Charles VI (opéra by Halévy)
- Hugh Macdonald
Opéra in five acts by (Jacques-François-)Fromental (-Elie) Halévy to a libretto by Casimir and Germain Delavigne ; Paris, Opéra, 15 March 1843.
Set in the 15th century, following the defeat of Agincourt, Charles VI strikes a strong note of French patriotism, recounting French efforts to repulse the English invaders. The Delavigne brothers had both worked with Scribe and here produced a libretto on the Scribe model that contrasts the country wisdom of Odette (mezzo-soprano) and her father Raymond (bass) with the refined Isabelle of Bavaria (soprano) and the Duke of Bedford (tenor). The role of Charles VI (baritone) calls for special gifts since the king hovers on the edge of madness, which Halévy portrayed with considerable imagination. In Act 4 the king is confronted by a series of ghosts, and the short second scene of Act 5 is set in the abbey of Saint-Denis, where the English are overwhelmed to cries of ‘Guerre aux tyrans! Jamais en France l’Anglais ne règnera!’ while the king expires in the arms of his son. The principal roles were written for the Opéra’s leading singers of the day: Barroilhet, Duprez, Dorus-Gras and Stoltz....