Sunday, July 28, 2019

A Grétry Opera Returns to Versailles

Richard Coeur-de-lion returns. From The Star:
In honour of the 250th anniversary of the opening of the royal opera house at the palace, Pynkoski and Lajeunesse-Zingg were being invited to direct Richard Coeur-de-lion (Richard the Lionheart) by Belgian composer André Grétry (1741-1813). From its premiere in 1784 until the turn of the 20th century, Richard was one of the most popular operas in Europe. Grétry set Michel-Jean Sedaine’s libretto about the crusading English king, imprisoned in Austria, in a new, simple style that foreshadowed Romanticism.

The version being presented at Versailles is Grétry’s streamlined, 90-minute version in three acts. It had its premiere in Paris at Christmastime in 1785. The opera was such a hit that by 1797 it had made its way to Boston. It may have also have helped in the demise of Louis XVI and his queen, Marie-Antoinette, during the French Revolution. On Oct. 1, 1789, the royal guards threw a party for the king; after a bit too much wine, they launched into a rousing rendition of “O mon roi” (“O My King”) from Grétry’s opera. Word reached the anti-monarchist revolutionaries in Paris, who five days later forced the royal family to leave Versailles for good. It was also the last time any music from this opera was heard within its walls. (Read more.)

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