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Albéric Magnard 1865—1914

Tragédie en musique in 3 acts
Libretto by the composer
World premiere April 24 1931, Opéra Garnier, Paris

Sung in French with German & English surtitles
Introductory talks (in German) begin in the Holzfoyer 30 mins before curtain up and available here shortly after opening night

There's a chamber music concert at 11am on February 9 inspired by this work

Conductor Marie Jacquot / Lukas Rommelspacher

Guercoeur Domen Križaj
Giselle Claudia Mahnke
Heurtal AJ Glueckert
Vérité Anna Gabler
Bonté Bianca Andrew
Beauté Bianca Tognocchi
Souffrance Judita Nagyová

Finding no peace in the world hereafter, Guercœur wishes himself back to earth – to his great love Giselle and his people, who he led to freedom ...

Four deities, Vérité, Bonté, Beauté and Souffrance grant Guercœur’s wish to return to earth, but the world’s moved on: Giselle, who promised to be true to him forever, is having an affair with Guercœur’s pupil Heurtal, who’s kissed goodbye to the ideals of freedom and love and turned into a dictator. The starving populace is divided, resulting in violent riots which threaten the foundations of the fledgling democracy.

Hardly anyone's heard of Albéric Magnard today, a passionate feminist and supporter of Dreyfus, who was killed in his own home in 1914: while trying to fend off an attack by German soldiers, who then set it on fire. The manuscript of Guercœur, written between 1897 and 1901, perished in the flames with him. The score was reconstructed with the diligence of Magnard’s friend, the composer Joseph-Guy Ropartz.

This concentrated work hovers between opera, oratorio and mystery play, combining symbolist reflection of core questions, including unrecognised happiness and human finiteness, with psychologically deeply elucidated intimate dramatic moments and realistically drawn crowd scenes. Magnard created a late romantic sound world where Wagner's influence is audible, sometime striking heroic tones while shimmering in the transparent glow of French fin de siècle.