is an opéra comique
Opéra comique is a genre of French opera that contains spoken dialogue and arias. It emerged out of the popular opéra comiques en vaudevilles of the Fair Theatres of St Germain and St Laurent , which combined existing popular tunes with spoken sections...
(drame mêlé de musique
) in three acts by the French composer Étienne Méhul
Etienne Nicolas Méhul was a French composer, "the most important opera composer in France during the Revolution." He was also the first composer to be called a "Romantic".-Life:...
first performed at the Théâtre Favart
The Opéra-Comique is a Parisian opera company, which was founded around 1714 by some of the popular theatres of the Parisian fairs. In 1762 the company was merged with, and for a time took the name of its chief rival the Comédie-Italienne at the Hôtel de Bourgogne, and was also called the...
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...
on 11 October 1799. The libretto, by François-Benoît Hoffman is based on the same episode in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso
Orlando Furioso is an Italian epic poem by Ludovico Ariosto which has exerted a wide influence on later culture. The earliest version appeared in 1516, although the poem was not published in its complete form until 1532...
that also inspired Handel's
HANDEL was the code-name for the UK's National Attack Warning System in the Cold War. It consisted of a small console consisting of two microphones, lights and gauges. The reason behind this was to provide a back-up if anything failed....
Ariodante is an opera seria in three acts by Handel. The anonymous Italian libretto was based on a work by Antonio Salvi, which in turn was adapted from Canti 5 and 6 of Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso...
. The work had a profound influence on the development of Romantic
Romantic music or music in the Romantic Period is a musicological and artistic term referring to a particular period, theory, compositional practice, and canon in Western music history, from 1810 to 1900....
opera, particularly in Germany.
The premiere took place on 11 October 1799. There were fears that the success of the opera might be damaged by the plot's similarity to Henri Montan Berton
Henri Montan Berton was a French composer, teacher, and writer, and the son of Pierre Montan Berton.-Career:...
's Montano et Stéphanie
, which had debuted on 15 April of the same year. In the event, the audience was warmly appreciative and Méhul appeared on stage at the end to take their applause (Hoffman had been kept at home by illness). Méhul dedicated the score to his friend Luigi Cherubini
Luigi Cherubini was an Italian composer who spent most of his working life in France. His most significant compositions are operas and sacred music. Beethoven regarded Cherubini as the greatest of his contemporaries....
||Premiere Cast, 11 October 1799
The haute-contre is a rare type of high tenor voice, predominant in French Baroque and Classical opera until the latter part of the eighteenth century.-History:...
A soprano is a voice type with a vocal range from approximately middle C to "high A" in choral music, or to "soprano C" or higher in operatic music. In four-part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part, which usually encompasses the melody...
The tenor is a type of male singing voice and is the highest male voice within the modal register. The typical tenor voice lies between C3, the C one octave below middle C, to the A above middle C in choral music, and up to high C in solo work. The low extreme for tenors is roughly B2...
| A bard
- Scene: The court of King Edgard
Ina, daughter of King Edgard of Scotland, is in love with the knight Ariodant. Ina's rejected suitor, the villainous Othon, plots against her with Ina's maid Dalinde. Othon and Ariodant are about to fight when the feast is announced in the king's hall.
- Scene: A garden at night, overlooked by Ina's balcony
A bard plays a song on his harp. Ariodant has arranged a midnight duel with Othon and Ina gives him a ribbon of her own hair. Lurcain, Ina's brother, and four other knights enter and hide. They are there to make sure Othon does not play any dirty tricks. However, when Othon arrives he does not fight but tells Ariodant he has been visiting Ina's bedroom every night. When Dalinde appears at the balcony dressed as Ina, it apparently proves Othon's point. Lurcain and Edgard arrest Ina for unchastity.
- Scene: The hall of justice
Ina is about to be put on trial. Othon tries to make a deal with her: if she will agree to marry him, he will claim she has secretly been his wife all along. Ina refuses. Othon's henchmen tell him they have made away with Dalinde. The trial goes ahead, but the accused turns out to be Dalinde, veiled and in disguise. She reveals the details of Othon's plot and how Othon's men would have murdered her had she not been saved by Ariodant.
, with its sombre and dramatic character, is among the most highly regarded of Méhul's works. Edward Dent
Edward Joseph Dent, generally known by his initials as E. J. Dent was a British writer on music....
wrote, "This is perhaps the best of all Méhul's operas, for it has consistency of style, and a plot which although wildly Romantic is not outrageously nonsensical and deals with very genuine human emotions. Moreover, it is not dependent, as some of these operas are, on scenic effects such as storms and avalanches." Méhul scholar Elizabeth Bartlet describes it as "Mehul's best work of the decade and a highpoint of Revolutionary
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...
opera. It epitomises the major achievements of the genre: musical continuity and unification in spite of divisions caused by the spoken dialogue, the coordination of music and drama in the work as a whole, and inventiveness of form, orchestral treatment, and vocal writing to realise theatrical and musical aims."
had a profound influence on German Romantic opera, especially Weber
Carl Maria Friedrich Ernst von Weber was a German composer, conductor, pianist, guitarist and critic, one of the first significant composers of the Romantic school....
Euryanthe is a German "grand, heroic, romantic" opera by Carl Maria von Weber, first performed at the Theater am Kärntnertor, Vienna on 25 October 1823...
(1823), which has a very similar chivalric plot. But Weber also learned from Méhul's use of the orchestra to evoke atmosphere. As John Warrack
John Warrack is an English music critic, writer on music, and oboist. He is the son of Scottish conductor and composer Guy Warrack. From 1954–1961 he was music critic for The Daily Telegraph, and from 1961–1972 he was music critic for The Sunday Telegraph. From 1978–1983 he served as the Artistic...
writes: "Much of the opera is set by night or in underground rooms and labyrinthine passages or a thick forest and Méhul responds with some of the swarthiest orchestration he can contrive, setting the tone at once with an overture (brief, irregular in form, and ending in harmonic mid-air) beginning on three solo cellos and ending on unison double basses." The opera also makes use of a "reminiscence motif" (the forerunner of the Leitmotiv), descending discords symbolising Othon's jealousy and anger which recur throughout the work. According to Winton Dean
Winton Dean is an English musicologist of the 20th century, most famous for his research concerning the life and works—in particular the operas and oratorios—of Handel, as detailed in his book Handel’s Dramatic Oratorios and Masques .Dean was born in Birkenhead...
, it occurs in "at least eight of the fifteen movements of the opera."
The overture appears on: Méhul Overtures
, Orchestre de Bretagne, conducted by Stefan Sanderling (ASV, 2002) Catalogue number CD DCA 1140.
- Adélaïde de Place Étienne Nicolas Méhul (Bleu Nuit Éditeur, 2005)
- The Viking Opera Guide, ed. Amanda Holden (Viking, 1993)
- Edward Joseph Dent The Rise of Romantic Opera (Cambridge University Press, 1979 edition)
- Winton Dean, chapter on French opera in Gerald Abraham (ed.) The New Oxford History of Music Volume 8: The Age of Beethoven 1790-1830 (Oxford University Press, 1988)
- M. Elizabeth C. Bartlet, "Ariodant [Ina]", in Stanley Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, Grove (Oxford University Press), New York, 1997, I, pp. 186, ISBN 978-0-19-522186-2
- General introduction to Méhul's operas in the introduction to the edition of Stratonice
Stratonice is a one-act opéra comique by Étienne Méhul to a libretto by François-Benoît Hoffman, first performed at the Théâtre Favart, Paris, on 3 May 1792...
by M. Elizabeth C. Bartlet (Pendragon Press, 1997)
- John Warrack German Opera from the Beginnings to Wagner (Cambridge University Press, 2001)
- Amadeus Almanac, accessed 26 November 2010