Sigurd is an opera in four acts and nine scenes by the French composer Ernest Reyer on a libretto by Camille du Locle and Alfred Blau. Like Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung, the story is based on the Nibelungenlied and the Eddas, with some crucial differences from the better known Wagnerian version (the role of the supernatural is limited and replaced in large part by fate; the initial version of the libretto with a prologue set in heaven was later cut out). The whole opera can best be described as an epic with techniques of the grand opera.
Initially sketched out in 1862 (and virtually completed in draft by 1867), the work waited many years before it was performed in full. Orchestration of various fragments progressed much more slowly, and as they were completed, they were sometimes performed at various concerts. Initial attempts at staging the work at the Paris Opéra failed, therefore the opera had its world premiere in the Théatre de la Monnaie in Brussels on 7 January 1884 (directed by Alexandre Lapissida). Within a year it was also performed with great success in Covent Garden, Lyon, Monte Carlo and, finally, at the Paris Opéra on 12 June 1885, (directed there by Raoul Lapissida).
In America, the opera was first performed on 24 December 1891 at the French Opera House in New Orleans, and the Teatro alla Scala in Milan performed it in 1894. Since then it has had periodic revivals (but only in France or Monaco); then, after World War II, it was staged in 1963 and 1995 at the Opéra de Marseille (the last one with Alberto Cupido in the title role). The opera was also performed in 1973 in concert at studio 104 of the Office de Radiodiffusion Télévision Française (ORTF) in Paris (Manuel Rosenthal was conducting; performance was recorded) and in 1993 at Festival de Radio France et Montpellier.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere Cast, 7 January 1884
(Conductor: Joseph Dupont)
|Sigurd, Frankish hero||tenor||Julien Jourdain|
|Gunther, king of the Burgundians||baritone||Maurice Devriès|
|Hagen, warrior, companion of Gunther||bass||Léon-Pierre Gresse|
|Brunehild, Valkyrie expelled from Heaven||soprano||Rose Caron|
|Hilda, Gunther's sister||mezzo-soprano||Rosa Bosman|
|Uta, Hilda's nurse||mezzo-soprano||Blanche Deschamps-Jéhin|
|The high priest of Odin||baritone||Maurice Renaud|
|Burgundian warriors, Burgundian people, Icelandic people, Priests, Wives of Burgundian warriors, Maids to Hilda and the Queen, Valets, envoys of Attila, etc.|
In the ballets:
- Act 2: The three Norns, Valkyries, Nixes, Elves, Kobolds
- Act 3: Divertissement: Dances without Warriors
1 piccolo, 2 flutes, 1 cor anglais, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 4 French horns, 2 trumpets, 2 cornets, 3 trombones, 1 tuba, timpani, percussion, 2 harps, Section strings, Stage players
Hilda, the younger sister of Gunther, king of the Burgundians, loves the hero Sigurd, despite the fact that she was expected to be given to Attila himself as a bride. At the instigation of her nurse (Uta) she gives Sigurd a magic potion which brings him to her feet. Sigurd, Gunther and Hagen then swear fealty to each other and set off to Iceland, where Brunehild lies asleep upon a lofty rock, surrounded by a circle of fire and some supernatural beings. There, Sigurd, to earn the hand of Hilda, must overcome those monsters. He achieves this and passes through the flames to win Brunehild for Gunther. His face is closely hidden by his visor, and Brunehild in all innocence accepts Gunther as her saviour, and gives herself to him. The secret is afterwards disclosed by Hilda in a fit of jealous rage, whereupon Brunehild releases Sigurd from the enchantment of the potion. He recognises her as the bride ordained for him by the gods, and they sing a passionate love duet, but before he can taste his new-found happiness he is treacherously slain by Gunther while hunting. His body is brought back to the palace and Brunehild mounts the funeral pyre. A powerful apotheosis ends the opera when spirits of Sigurd and Brunehild ascend to paradise, and soldiers of Attila are seen walking over corpses of Burgundians.
- Malibran Music, Dom Disques: Compilation of various fragments of the opera, made between 1910 and 1934, with Cesar Vezzani, Marcel Journet, Marjorie Lawrence, Germaine Lubin, and others (1 CD, 74 min.)
- Le Chant du Monde, Harmonia Mundi LDC 27891719: concert ORTF, commercial recording of Sigurd, 1973, in studio, 3 CD, total 191 min), Rosenthal conducting, with the following cast: Guy Chauvet(tenor), Robert Massard (baritone), Jules Bastin (bass), Ernest Blanc (baritone), Nicolas Christou (bass-baritone), Bernard Demigny (baritone), Jean Dupouy (tenor), Claude Méloni (baritone), Jean Louis Soumagnas, Andréa Guiot (soprano), Andrée Esposito (soprano), Denise Scharley (mezzo-soprano).
- Radio broadcast of live performance at Montpellier Festival on 6 August 1993, total 176 min, with following cast: Chris Merritt (Sigurd), Michèle Lagrange (Hilda), Valérie Millot (Brunehild), Monte Pederson (Gunther), Hélène Jossoud (Uta), Marcel Vanaud (High Priest), Alain Vernhes (Hagen), Wojtek Smilek (Barde), conducted by Günter Neuhold (the performance was taped, however never released commercially).
- Grey market DVD of telecast of live performance in Marseilles on 22 June 1995 (182 min): Alberto Cupido (Sigurd), Françoise Pollet (Brunehild), Cécile Perrin (Hilda), Jean-Philippe Lafont (Gunther), Viorica Cortez (Uta), Jean-Marc Ivaldi (High Priest), Antoine Garcin (Hagen), Dietfried Bernet conducting (never released commercially).
- In Review from around the world: Marseille, Opera News, 9 December 1995.
- Search result for Sigurd historical performances at AmadeusOnLine
- La Monnaie Archives
- Streatfield R A. The Opera. London, Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd, 1925.
- Biographical notes for Guy Chauvet at French Wikipedia
- Biographical notes for Andréa Guiot at French Wikipedia
- Note that both those above mentioned recordings, historical and the one of Rosenthal (1973) were the only commercially released recordings of that opera, but they are both out of print and circulation, and cannot be found easily.
- Upton, George P.; Borowski, Felix (1928). The Standard Opera Guide. New York: Blue Ribbon Books. pp. 293–295.
- Sigurd article from Upton's book on the Web
- Huebner, Steven (2006). French Opera at the Fin de Siècle: Sigurd – Vallhalla á la Française. Oxford Univ. Press, US. pp. 178–194. ISBN 978-0-19-518954-4.
- Score of the opera (French)