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date: 17 November 2019


  • Elizabeth Forbes


Opéra in five acts by Ambroise Thomas to a libretto by Michel Carré and Jules Barbier after William Shakespeare ; Paris, Opéra, 9 March 1868.

Carrée and Barbier (who also wrote the libretto for Gounod’s Faust) have been greatly blamed for the distortions of Shakespeare in their text for Hamlet but, apart from the ending, they managed to condense a very long play into a reasonable opera libretto.

The coronation of Gertrude (mezzo-soprano), queen and consort of Claudius, King of Denmark (bass), is taking place at the castle of Elsinore. Prince Hamlet (baritone) expresses his sadness at the death of his father and the hasty remarriage of his mother. He sings a love duet, ‘Doute de la lumière’, with Ophélie [Ophelia] (soprano). Together with her father Polonius (bass), Ophelia bids farewell to her brother Laerte [Laertes] (tenor), who is leaving Denmark. On the ramparts Hamlet sees the Ghost of his father (bass), who relates how he was murdered by his brother Claudius. Hamlet swears to avenge his father....

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