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Cinq-Mars (Poirson & Gallet / Gounod)

Date

1877.4.5

Description

Opera in four acts and five scenes.

Text

Cinq-Mars, published by Alfred de Vigny in 1826 and regarded as the first major French historical novel, soon became fashionable throughout Europe. The action is set at the start of the 17th century, in the court of King Louis XIII. The Marquis de Cinq-Mars, a man of courage and resolution, wins the favour of the king by organising opposition to the very powerful Cardinal Richelieu. However various cunning manoeuvres, plots and betrayals finally compel the monarch to abandon his champion and allow Richelieu to triumph. Sentenced to execution with his friend De Thou, the rebellious, saturnine Cinq-Mars is a fine embodiment of legitimist Romanticism. It was at the request of the director of the Opéra-Comique—Carvalho—who liked the idea of an operatic adaptation of Cinq-Mars, that Gounod agreed to return to the opera stage after an absence of ten years. He produced a work which does not eschew the sensual melodic lines of Roméo et Juliette or Faust, while keeping its sights firmly set on historical grand opera. This is why the second version of the work, revised for the Opera of Lyon and La Scala in Milan in November 1877 (and translated into Italian for this occasion), cut the spoken dialogue to make the discourse flow more smoothly and enhance the nobility of the plot. The famous cavatina by Marie de Gonzague “Nuit resplendissante” has long overshadowed other passages of great harmonic and melodic charm, such as the two arias by the principal tenor. The “Scène de la Conjuration”, in Act II, is in the tradition of similar works by Meyerbeer but gives De Thou’s interjections a lyricism characteristic of the “new” style of French opera: that of Thomas, Bizet and the young Massenet.