Le "clou" du Festival : "Les Huguenots" (Meyerber)
par l'Ensemble vocal des Cévennes dirigé par Karen Kapferer
avec l'Orchestre des Cévennes, des chanteurs solistes et un quatuor à cordes !
Le livret ? Roméo et Juliette chez les protestants
et les catholiques... en cinq actes.
The story culminates in the historical
St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in 1572 in which thousands of French
Huguenots (Protestants) were slaughtered by Catholics in an effort to
rid France of Protestant influence. Although the massacre was a
historical event, the rest of the action, which primarily concerns
the love between the Catholic Valentine and the Protestant Raoul, is
wholly a creation of Scribe.
The chateau of the Count
A short orchestral prelude, featuring
the Lutheran chorale Ein feste Burg, replaces the extended overture
Meyerbeer originally intended for the opera. The Catholic Count of
Nevers is entertaining his fellow noblemen. They await the arrival of
Raoul, and are surprised to hear that this emissary of the Court is a
Huguenot. After a drinking song at Raoul's entry, the newcomer is
prevailed upon to give a tale of love. Raoul tells of an unknown
beauty he has rescued and fallen in love with. (With a daring and
unusual stroke of orchestration, Meyerbeer accompanies this aria with
a solo viola d'amore). Raoul's Protestant servant Marcel is shocked
to see his master in such wicked company and sings a hearty
Protestant prayer (to the tune of 'Ein feste Burg'). He then sings a
Huguenot battle song from the siege of La Rochelle, Pif, paf.
The arrival of a mysterious lady
stranger to speak to Nevers (off stage) interrupts the proceedings.
Raoul recognises her as his mysterious beauty. In fact she is Nevers'
intended bride, Valentine (daughter of St. Bris), instructed by the
Queen to break off her engagement. The page Urbain enters with a
secret message for Raoul, daring him to come blindfolded to a secret
The chateau and gardens of Chenonceaux
Queen Marguerite looks into a mirror
held by her enamoured page Urbain, and sings the virtuoso pastorale,
O beau pays de la Touraine. Valentine enters and reports that Nevers
has agreed to break the engagement. Marguerite's entourage of ladies
enter dressed for bathing. This leads to a ballet. Raoul enters
blindfolded and the ladies tease him. With his sight restored, the
Queen orders Raoul to marry Valentine to cement relations between the
Protestant and Catholic factions. In a complex final ensemble, while
a chorus of nobles swears friendship, Raoul, who believes Valentine
is the mistress of Nevers, refuses to comply with the Queen's
command. The nobles then swear revenge, and Marcel reproaches Raoul
for mixing with Catholics.
Paris, the 'Pré aux clercs' on the
left bank of the Seine, at sunset
The act opens with extensive scene
setting of citizens, soldiers, church-goers and gypsies. Valentine
has just married Nevers, but remains in the chapel to pray. Marcel
delivers a challenge from Raoul. Saint-Bris decides to attack Raoul,
but is overheard by Valentine. A watchman declares curfew (the scene
anticipating a similar one in Wagner's Die Meistersinger). Valentine,
in disguise, tells Marcel of the plot against Raoul. The duel is
interrupted by rival factions of Protestant and Catholic students,
and only the arrival of the Queen stems the chaos. Raoul realises
that Valentine has saved him and that his suspicions of her were
unfounded. However, now she is wedded to his enemy. Nevers leads her
away in a splendid procession.
A room in Nevers' Parisian town-house
Valentine, alone, is surprised by Raoul
who wishes to have one last meeting with her. The sound of
approaching people leads Raoul to hide behind a curtain, where he
hears the Catholic nobles, accompanied by three monks, who bless
their swords, pledge to murder the Huguenots. Only Nevers does not
join in the oath. This scene is generally judged the most gripping in
the opera, and is accompanied by some of its most dramatic music.
When the nobles have departed, Raoul is torn between warning his
fellows and staying with Valentine, but finally duty triumphs over
love. Valentine faints as Raoul makes his escape.
The Protestants are celebrating the
marriage of the Queen to Henry of Navarre. The tolling of a bell
interrupts the proceeding, as does the entrance of Raoul, who informs
the assembly that the second stroke was the signal for the Catholic
massacre of the Huguenots.
[A performance tradition existed in
some centres of ending the opera with Scene 1 and its suggestion of
A cemetery: in the background, a ruined
Nevers dies protecting Marcel, who is
wounded; Valentine agrees to become a Protestant to marry Raoul and
Marcel carries out the nuptials. A 'chorus of murderers' shoots all
three, after they express their vision of heaven, 'with six harps'.
They are finally murdered by St. Bris and his men, he realising only
too late that he has killed his own daughter. (Cf. the closing scene
of Fromental Halévy's opera, La Juive, libretto also by Scribe,
produced a year earlier than Les Huguenots). The entrance of the
Queen, and the chorus of soldiers singing 'God wants blood!', brings
the opera to a close.
Extrait de : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Huguenots