Le Pré aux clercs
From the Revolution to the Restoration, France experienced a long period of political unrest, sometimes taking on the appearances of civil war. After the July Revolution of 1830, peace seemed assured. It was time for exorcism. As usual, the subject was treated indirectly, by focusing on the fratricidal conflict that began on St Bartholomew’s Day, 25 August 1572. A novel by Prosper Mérimée, published in 1829, Chronique du temps de Charles IX, served as the starting point for the libretto of Le Pré aux clercs, which was premièred at the Opéra Comique in 1832; four years later, Eugène Scribe drew on the same source for the libretto of Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots (a grand opéra intended for the Académie Royale de Musique): the huge success of these two works, dating from exactly the same period, shows how perfectly in keeping they were with the concerns of that time. Le Pré aux clercs was Hérold’s last opéra-comique (he died three weeks after the first performance) and also his greatest success. From the overture to the vocal ensembles, the simplicity of the singing, the strength of the dramatic effects and the effectiveness of the choral writing also bear witness to the assimilation of Rossini’s assets by his French contemporaries, and to new ambitions for a supposedly light genre...
Contents of the book
Agnès Terrier, Le Pré aux clercs in its context*
Gérard Condé, The music of Le Pré aux clercs
Sylvie Thorel, The Romantics and the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre*
Olivier Bara, Two operas for one novel*
Damien Colas, A popular and sophisticated comedy*
* The articles by Olivier Bara, Damien Colas, Agnès Terrier and Sylvie Thorel were kindly made available by the Opéra-Comique as part of the coproduction agreement between the two institutions for the stage premiere of this production in 2015.