Marchand de Venise, Le (‘The Merchant of Venice’)
- Patrick O’Connor
(‘The Merchant of Venice’)
Opéra in three acts by Reynaldo Hahn to a libretto by Miguel Zamacoï s after William Shakespeare ’s play; Paris, Opéra, 25 March 1935.
The libretto follows the outline of the play but omits all the comic scenes with the character of Lancelot Gobbo; it transposes lines and speeches freely, as well as adding a certain amount of new material, for instance Shylock’s recitative at the finale of Act 1, ‘La vengeance est un plat de roi,/Qui peut très bien se manger froid’.
The opera is set in five tableaux. Act 1 is in Venice, before Shylock’s house, and introduces the characters of Graziano and Lorenzo (tenors), Jessica (soprano), Shylock (bass), Bassanio (baritone) and Antonio (bass); it includes the sealing of the bond and the abduction of Jessica and has three notable arias, ‘Portia … lorsque l’on prononce ces accents’, sung by Bassanio, Shylock’s tirade against the Christians, ‘Que je le hais’, and the serenade in front of Shylock’s house, sung by a masker, ‘Bel oiseau, quittez votre cage’. Act 2 concerns itself entirely with the courtship of Portia (soprano) and Bassanio; it has a long scene with the entrance music in comic style for the Princes of Morocco (bass) and Aragon (tenor) and the most celebrated passage in the opera, the quartet ‘L’amour qui pourtant n’est pas bête’. The third act is divided into two tableaux, the first in the Court of Justice in Venice, with Portia’s monologue, ‘La sentence, nous y venons’, and Shylock’s aria, ‘Frustré! Dépouillé!’. The final scene reunites the three pairs of lovers in Portia’s palace in Belmont....