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 by that date.[3] A new production is planned for the Opéra in the 2014-15 season, conducted by Michel Plasson with Roberto Alagna and Annick Massis among the principals.[4]

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,[5] and was seen in Zurich in January 2008.[6] In June 2011 the opera was staged at the Opéra de Marseille[7] in a production directed by Charles Roubaud, conducted by Jacques Lacombe, with Roberto Alagna singing the role of Rodrigue.

Roles[edit]

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).

Synopsis[edit]

Act I[edit]

Tableau I[edit]

In Burgos, a hall in the Gormas palace.
To the sound of fanfares outside the friends of the Comte de Gormas recount how the King is to make Rodrigue a knight, despite his young age. Gormas desires to be named the governor of the Infant by the King. Gormas however approves the romantic attachment which his daughter Chimène has for Rodrigue. The Infanta has confessed to Chimène that she too loves Rodrigue, but as she is not allowed to love a mere knight Rodrigue could proceed to marry Chimène.

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

Tableau II[edit]

A gallery in the royal palace leading to an entrance to Burgos cathedral
With bells sounding, the people give thanks for victory over the moors. The King now rewards Rodrigue by knighting him (Ô noble lame étincelante), and Rodrigue swears his faith to Saint Jacques de Compostelle. The King next names Don Diègue as governor of the Infant, and this is seen as an insult by the Comte de Gormas and his friends. Don Diègue holds out his hand and wishes the marriage of his son and Chimène, but the count insults, swipes and disarms him. Cursing his loss of strength and old age, Don Diègue demands that his son revenges his honour. Rodrigue bemoans his fate, and the loss of his happiness, when he learns that the challenger is the father of his beloved.

Acte II[edit]

Tableau III[edit]

A street in Burgos at night.
Rodrigue wonders if he should allow himself to be killed by the count rather than kill him, to avoid the anger and hatred of Chimène, but he concludes that he owes more to his father than his loved one and that he must go ahead and seek vengeance. In the following duel he swiftly kills the count. A crowd and a jubilant Don Diègue arrive on the scene, but when Chimène rushes out to found out the murderer of her father she faints when she discovers his identity.

Tableau IV[edit]

The main square of Burgos.
The curtain rises on a lively spring day with dances. The Infante distributes alms and dancing follows : a castillane, andalouse, aragonaise, aubade, catalane, madrilène, navarraise (Ballet). Chimène demands justice to the King against Rodrique and will hear of no pity or pardon for him. Don Diègue says that his son has only revenged him and that he should bear the accusation. The Infante feels her lost hopes revive. A moorish envoy brings a declaration of war to the King on behalf of his leader Boabdil. The King reproaches Rodrigue for having lost his most courageous captain and Don Diègue calls for his son to take the place of the count in battle. Rodrigue asks the King for a day of grace – the time to return victorious. The King consents and the people acclaim Rodrigue while Chimène in despair continues to demand justice.

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

Acte III[edit]

Tableau V[edit]

Chimène’s chamber, night.
Chimène give way to grief (Pleurez ! pleurez mes yeux…) at her dilemma. Rodrigue appears to say farewell but sad at having to go into battle with her hate behind him. As he departs, she calls on him to cover himself in glory to diminish his sins and to forget the past. She flees, ashamed to have allowed some hope of pardon for her father’s murderer.

Act III, Tableau 6, The Ballet at Le Cid's camp

Tableau VI[edit]

Rodrigue’s camp.
At evening the officers and soldiers from Navarre and Castille drink and sing. Prisoners and Moorish musicians wait on one side. After a drinking song and a Moorish rhapsody some of the soldiers want to leave, confronted by such a large army of moors.

Tableau VII[edit]

Rodrigue’s tent.
Rodrigue submits a fervent prayer (Ô souverain, ô juge, ô père) which is answered by the image of Saint Jacques announcing that he will be victorious. In thunder and lightning the tent disappears.

Tableau VIII[edit]

The camp ~ the battle.
At dawn soldiers run in gruops, fanfares sound and all rush out, promised victory by Rodrique.

Acte IV[edit]

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


Problems playing these files? See media help.

Tableau IX[edit]

A room in the royal palace in Grenada.
Deserting soldiers tell Don Diègue that Rodrigue was killed in battle but he throws them out. He is more content with the noble and courageous end than the death of his son. The Infante and Chimène learn the news in despair and all three mourn Rodrigue. Chimène swears to them that she still loved him and that he believed himself loved of her as he died. Fanfares in the distance and cheers in the city warn her that Rodrigue still lives.

Tableau X[edit]

Royal courtyard in Grenada.
The crowd acclaim Rodrigue, name Le Cid by the chiefs of the vanquished moors. The King offers him rewards, but Rodrigue replies that only Chimène can name his fate. As she cannot pardon him nor demand his punishment, he will himself pass justice, and he draws his sword to kill himself. Chimène hesitates and pardons him through her declaration of love and the opera ends in general rejoicing.

Noted arias[edit]

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

References[edit]

Notes
  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. ^ Opéra de Paris website, accessed 25 September 2014.
  5. ^ The official authorized Website of Plácido Domingo | Repertoire/ Roles
  6. ^ Koegler H. Report from Zurich. Opera, April 2008, p428-9.
  7. ^ Opera de Marseille website
Sources