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date: 19 October 2019


  • Nigel Burton


Opera in four acts by Frederick Hymen Cowen to a libretto by Henry Hersee after Edward Bulwer-Lytton ’s drama The Lady of Lyons, or Love and Pride; London, Lyceum Theatre, 22 November 1876.

Claude Melnotte (baritone), poor but honest, having been rebuffed by the proud beauty Pauline Deschapelles, ‘The Lady of Lyons’ (soprano), is tempted by his morally dubious friends Beausant (baritone) and Glavis (tenor), whom she had also rejected, into winning her hand under the pretence of being a nobleman. Having married Claude, Pauline falls in love with him and refuses to desert him when the truth is revealed. After further vicissitudes Claude enlists for military service overseas, where he distinguishes himself by his bravery. His honour thus restored, he is forgiven by all concerned and the opera ends happily.

Pauline exemplifies Cowen’s lightest stylistic vein, in which mild French chromaticisms support italianate melodic lines. It was the first British opera to be commissioned by Carl Rosa, and although only partially successful during its initial run it merits revival as an exquisite period piece....

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