Le roi Arthus

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Le roi Arthus (King Arthur) is an opera in three acts by the French composer Ernest Chausson to his own libretto. It was composed between 1886 and 1895, and first performed 30 November 1903 at the Théâtre de la Monnaie, Brussels, after long delays. The musical style is heavily influenced by the works of Richard Wagner, particularly Tristan und Isolde and Parsifal, as well as César Franck. The scenery at the premiere was designed by Albert Dubosq and the symbolist painter Fernand Khnopff; it was executed by Dubosq's atelier together with Chausson's brother-in-law Henri Lerolle and under the supervision of Chausson's widow.

The opera was revived at the Paris Opera in May 2015 with Thomas Hampson in the title role, Sophie Koch as Genièvre and Roberto Alagna as Lancelot, conducted by Philippe Jordan, in a production by Graham Vick.[1]


Role Voice type Premiere Cast
Conductor: Sylvain Dupuis
Arthus baritone Henri Albers
Genièvre mezzo-soprano Jeanne Paquot d'Assy
Lancelot tenor Charles Dalmorès
Lyonnel tenor Ernest Forgeur
Merlin baritone Édouard Cotreuil
Mordred bass François
Allan bass Jean Vallier
A worker tenor Henner
A knight / a squire bass Danlée
Chorus: Knights, squires, pages, bards; Genièvre's ladies


Act One[edit]

Fresh from his defeat of the Saxons, King Arthur praises the fighting prowess of the knights of the Round Table, particularly Lancelot. That night Lancelot meets Arthur's wife Guinevere for an adulterous tryst but the two are spied on by Mordred. Lancelot fights and wounds him.

Act Two[edit]

Lancelot flees to his castle with Guinevere. He learns that Mordred has survived and revealed the truth to the king. Arthur consults the wizard Merlin who foretells the downfall of the Round Table.

Act Three[edit]

Arthur pursues Lancelot and gives battle, but Lancelot throws away his weapons and refuses to fight his king. Guinevere, fearing Lancelot's imminent death, strangles herself with her own hair. Arthur forgives the mortally wounded Lancelot. A vessel arrives at the coast to bring the king to the 'Ideal'.



  1. ^ Review by François Laurent in Diapason 637 July-August 2015, p67.
  2. ^ Matthew Boyden: The Rough Guide to Opera. London, Rough Guides. Third Edition 2002, p. 316.