Opéra en cinq actes
for: Soloists, mixed choir, orchestra
|Text||Jules Barbier, Michel Carré|
|Producer No.||ACF 100210|
A lifelong resident of Paris, Gounod can hold a claim to being the most important figure in late 19th century French music on account of his influence on later composers. Studying at the Paris Conservatoire, Gounod left in 1839 to travel through Europe, initially to Rome but then on through Austria and Germany. He was profoundly struck by the music he heard at the Sistine Chapel and by the German musical tradition, and upon his return was uniquely cosmopolitan in his influences among Parisian musical society.
His early works consisted largely of liturgical settings that earned him some praise, but his work in the area in which he is most remembered, namely opera, took time to be recognised. His first two operas, Sapho (1851) and La Nonne sanglante (1854), drawing heavily on Gluck and Meyerbeer respectively, did not attract great attention. However, his subsequent works, including seven staged operas between 1855 and 1865, were increasingly well-received, none more so than his masterpiece Faust (1859). Two further successes, Mireille (1864) and Roméo et Juliette (1867) were premiered at the Théâtre Lyrique and inspired by the voice of Marie Miolan-Carvalho, the singer who had created Marguerite in Faust.
Roméo et Juliette, with a libretto faithful to Shakespeare, by Barbier and Carré, who had provided texts for some of Gounod’s earlier works, is inescapably full of love music, but is by turns as wistful and cheerful as any in Gounod’s operatic output.