MEYERBEER: Robert Le Diable

First Performance: 21 November 1831, the OpÈra, Paris.

Principal Characters:
Robert, Duke of Normandy Tenor
Bertram, his friend Bass
Raimbaut, a Norman peasant Tenor
Alberti, majordomo to the King of Sicily Bass
Isabelle, Princess of Sicily Soprano
Alice, a Norman peasant Soprano
Un HÈraut Tenor
Une Dame d’Honneur Soprano
Un PrÍtre Bass


Robert Le Diable was such a success that it made the fortune of the Grand
OpÈra. Striking scenic effects, powerful contrasts, brilliant orchestration,
effectively dramatic recitatives, and melody that was attractive and,
although it contained many traces of the old Italian opera conventionalities,
at times rose to a vivid dramatic power, unexpected and until then unknown,
all combined to win universal approval, for there was something to please
every taste. Meyerbeer’s music certainly saved the libretto, for in it
the melodramatic and grotesque are carried to the point of absurdity. The
opera has a certain historical interest in that, being the first of
Meyerbeer’s works after his arrival in Paris, it shows the beginning of
his later style; Italian influences are still strong, but there is also
evidence of his study of French style. From a broader historical point of
view “Robert the Devil” is also of interest, for it contains some
of the earliest signs of the influence of the Romantic movement on French
dramatic music.


Robert, Duke of Normandy, is really the son of the Devil by a mortal
woman, the chaste Princess Bertha of Normandy. Disguised and under the name
of Bertram, the fiend follows his son about, constantly leading him into
temptation in hope of winning his soul for Hell. The mother’s good
influence clings to Robert in the form of a foster-sister, Alice. Banished
from Normandy because of evil deeds inspired by Bertram, Robert has come to
Sicily where he has fallen in love with the beautiful princess Isabella, and
she with him. Bertram does his best to interfere with the match, and by his
wiles keeps Robert from attending the tournament, the winner of which is
supposed to have the right to claim Isabella’s hand. Having thus
seemingly lost his chance to win her honestly, Robert is led by Bertram to a
ruined convent at midnight. There Bertram summons the ghosts of faithless
nuns, singing the impressive invocation: “Nonnes, qui

The ghosts dance about Robert in wild diabolical revelry. With a magical
branch he obtains here, Robert puts to sleep Isabella’s guards and
tries to force her to his will, but she pleads with him so earnestly that he
breaks the branch and thus loses its supernatural power. Once more Bertram
tempts Robert and tries to induce him to sign a contract yielding his soul;
he reveals himself as his father and the young man, overcome by emotion, is
about to sign. But Alice repeats the last words of his mother, warning him
against the fiend and thus delays the signing of the pact until the clock
strikes twelve. The spell is broken, Bertram disappears to the nether
regions, and Isabella is revealed in her bridal robes waiting at the altar
for the redeemed Robert.

Click here
for the complete libretto.

image_description=Louis Gueymard (1822ñ1880) as Robert le Diable, 1857 by Jean-DÈsirÈ-Gustave Courbet (1819ñ1877)
first_audio_name=Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864): Robert Le Diable
second_audio_name=Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864): Robert Le Diable
Windows Media Player
product_title=Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864): Robert Le Diable
product_by=Alain Vanzo (Robert), Samuel Ramey (Bertram), Walter Donati (Raimbaut), June Anderson (Isabelle), MichËle Lagrange (Alice), Jean-Philippe MarliÈre (Alberti), Michel Philippe (Un HÈraut), FranÁoise Galais (Une Dame d’Honneur), Philippe DÈsert (Un PrÍtre), Orchestre et Chúur National l’OpÈra, Thomas Fulton (cond.)
Live performance, July 1985, Paris.