will punish the warrior, but Solomon-like asks her to pronounce the death sentence. This unexpected decision causes her once more to change her mind, and when Rodrigue draws his dagger and threatens to end his own life if she will not wed him, she is compelled to acknowledge that love is triumphant.

Chimène's aria from Act III. Sung by Marguerite Sylva for Edison Records in 1910.

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Noted arias[edit]

  • Rodrigue: "O noble lame étincelante"
  • Chimène: "Pleurez, pleurez mes yeux"
  • Rodrigue: "O souverain, o juge, o père"


  1. ^ Milnes R. Le Cid. In: The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. Macmillan, London and New York, 1997,
  2. ^ a b c d Bégaud, Josée. L’œuvre à l’affiche. In: L’Avant-Scène Opéra 161 – Panurge ~ Le Cid. L’Avant-Scène Opéra, Paris 1994, p.130-133.
  3. ^ Art Lyrique Francais - Le Cid page accessed 14 August 2014.
  4. ^ The official authorized Website of Plácido Domingo | Repertoire/ Roles
  5. ^ Koegler H. Report from Zurich. Opera, April 2008, p428-9.
  6. ^ Opera de Marseille website