Tragédie lyrique in 4 acts by Camille Saint-Saëns, first performed at the Théâtre de Monte-Carlo. Dedicated to Ferdinand Castelbon de Beauxhostes. Libretto by Saint-Saëns, after a tragedy by Louis Gallet (inspired by Sophocles).
Concert Opera Auditorium Rainier III
Sun 16 October 2022
Auditorium Rainier III, Monte-Carlo
‘It will be a strange score, unlike anything I know of; it will either not please at all, or it will please immensely, there will be no middle ground.’ Thus, in January 1910, Saint-Saëns presented the tragédie lyrique he was working on to the publisher Jacques Durand. It was first performed over a year later, on 14 March 1911, at the Théâtre de Monte-Carlo, at the request of Prince Albert I of Monaco. The genesis of the work began much earlier, however, in August 1898, when Saint-Saëns conducted his incidental music to the eponymous tragedy by his friend and collaborator Louis Gallet in the open-air arena at Béziers. The tragedy tells the story of the death of Hercules (Dejanira’s husband) – the dramatic outcome of a tormented intrigue mingling passion, violence and jealousy. For his new score, Saint-Saëns preserved and reinforced the choruses of his ‘old Déjanire’, as he called it, and left intact the recycled passages taken from his symphonic poem La Jeunesse d’Hercule (1877) to open and conclude the four-act tragedy. He kept the dramatic framework of Gallet’s text, but adapted and supplemented it, intending it now to be entirely sung. The result was much more than a simple reworking (Saint-Saëns himself objected to that idea): it was a new work that received much critical acclaim. Gabriel Fauré wrote of ‘music that is powerfully evocative, so pure in form, with a harmonic character that sometimes borrows its peculiar flavour from the ancient tonalities’, while the composer and conductor Francis Casadesus praised ‘the purity of its lines, the richness of its textures, the beautiful simplicity of its orchestration and the admirable solidity of its architecture, as sober as it is imposing’.
Kazuki Yamada conductor
Stefano Visconti choral conductor

Déjanire Kate Aldrich
Hercule Julien Dran
Iole Anaïs Constans
Philoctète Jérôme Boutillier

Phénice Anna Dowsley
Concert performance
Co-production Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra / Palazzetto Bru Zane
Scores published by Durand
Recording for the ‘French opera’ series - Bru Zane Label
Bru Zane Mediabase
Digital resources for French Romantic music
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