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date: 18 November 2019

Aiglon, L’locked

  • Richard Langham Smith

Extract

(‘The Young Eagle’). Drame musical in five acts by Arthur Honegger and Jacques Ibert to a libretto by Henri Cain after Edmond Rostand’s play; Monte Carlo, Opéra, 10 March 1937.

It was the first of two stage works by Honegger and Ibert (the other being an operetta, Les petites Cardinal). Apparently after each composer had separately refused involvement in L’aiglon, they were brought together through the breakdown of a car and agreed to collaborate, Honegger contributing the central three acts. Its potentially serious subject – a war where the Duc de Reichstadt, Napoleon’s son (nicknamed ‘L’aiglon’; soprano), is torn between his Austrian roots and his French allegiances – is treated lightly. Military strategies are planned with toy soldiers, and Act 3 is a ball which introduces characters from the commedia dell’arte. Ibert’s pastiches of waltzes and of 18th-century music are here given full rein and both composers seem to have fulfilled the commission (from the impresario Raoul Gunsbourg) for ‘music easily accessible to the public’....

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