Zémire et Azor (‘Zémire and Azor’)
- David Charlton
(‘Zémire and Azor’)
Comédie-balletmêlée de chants et de danses in four acts by André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry to a libretto by Jean François Marmontel ; Fontainebleau, 9 November 1771.
This version of the Beauty and the Beast story was created from two literary sources: the substance of the story is from La belle et la bête by Jeanne Marie Le Prince de Beaumont, and the names and the setting from Amour pour amour, a verse play by P. C. Nivelle de La Chaussée (1742). The precedent of a long opéra comique using the supernatural and dances existed in Duni and Favart’s La fée Urgèle.
The final part of the overture paints a storm, after which we see Sander (baritone), a Persian merchant, and his servant Ali (tenor) sheltering in a deserted palace; it is night. Ali is scared, but induced to stay by food and wine that appear magically. Sander has lost his worldly goods in a shipwreck; for his third daughter, Zémire (soprano), he cuts a rose from an arbour. Azor (tenor) appears in anger. He, a Persian prince, has been given a beast-like countenance by a vengeful Fairy. Insulted by the theft of the rose, Azor demands Sander’s life; Sander successfully pleads to see his daughters once more. Azor proposes the life of one daughter instead, then transports Ali and Sander home on a cloud....