MASSENET: Esclarmonde

Music composed by Jules Massenet. Libretto by Alfred Blau and Louis de
Gramont after the French romance Partonopeus de Blois.

First Performance: 14 May 1889, OpÈra-Comique (ThÈ‚tre
Lyrique), Paris

Principal Characters:
Emperor Phorcas Bass
Esclarmonde, his daughter Soprano
ParsÈÔs, her sister Mezzo-Soprano
EnÈas, a Byzantine knight, fiancÈ to ParsÈÔs Tenor
Chevalier Roland, Count of Blois Tenor
ClÈomer, King of France Baritone
The Bishop of Blois Baritone


Act I

Phorcas, the Emperor of Byzantium, abdicates in favor of his daughter,
Esclarmonde. He bestows upon her magical powers on the condition that she
must ascend the throne alone until the end of her twentieth year. Then, a
tournament will be held in which the victor will become her bridegroom. In
the meantime, Esclarmonde’s face must remain veiled. Esclarmonde confesses to
her sister, ParsÈÔs, to be in love with the knight, Roland. King ClÈomer,
however, has decided to have his daughter, Bathilde, marry Roland.
Esclarmonde sends her beloved to an enchanted island, where she will seduce
him. There Roland awakens in the arms of the princess. She offers to become
his bride and to give him honor and glory, provided that he never discloses
her identity. The next day Roland departs to Blois, which is under seige by
the Saracens. Esclarmonde promises him that she will visit him every night
wherever he may be. She gives him a magic sword.

Act II

Roland, victorious over the Saracens, refuses the hand of the princess
Bathilde without explanation. The Bishop of Blois becomes suspicious and
determines to force Roland to reveal his secret. Esclarmonde arrives that
night. As the two lovers embrace, the Bishop enters and exorcizes Esclarmonde
Her veil is torn off. She bids goodbye to Roland and disappears, escorted by
the spirits of the fire.


Phorcas awkens his daughter and enjoins her to renounce Roland. Otherwise,
he will die. Desparate, Roland enters a Byzantine tournament seeking death.
Roland wins the tournament and, of course, Esclarmonde. The princess may now
express her love and reveal her face.

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image_description=Jules Massenet: Esclarmonde
first_audio_name=Jules Massenet: Esclarmonde
product_title=Jules Massenet: Esclarmonde
product_by=Emperor Phorcas (Gwynne Howell), Esclarmonde (Joan Sutherland), ParsÈÔs (Diana Montague), EnÈas (Ryland Davies), Chevalier Roland (Ernesto Veronelli), ClÈomer (Geoffrey Moses), The Bishop of Blois (Jonathan Summers), The Royal Opera, Richard Bonynge (cond.)
Live performance (in-house), 28 November 1983, Covent Garden, London.