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Henry VIII (opera)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Henry VIII
Opera by Camille Saint-Saëns
Setting for the premiere, evoking Westminster Hall
Based onEl cisma en Inglaterra
by Pedro Calderón de la Barca
5 March 1883 (1883-03-05)

Henry VIII is an opera in four acts by Camille Saint-Saëns, from a libretto by Léonce Détroyat and Armand Silvestre, based on El cisma en Inglaterra (The schism in England) by Pedro Calderón de la Barca.

Composition history

Fragment of the sheet music as depicted in Saint-Saëns by Lucien Augé de Lassus
Fragment of the sheet music as depicted in Saint-Saëns by Lucien Augé de Lassus

The action covers the period in Henry VIII's life when the king was attempting to divorce Queen Catherine of Aragon in favour of marrying Anne Boleyn, a move rejected by the Church.

In an effort to evoke the historical context, Saint-Saëns researched English music from the period and incorporated several English, Scottish, and Irish folk melodies into his score, as well as two airs by William Byrd contained in the Will Forster’s Virginal Book, the "Carman’s Whistle" and a section of a tune called "The New Medley." He also sampled from the Benjamin Cosyn’s Virginal Book, using the opening from the tune "Mr Beauins Service", along with "Te Deum."[1]

Performance history

Henry VIII was premiered on 5 March 1883 by the Paris Opera at the Palais Garnier in Paris. The choreography was by Louis Mérante, the costumes were designed by Eugène Lacoste, and the settings were by Antoine Lavastre and Eugène Louis Carpezat (Act I), Jean-Baptiste Lavastre (Act II and Act IV, scene 2), and Auguste Alfred Rubé and Philippe Chaperon (Act III, scene 2, and Act IV, scene 1).[2] The opera was revived in three acts on 19 July 1889 with the ballet organized by Joseph Hansen. A new production in the original four-act version, directed by Paul Stuart, premiered on 18 June 1909, with choreography by Léo Staats, costumes by Charles Bianchini, and sets by Carpezat, Marcel Jambon and Alexandre Bailly. Henry VIII remained in the repertoire of the Opéra until 1919.[2]

It was also seen at the Royal Opera House, London in 1889 with Maurice Renaud in the title role, Lina Pacary as Catherine d'Aragon, and Meyriane Héglon as Anne Boleyn. It was revived in 1991 at the Théatre Impérial de Compiègne in a production by Pierre Jourdan, with Philippe Rouillon as Henry VIII, Michèle Command as Catherine of Aragon and Lucile Vignon as Anne Boleyn. The production was made into a film.

Performances were given at the Liceu in Barcelona in 2002 where it was staged once again by Pierre Jourdan with Montserrat Caballé as Catherine, Simon Estes as Henry and Nomeda Kazlaus as Anne Boleyn, with José Collado conducting.

The United States premiere was presented by Bel Canto Opera, in New York city, on 27 April 1974 with Jason Byce as Henry VIII, Francesca Lawton-Sherman as Queen Catherine, Katherine Basler as Anne Boleyn under the Musical Direction of Susan Peters.

A concert performance was given at the Bard College Music Festival, Annandale-on-Hudson, on 20 August 2012, with Ellie Dehn as Catherine, Jason Howard as Henry, and Jennifer Holloway as Anne Boleyn. Leon Botstein conducted.[3]


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 5 March 1883[2][4]
(Conductor: Ernest Altes[2])
Henry VIII baritone Jean Lassalle
Catherine d'Aragon soprano Gabrielle Krauss
Anne Boleyn mezzo-soprano Alphonsine Richard
Lady Clarence soprano Mlle Nastorg
Don Gomez de Feria tenor Étienne Dereims
Cardinal Campeggio, legatus of the pope bass Auguste Boudouresque
Le duc de Norfolk bass Eugène Lorrain
Le comte de Surrey tenor Étienne Sapin
Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury bass M. Gaspard
Garter King of Arms tenor M. Malvaut
Un huissier bass M. Boutens


  • Philippe Rouillon, baritone (Henry); Michèle Command, soprano (Catherine of Aragon); Lucile Vignon, mezzo-soprano (Anne Boleyn); Alain Gabriel, tenor (Don Gomez), conducted by Alain Guingal. Le Chant Du Monde. 1991 (also available as a DVD, Kultur Films)


  • "Ô Cruel Souvenir!" Véronique Gens on Tragediennes 3 Les Talens Lyriques, Christophe Rousset



  1. ^ MacDonald, Hugh (2019). Saint-Saëns the Dramatist. Cambridge University Press. pp. 378–379. ISBN 9781108550925.
  2. ^ a b c d Wolff 1962.
  3. ^ Leon Botstein Mounts Saint Saens' Henry VIII / Ellie Dehn as Catherine Wins at Bard
  4. ^ (in French) Piotr Kaminski, 1001 opéras, Fayard, 2003, p. 1383


External links

This page was last edited on 14 May 2022, at 10:53
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