(‘Zemire and Azor’)
Romantische Oper in two acts by Louis Spohr to a libretto by Johann Jakob Ihlée after Jean François Marmontel ’s comédie-balletZémire et Azor; Frankfurt, 4 April 1819.
After accepting the post of director of the Frankfurt opera in 1817, Spohr considered a number of possible opera projects. He began work on a version of Apel’s tale Der schwarze Jäger but abandoned it when he heard that Weber was writing an opera (Der Freischütz) on the same story. He then accepted the libretto of Zemire und Azor, adapted from the French original ( see Zémire et Azor above) by the director of the Frankfurt theatre. Spohr began work on the music in September 1818 and completed it in February 1819.
In this version of the old story of Beauty and the Beast, Sander (bass) and his servant Ali (tenor) find themselves in a magic garden. By plucking a rose they arouse the wrath of Prince Azor (tenor), who has been changed into a monster and can be redeemed only by the selfless love of a pure maiden. Sander’s youngest daughter, Zemire (soprano), goes to try to break the spell on Azor, and eventually comes to love him. When she leaves to visit her family, Azor gives her a magic ring without which she cannot return. Her sisters Lisbe (soprano) and Fatme (soprano) steal the ring, but she is miraculously transported back. The Fairy (speaking role) who had placed the enchantment on Azor releases him from it, and everything ends happily with the union of Zemire and Azor....