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Chérubin is an opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

 (Comédie chantée) in three acts by Jules Massenet
Jules Massenet
Jules Émile Frédéric Massenet was a French composer best known for his operas. His compositions were very popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and he ranks as one of the greatest melodists of his era. Soon after his death, Massenet's style went out of fashion, and many of his operas...

 to a French libretto
A libretto is the text used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata, or musical. The term "libretto" is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as mass, requiem, and sacred cantata, or even the story line of a...

 by Francis de Croisset
Francis de Croisset
Francis de Croisset was a Belgium-born French playwright and opera librettist.His opera librettos include Massenet's Chérubin , based on his play of the same name, and Reynaldo Hahn's Ciboulette .He married, in 1910, Marie-Thérèse Bischoffsheim, the widow of banking heir Maurice Bischoffsheim and...

 and Henri Cain
Henri Cain
Henri Caïn was a French dramatist, opera and ballet librettist. He wrote over forty librettos from 1893 to his death, for many of the most prominent composers of the Parisian Belle Epoque....

 after de Croisset's play of the same name. It was first performed at the Opéra in Monte Carlo
Monte Carlo
Monte Carlo is an administrative area of the Principality of Monaco....

 on February 14, 1905, with Mary Garden
Mary Garden
Mary Garden , was a Scottish operatic soprano with a substantial career in France and America in the first third of the 20th century...

 in the title role.

The story is a light-hearted addition to Beaumarchais' Figaro plays, the action taking place soon after that of The Marriage of Figaro
The Marriage of Figaro
Le nozze di Figaro, ossia la folle giornata , K. 492, is an opera buffa composed in 1786 in four acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte, based on a stage comedy by Pierre Beaumarchais, La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro .Although the play by...

, and imagines festivities in celebration of Chérubin's first military commission and seventeenth birthday. A farcical romp ensues, brought on by Chérubin lusting after each of the female characters and inspiring general confusion.

Performance history

The piece contains some of Massenet's most shimmering, charming music and has spawned a few contemporary revivals plus several recrdings since 1980. The Royal Opera House
Royal Opera House
The Royal Opera House is an opera house and major performing arts venue in Covent Garden, central London. The large building is often referred to as simply "Covent Garden", after a previous use of the site of the opera house's original construction in 1732. It is the home of The Royal Opera, The...

 in London premiered it on 14 February 1994 in a production starring Susan Graham
Susan Graham
Susan Graham is an American mezzo-soprano.Raised in Midland, Texas, she is a graduate of Texas Tech University and the Manhattan School of Music. She studied the piano for 13 years...

 in the title role. The performance was broadcast.


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, February 14, 1905
(Conductor: Léon Jehin
Léon Jehin
Léon Jehin, born Spa, Belgium 17 July 1853, died Monaco 14 February 1928, was a conductor and composer, especially associated with musical life and the opera house in Monte Carlo.-Life and career:...

Chérubin soprano
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...

Mary Garden
Mary Garden
Mary Garden , was a Scottish operatic soprano with a substantial career in France and America in the first third of the 20th century...

Le Philosophe bass Maurice Renaud
Maurice Renaud
Maurice Renaud , was a cultured French operatic baritone. He enjoyed an international reputation for the superlative quality of his singing and the brilliance of his acting.-Early years:...

L'Ensoleillad soprano
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...

Lina Cavalieri
Lina Cavalieri
Lina Cavalieri was an Italian operatic soprano and diseuse known for her grace and beauty.-Biography:...

Nina soprano Marguerite Guiraud-Carré
Le Comte baritone
Baritone is a type of male singing voice that lies between the bass and tenor voices. It is the most common male voice. Originally from the Greek , meaning deep sounding, music for this voice is typically written in the range from the second F below middle C to the F above middle C Baritone (or...

Henri-Alexandre Lequien
La Comtesse soprano Doux
Le Baron baritone Victor Chalmin
La Baronne mezzo-soprano Blanche Deschamps-Jéhin
Blanche Deschamps-Jéhin
Blanche Deschamps-Jéhin was a French operatic contralto who had a prolific career in France from 1879-1905. She possessed a rich-toned and flexible voice that had a wide vocal range...

Le Duc tenor
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...

Captain Ricardo tenor trial Paz
L'hotelier baritone Poudrier
Officier bass Krupeninck
Chorus: Manolas, Soldiers, Servants, Travellers, Gentlemen, Ladies; dancers.

Act 1

Chérubin, the young page of Count Almaviva, has just received a commission in the army. The Philosopher, Chérubin's teacher, announces to the servants that there will be celebrations to mark this event. The Duke and the Baron reveal that Chérubin has invited the famous Spanish dancer L’Ensoleillad to the party. Nina, the Countess's maid, confesses to the Philosopher that she loves Chérubin.

Chérubin arrives, greeting the men, kissing the hands of the women, and secretly slipping a love letter to the Countess. When the guests leave to celebrate, Chérubin tells the Philosopher that he is in love with both L’Ensoleillad and the Countess. Suddenly, the Count storms in and threatens to kill Chérubin because he just discovered the secret love letter from the page to the Countess. Nina saves the page's life when she is able to recite all the verses of the love letter and claims that it was really written to her. Stupefied but calmed down, the Count apologizes to the Countess and they return to the banquet. The Philosopher remains to hear Chérubin proclaim once again that he loves both L'Ensoleillad and the Countess.

Act 2

At an inn not far from the Count's castle, arriving travelers argue with the Innkeeper about securing rooms for the night, complaining about the low quality of the facilities. Even the Countess and the Baroness are not happy with what they have received. Soon officers arrive and want to celebrate Chérubin's recent commission. When Chérubin arrives, he flirts with the mistress of Captain Ricardo, and Ricardo challenges Chérubin to a duel. The sudden arrival of L'Ensoleillad postpones the duel, but not for long. Ricardo and Chérubin begin to fight, when the Philosopher intervenes and arranges a truce. The officers leave. Chérubin successfully seduces L'Ensoleillad.

Chérubin stands outside L'Ensoleillad's balcony, which is next to the balconies of the Countess and the Baroness, and serenades her. Each of the three women thinks that Chérubin's song is really addressed to her, and each drops him a keepsake. The Duke, the Count, and the Baron discover that Chérubin is pursuing their wives, and become furious. They come out of hiding and challenge Chérubin to give them satisfaction. Chérubin flees.

Act 3

Outside the inn, Chérubin prepares for the three duels awaiting him, and writes his last will. The Philosopher arrives and gives him a practical lesson on different fighting techniques, but is interrupted by the Innkeeper, who is horrified to see the combat. The Countess and the Baroness come from the inn seeking Chérubin, determined to discover whom he was serenading last night. He confesses to them that it was really L’Ensoleillad he was serenading. Satisfied with the explanation, the Count and the Baron then call off their respective duels, but Chérubin finds himself heartbroken when he sees L’Ensoleillad leaving the inn in glory and not even acknowledging him.

Finally, when Nina arrives and tells Chérubin she is going to enter a convent because he doesn’t love her as much she loves him, Chérubin realizes the mistakes he has made, and that she is the right woman for him. He convinces her to stay with him because it is she whom he truly loves. The Duke also cancels his duel with Chérubin when the page announces to him and to all his love for Nina.

Noted arias

  • Act 1 - Chérubin: "Je suis gris!" ("I am drunk!")
  • Act 1 - Nina: "Lorsque vous n'aurez rien à faire" ("When you have nothing to do")
  • Act 3 - L'Ensoleillad: "Vive amour qui rêve, embrasse, et fuit" ("Long live love that dreams, embraces, and flees")


  • Chérubin, with Frederica von Stade
    Frederica von Stade
    Frederica von Stade is an American mezzo-soprano. Born in Somerville, New Jersey, she acquired the nickname "Flicka" in her childhood. Von Stade attended the Mannes College of Music in New York City. She made her debut with the Metropolitan Opera in 1970 and in 1971 appeared as Cherubino in The...

    , Samuel Ramey
    Samuel Ramey
    Samuel Edward Ramey is an American operatic bass with a long, distinguished career.During his best years, he was greatly admired for his range and versatility, having possessed a sufficiently accomplished bel canto technique to enable him to sing the music of Handel, Mozart, Rossini, yet power...

    , Dawn Upshaw
    Dawn Upshaw
    Dawn Upshaw is an American soprano described as "one of the most consequential performers of our time" by the Los Angeles Times. The recipient of several Grammy Awards and Edison Prize-winning discs, Upshaw is at home both in opera and art song, and in repertoire from Baroque to contemporary...

    , June Anderson
    June Anderson
    June Anderson is a Grammy Award-winning American coloratura soprano. Originally known for bel canto performances of Rossini, Donizetti, and Vincenzo Bellini, she was the first non-Italian ever to win the prestigious Bellini d'Oro prize...

    , cond. by Pinchas Steinberg (1991) (RCA 09026-60593-2)
  • Chérubin, with Patrizia Ciofi
    Patrizia Ciofi
    Patrizia Ciofi, born in Casole d'Elsa, Siena, on June 7, 1967, is an Italian operatic soprano. She is married to the conductor Luciano Acocella....

    , Michelle Breedt, Paul Curron conducting Orchestra and Chorus Teatro Lirico di Cagliari
    Cagliari is the capital of the island of Sardinia, a region of Italy. Cagliari's Sardinian name Casteddu literally means castle. It has about 156,000 inhabitants, or about 480,000 including the outlying townships : Elmas, Assemini, Capoterra, Selargius, Sestu, Monserrato, Quartucciu, Quartu...

    , Dynamic
    Dynamic (record label)
    Dynamic is an Italian independent record label located in Genoa. Founded in 1978, it specialises in classical music and opera, especially rarely performed works and has produced several world premiere recordings...

    2006 DVD live performance.

External links