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From Hugo’s "Hernani" and "Le roi s’amuse" to Verdi’s "Ernani" and "Rigoletto" : new directions in theatre… Gordon, Christopher William 1997

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F R O M H U G O ' S H E R N A N I A N D L E R O I S ' A M U S E T O V E R D I ' S E R N A N I A N D R I G O L E T T O ; NEW D I R E C T I O N S I N T H E A T R E A N D M U S I C by C H R I S T O P H E R W I L L I A M G O R D O N B.A., The University of V i c t o r i a , 1984 T H E S I S S U B M I T T E D I N P A R T I A L F U L F I L L M E N T O F T H E R E Q U I R E M E N T S F O R T H E D E G R E E O F M A S T E R S O F A R T S i n T H E F A C U L T Y O F G R A D U A T E S T U D I E S (Department of French) We accept t h i s thesis as conforming t o ^ h e required standard T H E U N I V E R S I T Y O F B R I T I S H C O L U M B I A March 1997 ©Christopher William•Gordon, 1997 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. ' It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. V / Department of "jr~hCV<.fl\ The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada 1 Date /Vfltj IS j ^ J DE-6 (2/88) i i A B S T R A C T In t h i s thesis I propose to examine the process by which two romantic dramas of V i c t o r Hugo--Hemani and Le Roi s'amuse--were transformed f i r s t i nto l i b r e t t i by Francesco Maria Piave, and then into-operas by Giuseppe Verdi. Most scholars and c r i t i c s agree that Piave's and Verdi's adaptations of Hugo's plays are the more successful as dramatic works, and one of my objectives i s to i l l u s t r a t e why t h i s judgement has been made. Since both the plays and the operas i n question are products of European romanticism, they are infused with the revolutionary s p i r i t that characterizes many of the a r t i s t i c endeavours of the time. Since both Hugo's and Verdi's art was often viewed as p o l i t i c a l l y subversive, i t was subjected to o f f i c i a l s c r u t i n y and censorship. Thus, my second main objective i s to show how Hugo and Verdi played active roles i n the struggle f o r p o l i t i c a l and a r t i s t i c freedom i n nineteenth-century European society. My approach throughout the thesis i s p r i m a r i l y h i s t o r i c a l , since the a r t i s t i c creations of both Hugo and Verdi were c l e a r l y a r e f l e c t i o n of the s o c i a l and p o l i t i c a l upheavals of t h e i r times. i i i T A B L E O F C O N T E N T S Abstract p. i i Table of Contents p. i i i Introduction p. 1 Chapter 1 - La Bataille d' Hernani p. 5 Chapter 2 - Ernani involami: I t a l i a n Romantic Opera and the Risorgimento p. 23 Chapter 3 - Le Roi s'amuse: Le Waterloo du Romantisme.... p. 35 Chapter 4 - Le Roi s'amuse and Rictoletto: From f a i l u r e to success p. 54 Conclusion p. 83 Bibliography p. 90 1 I N T R O D U C T I O N In the nineteenth century, the vast majority of I t a l i a n operas were based upon the l i t e r a t u r e of other countries, notably France, England and Germany. As J u l i a n Budden states i n h i s introduction to The Operas of Verdi: "Besides the dramas of S c h i l l e r , Shakespeare, Byron and Hugo, the novels of Scott and Bulwer Lytton, a f a v o r i t e hunting ground was the P a r i s i a n theatre world, which produced on an average f i f t y new plays i n a year" (21). In t h i s thesis I propose to explore the r e l a t i o n s h i p between French romantic theatre and I t a l i a n opera of the same period. S p e c i f i c a l l y I wish to focus on two plays of V i c t o r Hugo --Hernani and Le Roi s'amuse--and t h e i r subsequent adaptations as operas by Giuseppe Verdi and his l i b r e t t i s t , Francesco Maria Piave. Ernani i s one of the composer's e a r l y successes, whereas Rigoletto i s regarded as one of Verdi's, most innovative and enduringly popular masterpieces. C r u c i a l to t h i s discussion i s the f a c t that i n the f i r s t half of the nineteenth century, French theatre and I t a l i a n opera underwent a s i m i l a r metamorphosis. Casting o f f the constraints imposed upon them i n the previous century, the two genres gradually came to assimilate the aesthetics of romanticism, an a r t i s t i c movement that had been gaining momentum since the l a t e eighteenth century. Although there was strong opposition from p o l i t i c a l leaders and conservative audiences, romanticism i n theatre and opera eventually triumphed and ushered i n a new period of a r t i s t i c freedom. Although working i n d i f f e r e n t countries and under d i f f e r e n t 2 p o l i t i c a l and s o c i a l circumstances, Hugo and Verdi encountered s i m i l a r resistance on the part of government o f f i c i a l s who viewed many of t h e i r works as p o l i t i c a l l y subversive. Censorship b a t t l e s were frequent. Le Roi s'amuse. fo r example, created such a scandal at i t s premiere that the government immediately pr o h i b i t e d further performances. Verdi too encountered s i m i l a r problems with government censors who were disturbed by the revolutionary overtones i n his operas. However, i n the face of such powerful opposition, both men demonstrated courage and te n a c i t y i n t h e i r f i g h t for a r t i s t i c freedom--a f i g h t which, Hugo i n p a r t i c u l a r , viewed as a sacred duty. My f i r s t objective i n t h i s thesis i s to define the s o c i a l and p o l i t i c a l context against which Hugo and Verdi were reacting. As romantic a r t i s t s , both men consciously infused t h e i r works with the revolutionary s p i r i t that characterizes much of the a r t i s t i c endeavour of the period. In the f i r s t chapter I discuss the impact of romanticism upon French dramatic theories and p r a c t i c e s . V i c t o r Hugo played a leading r o l e i n the cr e a t i o n of a new kind of drama--the romantic drame. The discussion focuses on the Bataille d'Hernani. an event which symbolized the v i c t o r y of romanticism over neo-classicism i n French theatre. In Chapter 2 I describe the p o l i t i c a l and s o c i a l climate i n e a r l y nineteenth-century I t a l y . The I t a l i a n struggle f o r independance--the Risorgimento--was the backdrop f o r the emergence of I t a l i a n romantic opera. Like much of the l i t e r a t u r e i t was based on, I t a l i a n opera became p o l i t i c i s e d , r e f l e c t i n g the fervor and the ideals of the n a t i o n a l i s t cause. E a r l y on i n his career Verdi was ha i l e d as the composer of the Risorgimento. In 3 Ernani, Verdi takes what i s e s s e n t i a l l y Hugolian melodrama and transforms i t into a musical allegory of the I t a l i a n f i g h t for freedom and independance. In the t h i r d chapter I focus on Le Roi s'amuse and on Hugo's ba t t l e s with the Parisian censors. At the time that Hugo was wri t i n g his romantic dramas, p o l i t i c a l censorship, although t h e o r e t i c a l l y abolished, s t i l l affected almost every l i t e r a r y endeavor. In t h i s chapter I outline the l i m i t a t i o n s placed upon French dramatists by the ultra-conservative regime of Louis-Philippe. Because Le Roi s'amuse was viewed as an attack on the established p o l i t i c a l and s o c i a l order, i t was banned a f t e r i t s f i r s t performance. As a re s u l t , Hugo took the unprecedented step of launching a court case against the government i n an attempt to prove that censorship was both i l l e g a l and immoral. Chapter 4 of t h i s thesis concentrates on the r e l a t i o n s h i p between Hugo and Verdi, and i n p a r t i c u l a r , on the transformation of Le Roi s'amuse into Riqoletto. It i s s i g n i f i c a n t that the play upon which t h i s epoch-making opera i s based has been considered a f a i l u r e on several l e v e l s . At the premiere of Le Roi s'amuse i n 1832, audiences and c r i t i c s a l i k e were shocked and repulsed by i t s "immorality," i t s morbid plot, and i t s grotesque characters. L i t e r a r y scholars aff i r m that the play's inherent flaws as a dramatic work prevented i t s success. Moreover, most musicologists agree that Hugo's plays have fared much better as operas than as spoken dramas--Riqoletto being a case i n point. A hundred years ago George Bernard Shaw stated that "the chief glory of V i c t o r Hugo as a stage poet was to have provided l i b r e t t i for Verdi" (qtd. i n B a r r i c e l l i 17). Indeed, of the 4 dozen or so plays that Hugo wrote, few are today considered worthy of performance. This contrasts with the enduring po p u l a r i t y of Verdi's operas. What i s i t about Hugo's plays, then, that has caused us to regard them p r i m a r i l y as " v e r s i f i e d melodramas?" And what i s i t about Verdi's operas that ensures t h e i r continued prominence i n the repertoire? Is there something i n the nature of the two t h e a t r i c a l genres that accounts f o r t h i s d i s p a r i t y ? These are the questions I wish to address i n my discussion of Le Roi s'amuse and Riqoletto. Although Verdi c o n t i n u a l l y expressed h i s admiration f o r the dramatic p o t e n t i a l of Hugo's plays, Hugo, by contrast, harboured a deep resentment towards the composer. In spite of t h e i r immense popularity, he dismissed Ernani and Riqoletto as clumsy t r a v e s t i e s . But as I hope to demonstrate i n my discussion of these operas, Hugo had much to envy, and to admire. So not only was he the champion of romanticism i n French theatre, V i c t o r Hugo also played an important ( i f unwilling) r o l e i n the the dawn of a new, glorious era i n I t a l i a n opera. 5 CHAPTER 1 LA BATAILLE D'"HERNANI" Hugo's Hernani i s commonly regarded by l i t e r a r y scholars as the play which symbolized the defeat of French n e o - c l a s s i c a l drama and assured the success of the romantic school of play writing. The year 1830, the year of the f i r s t production of t h i s play and the ensuing Bataille d'Hernani. represents a turning point i n French t h e a t r i c a l history. In t h i s chapter I wish to examine the s o c i a l , p o l i t i c a l and aesthetic context that provided the backdrop to the creation of Hernani. and more s p e c i f i c a l l y , the ways i n which Hugo aggressively defied the t h e a t r i c a l conventions of the 1820's. In p a r t i c u l a r , the questions that I wish to consider are: what was revolutionary about Hernani. and what was i t s impact on the public, the c r i t i c s , and on French theatre i n general? The emergence of French Romantic Drama Before one can ar r i v e at an understanding of what was new and innovative about Hernani. i t i s necessary to examine the neo-c l a s s i c a l precedents and t r a d i t i o n s to which the play was reacting. For more than 150 years, from the mid-seventeenth century u n t i l well into the nineteenth, French drama had been subjected to r i g i d constraints regarding form, subject matter and use of language. The A r i s t o t e l i a n u n i t i e s of time, place and action, as well as the " i m p l i c i t fourth unity, unity of tone, which was even more important than the notorious [other] three," (Howarth Drama 207) had been s t r i c t l y adhered to from the days of 6 C o r n e i l l e and Racine, to the Revolution, and beyond. During t h i s period, neo-classicism remained v i r t u a l l y unchallenged as the only acceptable model f o r dramatic expression. New t h e a t r i c a l genres, such as the comedie larmoyante and the drame bourgeois began to deviate from n e o - c l a s s i c a l rules, though t h e i r influence was not immediately f e l t . David Evans states i n his introduction to Hernani: Whatever may have been the influence of such plays . . . upon [neo-classical tragedy] (and they were numerous enough to have made a considerable impression), as a form of art the eighteenth-century drame was not destined to survive. . . . This aesthetic f a i l u r e of the drame bourgeois must be ascribed to the fact that the conventions governing l i t e r a t u r e were too strong yet to be overcome. Nor was there i n evidence a d e f i n i t e desire to overcome them. Despite t h e i r keen in t e r e s t i n drama and the importance which they attached to i t s spectacular side, Diderot and his followers were, on the whole, too much taken up with Philosophy to have time f o r debating such questions as the Rules of Unity. Throughout the century, therefore, the tragedie continued to be regarded as the sole legitimate form of serious drama by those whose opinions mattered, u n t i l the turmoil of revol u t i o n swept aside these a r b i t e r s of taste. . . . (16-17) The e a r l y romanticism of other countries i n the l a t t e r half of the eighteenth century had l i t t l e impact on the French t h e a t r i c a l establishment. The German Sturm und Drang of the 1770's and the romantic plays of Goethe and S c h i l l e r went l a r g e l y unnoticed mainly because of t h e i r incompatablity with neo-c l a s s i c a l r u l e s . Whereas the German dramatists of t h i s period looked to Shakespeare f o r i n s p i r a t i o n , the French advocates of Shakespeare were a l l but silenced by the authority of the Philosophes of the Enlightenment, p a r t i c u l a r l y V o l t a i r e . 7 V o l t a i r e , who had praised Shakespeare i n the 1730's, changed his views towards the end of his l i f e , and his admiration was replaced by a profound d i s t a s t e . In an essay on romantic drama, William Howarth writes: "Shakespeare, h a i l e d [by V o l t a i r e ] i n 1734 as a poet of genius, had become, by the time of the Preface to Irene (1778), 'un sauvage avec des e t i n c e l l e s de genie qui b r i l l e n t dans une nuit h o r r i b l e ' " (Drama 206). What V o l t a i r e and other writers of the French Enlightenment found p a r t i c u l a r l y unacceptable was Shakespeare's t o t a l disregard f o r les regies; the u n i t i e s were not respected, comic and t r a g i c elements were found i n the same play, and Shakespearean language was considered to be too crude and contained too many b a n a l i t i e s - - i n short, i t wasn't "heroic" enough. V o l t a i r e ' s c r i t i c i s m of the beginning of Hamlet i s t y p i c a l of the n e o - c l a s s i c a l point of view. When the guard says that there i s "not a mouse s t i r r i n g " to describe the quietness of the night, V o l t a i r e comments, "Je vous d i r a i q u ' i l n'y a n i harmonie n i v e r i t e interessante dans ce quilobet d'un soldat: 'Je n'ai entendu une souris t r o t t e r ' " (qtd. i n Howarth Drama 207). "Mouse" belongs to the language of common, everyday experience, and according to the n e o - c l a s s i c i s t s , such b a n a l i t i e s had no place on the t r a g i c stage. Howarth continues: Such t o t a l i n a b i l i t y to accept a f r e e r and more suggestive poetic expression, as a v a l i d a l t e r n a t i v e to l e s t y l e noble from which a l l concrete, technical or everyday vocabulary was excluded, was the p r i n c i p a l obstacle to the creation of a drama capable of expressing the new ideas of the Age of S e n s i b i l i l t y . V o l t a i r e ' s t r a n s l a t i o n of the 'To be or not to be' s o l i l o q u y from Hamlet . . . i s a c l e a r demonstration of the incompatability of two imaginative processes: 8 Shakespeare's r i c h and c o l o u r f u l imagery i s throughout replaced by the colourless abstractions and the c l i c h e -l i k e epithets that characterised the ne o - c l a s s i c a l tragedies themselves. (Drama 207) The n e o - c l a s s i c a l t r a d i t i o n was so f i r m l y entrenched i n the French a r t i s t i c psyche that most tragedies of the e a r l y nineteenth century showed l i t t l e evolution since the time of Louis XIV. Though no longer r e s t r i c t e d to the h i s t o r y and mythology of ancient Greece and Rome, dramatists were s t i l l deprived of the l i n g u i s t i c resources with which to represent l o c a l colour, or to express ideas and feel i n g s s p e c i f i c to a given time and place. By the ear l y nineteenth century, however, the French l i t e r a r y scene began to change. One of the most i n f l u e n t i a l of the e a r l y romantic t h e o r i s t s was Madame de Stael. In De 1'Allemacme (1810) she provided an in-depth discussion of German l i t e r a t u r e , including the plays of Goethe and S c h i l l e r . She encouraged the young writers of France to regard the German theatre, as well as the plays of Shakespeare, as t h e i r model. P a r t l y because of de Stael's influence, the French began to show a much greater i n t e r e s t i n the t h e a t r i c a l t r a d i t i o n s of other cultures, and tra n s l a t i o n s of foreign authors flooded the market i n the years leading up to the Restoration. Shakespeare, Scott, Byron, S c h i l l e r and Milton were sold and read i n enormous quantity, but the o v e r a l l e f f e c t on the theatre was n e g l i g i b l e . Apparently " i t proved easier to p o n t i f i c a t e than to create" (Wren 12). The public was not yet ready for a new form of drama, and the successes of the period, plays l i k e Lebrun's Marie Stuart 9 (1820), were written l a r g e l y to conform to e x i s t i n g n e o - c l a s s i c a l norms. To make matters more d i f f i c u l t , f u l l censorship was reimposed i n 182 0 by the Bourbon government, a condition which c e r t a i n l y discouraged the creation of plays that could be thought of as innovative or c o n t r o v e r s i a l . Indeed, i t was the time of the scene historique, c l o s e t dramas meant to be read rather than performed, and which often contained a dissenting p o l i t i c a l message. Wren states: "Manifestos abounded . . . Stendhal's two pamphlets e n t i t l e d 'Racine' and 'Shakespeare' (1823 and 1825) are the best known--but theories were not s u c c e s s f u l l y put in t o p r a c t i s e " (12-13). V i c t o r Hugo played an important r o l e i n the creation of a new dramatic form. Interestingly, Hugo's attitudes towards neo-c l a s s i c i s m had not always been so c r i t i c a l . At an e a r l y age he had received o f f i c i a l recognition f o r his talents as a poet and had been championed by the p o l i t i c a l and l i t e r a r y establishment of the Restoration. From 1817 to 1819 he had success i n competitions organized by the Academie, and i n 1820 he received a gratification from Louis XVII f o r an "Ode sur l a mort du due de Berry." Two years l a t e r he was awarded a royal pension upon the p u b l i c a t i o n of h i s Odes et Poesies diverses. It i s not su r p r i s i n g , then, that he should adopt a conservative point of view and uphold the n e o - c l a s s i c a l t r a d i t i o n s . For example, i n 1820 he wrote that the plays of Shakespeare and S c h i l l e r were i n f e r i o r to those of C o r n e i l l e and Racine. But i n his development as an a r t i s t , and p a r t i c u l a r l y through his contact with other young romantic writers--men such as Nddier, Vigny and Soumet--he soon found that the t r a d i t i o n a l views were 10 a r t i s t i c a l l y r e s t r i c t i v e and incompatible with his emerging democratic i d e a l s . In h i s 1823 review of Scott's Ouentin Durward. Hugo proposed that drama i s a r e f l e c t i o n of a l l human l i f e , that i n l i f e there i s a constant i n t e r p l a y between the elements of good and bad, b e a u t i f u l and ugly, comic and t r a g i c . In 1827 these ideas were d e f i n i t i v e l y expressed i n the "Preface de Cromwell." a document i n which Hugo turned his back on two hundred years of French drama and proposed new aesthetic p r i n c i p l e s f o r the theatre of the future. As there already had been much th e o r i z i n g on t h e a t r i c a l reform by many of Hugo's contemporaries, the actual message of the Preface was not e n t i r e l y new or o r i g i n a l . It was, however, a b r i l l i a n t synthesis of the ideas that a new generation of French writers and i n t e l l e c t u a l s had been formulating f o r several years. Because of i t s powerful, imaginative language combined with i t s r e l a t i v e brevity, the "Preface de Cromwell" created an enormous s t i r - - g r e a t e r , to be sure, than the play i t preceded. In the Preface Hugo c a l l s f o r the a b o l i t i o n of the u n i t i e s of time and place, and the retention of the unity of action, " l a seule v r a i e et fondee" (66). He r e j e c t s a l l i m i t a t i o n and a l l rules, except the rules of n a t u r e - - " i l n'y a n i regies n i modeles"--arguing that "tout ce qui est dans l a nature est dans l ' a r t " (77). However, i t i s not enough that art simply hold up a mirror to nature--mere reproduction does not constitute art--but art should act l i k e a "miroir de concentration" (82) to give i t coherence and focus, to make i t appear, i n fact, larger than l i f e . Hugo argues that 11 [this] process . . . i s as s i s t e d by the retention of verse, " l a forme optique de l a pensee" which preserves the drame from prosaism. The alexandrine meter, nevertheless, had to be l i b e r a t e d i n both form and content from l e s t y l e noble--"un vers l i b r e , franc, l o y a l , osant tout d i r e sans pruderie, tout exprimer sans recherche." (Wren 13) Tragedy, with i t s roots i n the pagan a n t i q u i t y of c l a s s i c a l Greece and Rome, was to give way to the drame which was more suit e d to our C h r i s t i a n era i n that, l i k e C h r i s t i a n i t y , i t acknowledged the d u a l i t y of man, the sublime and the grotesque elements of human nature. A truer portrayal of human nature could thus be r e a l i z e d through the blending of comic and t r a g i c genres, and through the creation of characters who, l i k e r e a l people, are a mixture of good and e v i l . When a character i s able to transcend the grotesque side of his nature--Triboulet i n Le Roi s'amuse being an obvious example--he i s able to r i s e to the l e v e l of the sublime. 1 To sum up, the "Preface de Cromwell" was Hugo's t h e a t r i c a l credo i n which he rejected many of the o l d rules and r e s t r i c t i o n s of n e o - c l a s s i c a l drama; two of the three u n i t i e s were to be eliminated, with only the unity of action being retained. Although alexandrine v e r s i f i c a t i o n remained the mode of expression most suited to the new drame, the cold, abstract style noble was to y i e l d to a much freer, more c o l o u r f u l use of language. F i n a l l y , drama was to r e f l e c t , or somehow magnify, nature; the sublime and grotesque sides of n a t u r e - - p a r t i c u l a r l y 1Sometimes, however, eithe r the grotesque or the sublime dominates a character completely--Dona Sol being an example of the l a t t e r . 12 human nature--were to receive equal representation on the stage. 2 In addition to the "Preface de Cromwell," another important influence on the romantic drama was melodrama. The mSlodrames of the P a r i s i a n Boulevard theatres had enjoyed enormous popularity since the l a t e eighteenth century. Established by Guilbert de Pixerecourt and others around 1800, melodrama was a simple, unsophisticated art form f o r the entertainment and the moral i n s t r u c t i o n of a simple, unsophisticated audience. Pixerecourt claimed that he wrote "pour ceux qui ne savent pas l i r e " (qtd. i n Coe 58). Simple as they were, by the 1820's these plays were d i v e r t i n g audiences away from the Theatre-Francais and the other bastions of n e o - c l a s s i c a l tragedy. A f t e r the Revolution, melodrama became increasingly the form of entertainment to which the public turned, since many were no longer s a t i s f i e d by plays which embodied the e l i t i s t i d e a ls and r e s t r i c t i o n s of the Ancien Regime. In an a r t i c l e on French melodrama, Maureen Turim writes: "melodrama was born out of a shared impulse to compete with the o f f i c i a l theatres linked to royal decree and the ari s t o c r a c y . So . . .melodrama represents a more popular t h e a t r i c a l form, the beginnings of a mass entertainment, to be consumed by the urban p r o l e t a r i a t and the bourgeoisie" (308). It i s i n t e r e s t i n g to note that, unlike the melodramas of other countries--England and Germany, f o r example--French melodrama was the most cautious i n 2 I r o n i c a l l y , the "Preface de Cromwell" turned out to be of f a r greater importance than Cromwell i t s e l f , which was unstageable owing to i t s excessive length and number of characters. However, Cromwell blazed the t r a i l , not only for Hugo, but for other French romantic dramatists. It should be noted that, although Hugo was the pioneer, i t was Musset who, i n 1833, created the true chef-d'oeuvre of the French romantic theatre: Lorenzaccio. 13 i t s defiance of the ne o - c l a s s i c a l t r a d i t i o n . Turim writes that many French melodramas retained the u n i t i e s of time, space and action, and i t wasn't u n t i l l a t e r i n the h i s t o r y of French melodrama that "the imperative of formal unity relax[ed], with s p a t i a l unity being the f i r s t to disappear" (308-9) . Beyond the f a m i l i a r i t y of i t s form, what was i t about melodrama that made i t so popular not only with the working-cl a s s , but with the bourgeoisie and the a r i s t o c r a c y as well? More than anything else, i t offered action and passion. The morals may have been simple, but the plo t s were b a f f l i n g l y complex. In t h e i r analysis of Hernani, Jacques and Syl v i e Dauvin write of the popularity of melodrama and i t s influence on young romantic authors l i k e Hugo: Le public? I l se presse au Bouleverd du Temple, aux melodrames populaires: action violente, suspense, empoisonnements, amoureux attendrissants, t r a i t r e s plus noirs que l'encre, bref, tous l e s ingredients d'un p o l i c i e r de ser i e B. Les jeunes auteurs romantiques y retrouvent--meme caricature--ce qui leu r a p i u dans l e theatre de S c h i l l e r ou de Shakespeare. Le moment semble venu de donner au public l a tragedie moderne q u ' i l attend. (6) Peter Brooks affirms: " I t would only be a s l i g h t exaggeration to argue that i n France melodrama quite l i t e r a l l y l i e s at the source of romantic aesthetics of dramatization, i n the theatre and the novel" (qtd. i n Howarth 217). In a sense melodrama constituted the r e a l t h e a t r i c a l avant-garde of the 1820's: 14 Elaborate set designs and r e a l i s t i c e f f e c t s were the stock-in-trade of the melodrama. Designers . . . abandoned the neo-classical conventions of design for the exotic locales, atmospheric e f f e c t s , and l o c a l color advocated by the romantics. In fact, i n scenic terms, the complete romantic iconography--natural v i s t a s , melancholy ruins, h i s t o r i c a l accuracy--was to be found i n the boulevard theatres of the 1820's. It was also on the boulevard that a new generation of actors was trained i n a s t y l e both more "passionate" and more " r e a l i s t i c " than that of the actors of the Comedie-Francaise. (Daniels 9) Indeed, i n Hernani i t s e l f there are passages that appear to be l i f t e d d i r e c t l y from Pixerecourt's L'Homme a t r o i s visages, which he wrote i n 1801. If one compares act 2, scene 12 from Pixerecourt with act 2, scene 3 from Hugo's play, f o r example, one notices that i n action and i n mood the imitation i s obvious. Both scenes involve a confrontation between a powerful p o l i t i c a l leader and the young hero he has wronged. In L'Homme a t r o i s visages the Doge of Venice has banished and mistreated V i v a l d i , a s i t u a t i o n i d e n t i c a l to that of Hernani and Don Carlos. Both are bravura scenes i n which V i v a l d i and Hernani swear that they w i l l avenge the i n j u s t i c e s of t h e i r persecutors. In his study of Hernani. George Lote remarks: "La s i t u a t i o n et l e mouvement des deux scenes, chez Pixerecourt et chez Hugo, sont done identiques. . . . [Les s i m i l a r i t e s ] prouvent que V. Hugo connaissait a fond l e repertoire du Boulevard, et q u ' i l en e t a i t 1'admirateur" (167-8). What distinguishes Hugo's verse drama from simple melodrama, however, i s his genius for l y r i c a l language. Although Hernani, Ruy Bias and Le Roi s'amuse are loaded with stock melodramatic devices and situations, i t i s the beauty of Hugo's poetry that t r u l y saves these plays and elevates them to a l e v e l above and 15 beyond the popular art form. La Bataille d'"Hernani" The period 1827-1830 was marked by an increase of [ l i t e r a r y ] a c t i v i t y as the c l i m a c t i c f i r s t night of Hernani approached. . . . By the end of the 1820's, the French romantics had produced a s i g n i f i c a n t body of l i t e r a t u r e including poetry, novels, h i s t o r i c a l sketches, and theory. It remained f o r them to conquer the theatre. This would be the work of the year beginning i n February 1829 and culminating with the production of Hernani i n February 1830. (Daniels 7-8) The f i n a l b a t t l e of French romanticism was waged i n the theatre, and i t was c a r e f u l l y commanded by V i c t o r Hugo. Hugo had many a l l i e s i n the war against neo-classicism; many were members of h i s Cenacle--a c i r c l e of writers and i n t e l l e c t u a l s who shared his aesthetic and p o l i t i c a l views. These included Nodier, Gautier, Stendhal, and Musset. This group of young poets and n o v e l i s t s was d i r e c t l y opposed to the n e o - c l a s s i c i s t s , and t h e i r mission was to ensure the triumph of the romantic aesthetic, an aesthetic which so f a r had received i t s most eloquent expression i n the "Preface de Cromwell." Because of his l i t e r a r y b r i l l i a n c e and h i s advocacy of a r t i s t i c and s o c i a l freedoms, Hugo had become something of a c u l t f i g u r e f o r an ent i r e generation of young people i n France, a generation r e s t l e s s and a g i t a t i n g for change. Born at the beginning of the century, they had missed the emotion and the idealism of the Revolution and the heroics of the Napoleonic wars. Jacques and Sylvie Dauvin compare Hugo's generation to the counter-culture generation of the 1960's and, indeed, t h e i r comparison seems apt: 16 Desempares, l e vague a l'ame, i l s manifestent a leur facon leur revolte: i l s l a i s s e n t pousser leurs cheveux, s'accoutrent de vetements excentriques et d e b r a i l l e s ; c'est l e s t y l e Jeune-France. Ces r e v o l t e s - - s i proches par tant de cotes (mal de v i v r e , gout des grandes idees, f o l k l o r e vestimentaire) de ceux qu'on appelait en 1968 les contestataires--trouvent une reponse a leur malaise dans une forme nouvelle d'art: l e romantisme. Dans cet art nouveau, mis en oeuvre par des a r t i s t e s de leur age, i l s se reconnaissent mieux que dans l e s v i e i l l e s g l o i r e s dont parlent leurs manuels s c o l a i r e s . (5) Hugo's p o s i t i o n as a sort of guru f o r these d i s i l l u s i o n e d Jeunes-France had begun to worry the conservative establishment since his views, both a r t i s t i c and p o l i t i c a l , were c l e a r l y opposed to the status quo. Hugo c r i t i c i z e d the Bourbon monarchy on the grounds that i t was repressive and i n t o l e r a n t , and he spoke out against the death penalty and other forms of s o c i a l i n j u s t i c e . In short, Hugo c a l l e d for freedom and tolerance both i n art and p o l i t i c s , and he saw the two as i n t e r r e l a t e d . In the preface to Hernani he makes his p o s i t i o n c l e a r : . . . l e liberalisme l i t t e r a i r e ne sera pas moins populaire que l e liberalisme p o l i t i q u e . La l i b e r t e dans l ' a r t , l a l i b e r t e dans l a societe, v o i l a l e double but auquel doivent tendre d'un meme pas tous le s e s p r i t s consequents et logiques; v o i l a l a double banniere qui r a l l i e . . . toute l a jeunesse s i forte et s i patiente d'aujourd'hui. . . (311-2) Later he states that the w i l l of the people i s sacred, and that art , l i k e government, should answer to t h e i r demands for tolerance and freedom. C l e a r l y Hugo's c a l l for tolerance and freedom applies not only to l i t e r a t u r e , but to p o l i t i c s as well: "Cette voix haute et puissante du peuple, qui ressemble a c e l l e 17 de Dieu, veut desormais que l a poesie a i t l a meme devise que l a p o l i t i q u e : TOLERANCE ET LIBERTE. Maintenant vienne l e poete! I l a un p u b l i c " (313) . Hernani premiered on 25 February 1830, and as i t was the f i r s t play produced to carry h i s name, Hugo took great pains to ensure i t s success. Aware that a cabale would be formed by neo-c l a s s i c a l opponents to romantic drama, Hugo mobilized h i s own group of supporters--"poetes et rapins de vingt ans" (Richard 14) as well as l i t e r a r y f r i e n d s - - i n order to outnumber and intimidate the opposition. Also, foreseeing an extremely negative reaction on the part of the press, Hugo published anonymously a favorable a r t i c l e i n the Journal des Debats the day before the f i r s t performance. The opening night and the ensuing Bataille d'Hernani represent the decisive v i c t o r y of romanticism over neo-classicism i n French theatre. Indeed, as an event the Bataille has created f a r greater i n t e r e s t than the work that prompted i t . With almost m i l i t a r y p r e c i s i o n and smoothness, "l'armee romantique" was mobilized i n order to thwart "les manoeuvres des classiques" (Lote 63). The pro-Hugo claque was i n the theatre by two o'clock i n the afternoon and had taken up positions on the p a r t e r r e and i n the second g a l l e r y . Pierre Richard o f f e r s an amusing de s c r i p t i o n of the scene: Cette claque gratuite [Hugo had paid for t h e i r admission], remplacant l a claque payee, consideree comme suspecte, f i t echec a 1'opposition classique des f a u t e u i l s et des loges, qu'elle bouscula de ses outrances vestimentaires et c a p i l a i r e s , de ses apostrophes a 1'emporte-piece, de ses farces gamines. (14) 18 Richard elaborates on a few of these "farces" which are not only amusing fo r t h e i r impertinence, but also underline the symbolic importance that both sides saw i n the performance: "Pendant que Balzac recevait en p l e i n figure un trognon de chou, un Jeune^France repondait a une dame mure, 'Ne r i e z pas Madame, vous montrez vos dents'" (32). At another point there began a "pluie de p e t i t s papiers sur les perruques et l e s jabots des classiques." Jacques and Sylvie Dauvin note that the Bataille d i d not end with the f i r s t performance: La piece se joue dans un chahut monstre, on entend a peine, mais c'est un triomphe. Une large p a r t i e de presse prend sa revanche l e lendemain et se dechaine contre Hugo, "un insense, ami de truands" qui presente des criminels comme des heros. La b a t a i l l e s'amplifie aux representations suivantes: offensives et contre-offensives opposent longtemps Hernanistes et leurs adversaires, ce qui assure--scandale oblige--une recette exceptionnelle. (8) The Bataille d'Hernani lasted f o r the enti r e run of the play (36 performances between 25 February and 22 June 183 0) but i t subsided thereafter: "Apres 1830, l a cabale ayant cesse, l a piece ne souleve plus l a moindre protestation et s u i t une c a r r i e r e normale" (Halbwachs 70). What was i t about Hernani that provoked such a v i o l e n t reaction? F i r s t of a l l , as dramatic l i t e r a t u r e , Hernani v i o l a t e d almost a l l the rules of neo-classicism. Secondly, the play was seen as p o l i t i c a l l y subversive, since the hero of the play, an aristocrat-turned-outlaw, acts i n d i r e c t defiance to the laws of his king and his society. There are numerous instances where Hugo makes his p o l i t i c a l views quite c l e a r . In the monologue of 19 act 4, scene 2, i n p a r t i c u l a r , i n which Don Carlos invokes Charlemagne, Hugo "makes a sustained attack on the Bourbon government while asserting his Bonapartist i d e a l s " (Wren 35). Newly-elected as Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Carlos stands before the tomb of Charlemagne where he undergoes a rather unconvincing metamorphosis, suddenly changing from a morally bankrupt ravisseur of women and p o l i t i c a l megalomaniac to a clement and responsible leader. In t h i s scene Carlos i s l i t t l e more than Hugo's p o l i t i c a l mouthpiece, and his r h e t o r i c has less to do with Charlemagne or Carlos' character than with Hugo's admiration for Napoleon and his v i s i o n of an id e a l p o l i t i c a l regime le d by an elected r u l e r . But i t was the language of Hernani, more than i t s p o l i t i c a l overtones or i t s melodramatic plot, that was the main source of delight or disgust, depending upon which side one was on. Hugo has been credited with the l i b e r a t i o n of the alexandrine and the expansion of the poetic vocabulary. Hugo opens the play with Dona Josepha's famous enjambement--"Serait-ce deja l u i ? C'est bien a l ' e s c a l i e r / Derobe" (1.1.1-2)--which i s followed almost immediately by three further examples of the same device, i n l i n e s spoken by Don Carlos. The suppression of the style noble resulted i n a far greater range of expression, and the richness and the l y r i c a l i n t e n s i t y of the language are the chief g l o r i e s of the play. By l i b e r a t i n g the language from i t s n e o - c l a s s i c a l constraints, Hugo created a kind of drama that was e n t i r e l y new. The various monologues and the "love duets" of Hernani and Dona Sol are almost operatic i n t h e i r i n t e n s i t y and create a "charged and charmed atmosphere" (Wren 24). Howarth too compares the 20 language of Hernani to romantic opera. He states: . . . the kind of imaginative writing exemplified by such varied passages as Hernani's l y r i c a l d e scription of the bandit's l i f e , his invective against Carlos, Ruy Gomez's elegy on ol d age, Carlos's act 4 monologue, or the marvellous love-duet of the l a s t act, i s no s u p e r f i c i a l decoration; i t permeates the whole of Hugo's drama. As i n romantic opera, these virtuoso passages--together with the flow and sparkle of imaginative writing, i n lower key, throughout the play --are r e a l l y what count. . . . It i s by his operatic treatment of . . . perennial themes, which denotes a concept of drama t o t a l l y d i f f e r e n t from the worn-out neo-c l a s s i c a l formula, that Hugo the t r a g i c poet has succeeded i n creating a new sublime. (Hugo 70-1) Ruy Gomez's speech i n act 3, i n which he laments the passing of his youth, exemplifies of the kind of operatic l y r i c i s m that Howarth describes: Quand passe un jeune patre--oui, e'en est la!--souvent, Tandis que nous allons, l u i chantant, moi revant, Lui dans son pre vert, moi dans mes noires a l l e e s , Souvent je dis tout bas: O mes tours crenelees, Mon vieux donjon ducal, que je vous donnerais, Oh!, que je donnerais mes bles et mes forets, Et l e s vastes troupeaux qui tondent mes c o l l i n e s , Mon vieux nom, mon vieux t i t r e , et toutes mes ruines, Et tous mes vieux aieux qui bientot m'attendront, Pour sa chaumiere neuve et pour son jeune front! Car ses cheveux sont noirs, car son o e i l r e l u i t comme Le t i e n , tu peux l e v o i r , et d i r e : Ce jeune homme! Et puis, penser a moi qui suis vieux. Je l e s a i s ! Pourtant j ' a i nom S i l v a , mais ce n'est plus assez! Oui, je me dis cela. Vois a quel point je t'aime! Le tout, pour etre jeune et beau, comme toi-meme! Mais a quoi v a i s - j e i c i rever? Moi, jeune et beau! Qui te dois de s i l o i n devancer au tombeau! (3.1.735-52) The devices Hugo uses i n t h i s passage are simple, and are based on the requirements of spoken delivery. However, these devices, 21 such as r e p e t i t i o n ("que je vous donnerais / Oh! que je donnerais"; "Mon vieux nom, mon vieux t i t r e " ; "Et toutes mes ruines, / Et tous mes vieux aieux"), a l l i t e r a t i o n ("Mon vieux donjon ducal, que je vous donnerais"; "Et l e s vastes troupeaux qui tondent mes c o l l i n e s " ) , and the constant play on the opposition between "jeune" and "vieux," impart a genuinely musical character to Ruy Gomez's r e f l e c t i o n s on o l d age and death. Howarth comments further: Such a passage i s f a r from being an i s o l a t e d hors d'oeuvre; i t expresses the very essence i f the character's s i t u a t i o n throughout the play . . . . These are not gratuitous " l y r i c a l " embellishments on the surface of a conventionally "dramatic" p l o t : the two elements are integrated into a new concept of " l y r i c a l drama," and the term f i t s Hugo's tragedies just as well as the opera to which i t i s more often applied. (71) To sum up, i n writing Hernani, Hugo's p r i n c i p a l aim of l i b e r a t i n g verse drama from i t s previous constraints was l a r g e l y r e a l i z e d , and as a r e s u l t , he succeeded i n creating a new kind of t h e a t r i c a l experience. Despite i t s obvious flaws (an implausible p l o t , numerous h i s t o r i c a l inaccuracies, s u p e r f i c i a l character development, et c . ) , Hernani succeeds on the strength of i t s l y r i c i s m and i t s youthful ardour. Ultimately, the Bataille d'Hernani s p e l l e d doom for a generation whose ideas and aesthetics no longer prevailed i n the r a p i d l y changing world of the 1830's. For these people, the writings of Hugo, the paintings of Delacroix, and the music of B e r l i o z represented a l l that was v i o l e n t , chaotic and i r r a t i o n a l . It was an a r t i s t i c r evolution. Pierre Halbwachs eloquently describes the fear and 22 anger that the older generation must have f e l t upon viewing the spectacle of Hernani: "Pour les e s p r i t s conservateurs, l e g i m i t i s t e s et u l t r a s , c ' e t a i t l'anarchie imposee par l a violence, l a dictature de l a demagogie et de l a c a n a i l l e , c ' e t a i t bien l a Revolution francaise montrant sur l a scene son mufle ensanglante" (108). For Hugo, Hernani was a t r i a l run f o r a new kind of theatre. For the j'eune garde, however, Hernani was about them--about t h e i r hopes and t h e i r confused ideas, t h e i r love for l i f e and t h e i r disgust f o r society. 23 C H A P T E R 2 " E R N A N I I N V O L A M I " ; I T A L I A N R O M A N T I C O P E R A A N D T H E R I S O R G I M E N T O Like Hugo's Hernani. which had been a triumph f o r the author fourteen years e a r l i e r , Verdi's 1844 adaptation of the play i s s i m i l a r l y regarded as an early milestone i n the composer's career. Although the opera owed most of i t s success to i t s youthful energy and i t s "wealth of g l o r i o u s l y singable tunes," (Osborne Operas 91) the work also contained an obvious p o l i t i c a l message. It was no secret that Verdi sympathised with the p a t r i o t i c cause of the Risorgimento, and l i k e most of h i s countrymen, he dreamed of the day when I t a l y would be free from foreign c o n t r o l . In t h i s chapter I propose to examine I t a l i a n romantic opera i n the context of the I t a l i a n s ' struggle f o r freedom and independance. Moreover, l i k e Hugo's Hernani, Verdi's opera furthered the development of romanticism i n art while challenging an oppressive p o l i t i c a l regime. The p o l i t i c a l background For the better part of the nineteenth century, I t a l y was i n p o l i t i c a l chaos as I t a l i a n n a t i o n a l i s t s struggled to transform t h e i r country from an agglomeration of f o r e i g n - c o n t r o l l e d p r i n c i p a l i t i e s into a u n i f i e d , modern nation. For three hundred years, I t a l y was divided into small states. Those i n the north were under Austrian control, whereas the south was ruled by the Spanish Bourbons. Rome and several other t e r r i t o r i e s remained under papal ru l e . From 1796 to 1815, France c o n t r o l l e d I t a l y , but a f t e r the collapse of the Napoleonic regime, A u s t r i a and 24 Spain assumed t h e i r former powers. As L u i g i V i l l a r i points out, . . . the newly restored governments might e a s i l y have achieved popularity among peoples worn out by the t e r r r i b l e drain of men and money caused by the Napoleonic wars. But i n t h e i r t e r r o r of revolution, they f a i l e d to r e a l i z e that the past [French] regime had wafted a breath of new l i f e i n t o I t a l y , and that the new-born idea of I t a l i a n unity was a force to be reckoned with. . . . [There] was a sense of despair at It a l y ' s degradation and an i n c i p i e n t hatred of foreign r u l e . . . . (801-2) By the 1830's t h i s hatred had reached the b o i l i n g point, and fo r the next f o r t y years, I t a l y was the scene of a bloody but determined struggle f o r independance. In 184 8 there were revolutionary uprisings i n Milan and Rome (as there were i n Paris and Vienna), but these were suppressed. It wasn't u n t i l 1870, a f t e r a struggle of more than half a century, that the l i b e r a t i o n and unity of I t a l y were f i n a l l y achieved. The Rise of Romantic Opera Despite the p o l i t i c a l turmoil during t h i s time, opera continued to f l o u r i s h ; indeed, the nineteenth century i s considered the Golden Age of I t a l i a n opera. As Budden states, the enormous popularity of opera at t h i s time was p r i m a r i l y due to i t s status as a national i n s t i t u t i o n : In I t a l y , empires might r i s e and empires might f a l l , but La Scala, Milan, and the Teatro l a Fenice, Venice, s t i l l needed t h e i r two opere d'obbligo (new operas) for the winter season. Even i n the darkest days of warfare and m i l i t a r y occupation I t a l i a n opera remained a t h r i v i n g industry with a wide market at home and abroad, l a r g e l y due to the prowess of I t a l i a n singers. (Operas 3) 2 5 In addition, l i k e French melodrama, or the cinema of the twentieth-century Depression years, I t a l i a n opera of the Risorgimento period became a means of escaping the harsh r e a l i t i e s of war, p o l i t i c a l oppression, and economic hardship. In I t a l y , as i n most European countries, the l i n k i n g of art to p o l i t i c s f l o u r i s h e d with the r i s e of romanticism. By the 1 8 3 0 ' s , opera had become a medium by which n a t i o n a l i s t i c ideas could be communicated throughout the entire country. Unlike the French experience, however, the emergence of I t a l i a n romanticism i n music and l i t e r a t u r e was much less tumultuous; there was no I t a l i a n "Preface de Cromwell." nothing as scandalous as the Bataille d'Hernani. In an a r t i c l e i n which he compares Hugo's Hernani to Verdi's opera on the same subject, Jean-Paul B a r r i c e l l i points out that i n I t a l y romanticism was much les s "sensational" than i n France, mostly because I t a l i a n s were more caught up with such immediate concerns as national unity than with sweeping changes i n aesthetics ( 2 2 - 3 ) . The a s s i m i l a t i o n of romantic i d e a l s i n t o opera was gradual, and composers were c a r e f u l to o f f e r t h e i r audiences a benign mixture of the o l d and the new. Nevertheless, I t a l i a n opera underwent a dramatic transformation between 1 7 9 0 and 1 8 3 0 . The most obvious changes re s u l t e d from the search f o r new modes of musical and dramatic expression. In the eighteenth century, composers were l i m i t e d to two c l e a r l y delineated operatic genres: seria and buffa. Opera s e r i a ("serious opera") was comparable i n mood and subject to the n e o - c l a s s i c a l tragedies of Co r n e i l l e , Racine and V o l t a i r e . Opera 26 buffa, on the other hand, was s i m i l a r to (and often based on) the sparkling comedies of Moliere, Marivaux and Beaumarchais. Like t h e i r French dramatic counterparts, both genres s t r i c t l y adhered to time-honoured conventions regarding almost every aspect of t h e i r form and t h e i r content. More than simply r e f i n e d forms of entertainment, French tragedy and I t a l i a n opera s e r i a were also highly d i d a c t i c , often r e f l e c t i n g eighteenth-century i d e a l s of reason, v i r t u e , harmony, and noble s e l f - s a c r i f i c e . By the beginning of the nineteenth century, however, I t a l i a n opera s e r i a had become l a r g e l y devoid of o r i g i n a l i t y . Most operas were written as quickly as possible, and most attempted to appeal to the conservative tastes of patrons and audiences, or to the caprices of the singers. More often than not a composer would write his music with p a r t i c u l a r singers i n mind, and i t was normal f o r them to demand that an a r i a be a l t e r e d i n such a way as to better display t h e i r talents (or to mask t h e i r d e f i c i e n c i e s ) . As a r e s u l t , character or p l o t development were often secondary to v i r t u o s i t y . Most musical scholars c r e d i t Rossini f o r having rescued I t a l i a n opera. Budden states: "[Rossini] a r r i v e d on the scene i n 1810, at a time when I t a l i a n opera had almost completely l o s t i t s way. . . . In ten years, from his double triumph with Tancredi and L ' l t a l i a n a i n A l g e r i i n 1813 t i l l h is departure f o r Paris i n 1822 a f t e r Semiramide, Rossini had r e v i t a l i z e d the world of I t a l i a n opera, refashioning i t i n his own image" (Operas 9). Yet Rossini was no romantic; p h i l o s o p h i c a l l y and s t y l i s t i c a l l y he was much cl o s e r to Mozart than to Verdi. Nevertheless, Rossini was able to breathe new l i f e into I t a l i a n opera. His influence on 27 l a t e r composers i s undeniable, and his legacy was to have defined the form and language of e a r l y nineteenth-century I t a l i a n opera once and for a l l . How might I t a l i a n opera of the 1830's and 40's--the "post-Ro s s i n i " period--be characterized? F i r s t , a new musical idiom had evolved which was based on the I t a l i a n t r a d i t i o n of Jbel canto (a simple, sweeping melodic l i n e , often r a v i s h i n g l y beautiful) as well as on t r a d i t i o n a l f o l k melodies. Orchestration became more subtle and complex, more symphonic i n nature. Second, there was a tendency towards greater dramatic continuity. Gone were the days when operas consisted p r i m a r i l y of a s e r i e s of extended solo a r i a s (sometimes l a s t i n g more than a quarter of an hour) connected by secco (unaccompanied) r e c i t a t i v e s . This structure repeatedly interrupted the flow of the action, and accounts f o r the s t a t i c nature of most eighteenth-century opera. By contrast, i n Verdi's operas for example, the dramatic tension i s established immediately, and the p l o t advances much more quickly and convincingly. Although one encounters extended bravura a r i a s i n a l l of romantic opera, they are p r i m a r i l y intended to further our understanding of the character, rather than simply to show o f f the the singer's vocal s k i l l s . At the very l e a s t , they create a mood that i s more i n keeping with the dramatic s i t u a t i o n at hand. Third, romantic operas were often based on contemporary plays, novels and poems. Thus the i d e a l i z e d heroics of opera s e r i a and the elegant farces of opera buffa were replaced by subjects which emulated the romantic l i t e r a t u r e of the period. As many of these subjects were highly melodramatic, the operas 28 they i n s p i r e d were s i m i l a r l y dark and l u r i d , t h e i r endings often p e s s i m i s t i c . And fourth, by v i r t u e of t h e i r p a t r i o t i c or humanistic themes, these operas were much more " p o l i t i c a l " than t h e i r eighteenth-century predecessors. As we s h a l l see i n the l a s t section of t h i s chapter, works such as Ernani contained messages which challenged an oppressive p o l i t i c a l regime. The Road to Ernani Verdi wrote h i s f i r s t opera, Oberto. Conte d i San Bonifacio (1839) when he was 26. By the same age Hugo was already enjoying c e l e b r i t y status as an important, i f con t r o v e r s i a l , l i t e r a r y f i g u r e . Verdi's r i s e to fame, on the other hand, was not so meteoric. As a f i r s t attempt, Budden describes Oberto as an " i n t e r e s t i n g achievement . . . but l e t us not exaggerate" (Operas 66). Nevertheless, the opera enjoyed considerable success when i t was performed during the Autumn season of 1839, and was revived on several occasions thereafter. On the strength of the work's popularity, Verdi was commissioned by La Scala to compose three more operas, to be performed at eight-month i n t e r v a l s . It was a promising s t a r t . However, Verdi's next undertaking, Un Giorno d i Regno, was a crushing f a i l u r e when i t premiered the following year. It was written when the composer was g r i e v i n g the sudden loss of his wife. The preceding two years had also seen the deaths of his two c h i l d r e n . Verdi described himself at the time as a "poor a i l i n g young man working under pressure and heartbroken by a t e r r i b l e catastrophe" (qtd. i n Kimbell 96). It i s easy to understand why Verdi had l i t t l e heart for the composition of an 29 opera buffa, and the h o s t i l e reception given to Un Giorno de Regno caused him to renounce a l l aspirations of composing ever again. Thanks to the t a c t f u l encouragement of M e r e l l i , the d i r e c t o r of La Scala, as well as the successful r e v i v a l s of Oberto. Verdi was at l a s t persuaded to t r y again. In the e a r l y months of 1841 M e r e l l i showed Verdi a recently completed l i b r e t t o by Solera e n t i t l e d Nabucodonosor. The composer's version of the story i s that he took the manuscript home and threw i t down on a t a b l e . His gaze f e l l upon the f a t e f u l l i n e "Va, pensiero, s u l l ' a l i dorate," which formed the basis of the famous p a t r i o t i c chorus i n the opera: "I ran through the verses that followed and was much moved, a l l the more because they were almost a paraphrase from the Bible, the reading of which had always delighted me" (qtd. i n Kimbell 104). Nabucco was f i r s t performed at La Scala on 9 March 1842. This work represented Verdi's f i r s t triumph with the Milanese audiences. Although the music was highly praised, the w i l d l y e n t h u s i a s t i c response to the opera was due i n part to i t s Risorgimento overtones. Nabucco i s based on Old Testament references to the Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar and h i s subjugation of Jerusalem. The chorus, "Va, pensiero," which had so moved Verdi when he f i r s t glanced at the l i b r e t t o , i s sung by the captive Jews as they t o i l on the banks of the Euphrates. Verdi's h e a r t f e l t s e t t i n g of i t caused the Milanese audience to i d e n t i f y themselves with the Jews of the Bible, and from that moment on, Verdi became the u n o f f i c i a l composer of the Risorgimento. As Osborne states, however, "[that] the composer had any conscious intention to s t i r his audience p o l i t i c a l l y i s 30 highly u n l i k e l y . But his sympathies were with the l i b e r a l cause of the Risorgimento, and there i s no reason the think that he was at a l l displeased with the association made by h i s audiences" (Verdi 28). So unlike Hugo, who d e l i b e r a t e l y sought to provoke audiences by i n f u s i n g his drames with subversive and revolutionary undercurrents, Verdi appears i n i t i a l l y to have been more cautious. His main objective i n w r i t i n g Nabucco (and l a t e r Ernani) was to ensure his success with the p u b l i c . Overtly p a t r i o t i c operas such as A t t i l a (1846) and La B a t t a q l i a d i Legnano (1849) were to come l a t e r . Neverthless, Verdi's next opera, I Lombardi (1843), aroused s i m i l a r n a t i o n a l i s t i c fervor. The work was based on the narrative poem "I Lombardi a l i a prima c r o c i a t a " ("The Lombards at the F i r s t Crusade") by the Milanese poet, Tomasso Grossi. When i t was published i n 1826, Grossi's poem about the eleventh-century defenders of the C h r i s t i a n f a i t h had caused a great s t i r i n northern I t a l y . Although i t s plot has been described as "sheer operatic k i t s c h , " (Osborne Operas 74) I Lombardi was a huge popular success and was performed 27 times before the end of the season. Again, some of the opera's popularity was due to the fact that the Milanese audience saw themselves as the Lombards of old, and t h e i r Austrian overlords as the oppressive Saracens. This brings us to Ernani, Verdi's next opera which was written f o r the autumn season of 1844. Although t h i s was the work which f i r m l y established Verdi's reputation as I t a l y ' s most g i f t e d young composer, Hugo's play was not among the f i r s t subjects considered. Verdi seemed much more interested i n p l o t s derived from English drama or l i t e r a t u r e , among them Byron's "The 31 Corsair" and "The Two Foscari," both destined l a t e r to become Verdi operas. Another p o s s i b i l i t y was an opera about Catherine Howard, the unfortunate f i f t h wife of Henry VIII. While Verdi was t r y i n g to decide upon a subject f o r h i s new opera, Francisco Maria Piave, a f r i e n d of the secretary of the Fenice i n Venice, wrote to Verdi o f f e r i n g to provide him with a l i b r e t t o e n t i t l e d Cromvello. Piave was completely inexperienced as a l i b r e t t i s t , but he was an excellent l y r i c poet. Verdi encouraged him to complete Cromvello, s t a t i n g that he might eventually f i n d a use f o r i t . The two men were to become good frien d s , and Piave remained Verdi's regular l i b r e t t i s t f o r nearly 20 years. Piave's l i b r e t t o f o r Cromvello proved unsatisfactory, however. Hugo's Hernani was mentioned, an idea which immediately f i r e d Verdi's imagination. A few days l a t e r he wrote: Oh, i f only we could do Hernani! how wonderful i t . would be! It' s true that i t would mean a l o t of work f o r [Piave], but I would make i t my duty to t r y to compensate him, and we would c e r t a i n l y create a much f i n e r e f f e c t f o r the p u b l i c . A f t e r a l l , Signor Piave has great f a c i l i t y i n v e r s i f y i n g , and i n Hernani he would only have to condense and tighten up; the action i s a l l there, ready made, and i t ' s immensely t h e a t r i c a l . (qtd. i n Osborne Verdi 36) Once the synopsis had been passed by the censorship a u t h o r i t i e s (whose main concern was that the emperor Charles V of Spain should be made to appear as l i b e r a l and impressive and the conspirators as unthreatening as possible), Piave began work on the l i b r e t t o . By the middle of November 1843, Verdi had completed the greater part of the opera. Ernani was given i t s 32 f i r s t performance at the Fenice on 6 March 1844, and was an immediate and resounding success. The Gazzetta P r i v i l e c r i a t a d i Venezia c a l l e d the new opera "a triumph, i n which everyone was happy and contented," while the c r i t i c of II Gondoliere wrote: On the walls of our leading theatre there waves a banner on which there i s written i n l e t t e r s of gold, Ernani. With a hundred voices the populace and the senators applaud t h i s Spanish bandit. . . . The o r i g i n a l drama i s by Hugo, the I t a l i a n adaptation i s by F. Piave, and the harmonies by Verdi, the d e l i g h t f u l creator of I Lombardi and Nabucco. His l a t e s t s t r a i n s intoxicate, four times over, even the souls of grave pedants and severe matrons. In the foyers, i n the streets, i n drawing-rooms, i n c u l t i v a t e d gatherings, the new songs are on a l l l i p s . (qtd. i n Osborne Verdi 39) While the c r i t i c s and the public applauded the "sweet melodies," the "choice harmonies," and the "splendid instrumentation," (qtd. i n Osborne Verdi 39) the opera succeeded perhaps even more e f f e c t i v e l y than the play i n expressing the revolutionary determination of the I t a l i a n n a t i o n a l i s t s . When E l v i r a invoked the bandit Ernani to come to rescue her from the repulsive embrace of S i l v a , i t was c l e a r to audiences that she represented the young I t a l y extending her arms to someone to d e l i v e r her from her o l d oppressors. In the conspiracy scene with the male chorus f u l l of "incendiary phrases, 11 (Osborne Operas 90). i t was easy f o r the spectator to substitute mentally the word " I t a l y " f o r the word "Iberia." This chorus--"Si r i d e s t i i l Leon d i C a s t i g l i a ! " ("Awake, Lion of Castille!")--was at f i r s t banned by the censors, though Verdi was able to appease them by modifying a few verses. Osborne describes t h i s chorus as "the 33 f i r s t of Verdi's s t i r r i n g l y active p a t r i o t i c choruses as opposed to the . . . nostalgic choral numbers exemplified by 'Va, pensiero' i n Nabucco. Out of context the Lion of C a s t i l l e chorus sounds banal, but i n the opera i t . . . i s capable of awakening fe e l i n g s of group s o l i d a r i t y and togetherness" (Operas 90). Like the play upon which i t was based, Ernani was a powerful a l l e g o r y which embodied the dreams of an e n t i r e generation. Hugo's drama spoke f o r the d i s i l l i u s i o n e d Jeunes-France, whereas Verdi's opera voices the passionate determination of the I t a l i a n n a t i o n a l i s t s . Thus when the Hugolian Hernani was transplanted across the Alps to become the Verdian Ernani, the subject acquired an explosive power that Hugo could never have suspected. I r o n i c a l l y , one of the most h o s t i l e c r i t i c s of Ernani was the playwright himself. Far from applauding the opera's b e a u t i f u l music or, more s i g n i f i c a n t l y , i t s revolutionary overtones, Hugo condemned Ernani as a clumsy travesty of h i s play. Indeed, when the opera a r r i v e d at the Theatre des I t a l i e n s two years l a t e r he i n s i s t e d that the t i t l e and the names of the characters be changed. Such a reaction seems strange, given that both a r t i s t s were creating works which advocated s i m i l a r democratic i d e a l s . In the case of Ernani, Hugo demonstrated the sort of orgueil f o r which he was sometimes c r i t i c i s e d . Disregarding any a r t i s t i c or s o c i a l value that the opera might contain, Hugo was convinced that Verdi and Piave had exploited his play as a means of achieving fame and fortune, and disregarded Several years l a t e r Hugo expressed s i m i l a r resentment towards Rigoletto. In Chapter 4 I discuss the r e l a t i o n s h i p between the author and the composer i n more d e t a i l . 3 4 By comparing Le Roi s'amuse to Riaoletto, I hope to demonstrate that Hugo's c r i t i c i s m was perhaps unfounded, motivated i t would seem by pride and envy rather than by an understanding of the composer or h i s operas. 35 C H A P T E R 3 LE ROI S'AMUSE: " L E W A T E R L O O D U R O M A N T I S M E " Whereas Hernani represented the triumph of romanticism i n French theatre, Le Roi s'amuse, written two years l a t e r , was i n many respects a disappointing f a i l u r e . Although i t was created i n what appeared to be the more tolerant atmosphere of the July Monarchy, the i l l - f a t e d play was neverthless banned by the censors the day a f t e r i t s f i r s t performance on 22 November 1832. The reasons behind the suppression of the play were twofold. F i r s t , i t v i o l a t e d accepted moral and aesthetic codes of the time, and second, the government considered the play to be p o l i t i c a l l y subversive, both i n i t s u n f l a t t e r i n g p o r t r a i t of Francois I and i t s depiction of an attempt at r e g i c i d e . ( I r o n i c a l l y , and unfortunately for Hugo, there had been an actual attempt on L o u i s - P h i l l i p e ' s l i f e the day before the f i r s t performance.) To make matters worse, Le Roi s' amuse was dismissed by the public and the c r i t i c s as a "degoutant tableau," ( P o u i l l i a r t 445) and the turbulent premiere of the play came to be known as " l e Waterloo du Romantisme." In t h i s chapter I propose to show that the f a i l u r e of Le Roi s'amuse was p r i m a r i l y the r e s u l t of the conservatism and the fear of revolution that pervaded French bourgeois society i n the early 1830's. Central to t h i s discussion, of course, i s the government's capricious p o l i c y of censorship and i t s e f f e c t s on French romantic theatre. 36 The p o l i t i c a l and s o c i a l climate: August 1830 - September 1835 Before focusing on Le Roi s'amuse i t s e l f , I would l i k e to examine the p o l i t i c a l and s o c i a l climate i n France i n the e a r l y 1830's and i t s impact on romantic theatre. The period i n question begins with the a b o l i t i o n of censorship by the J u l y Monarchy i n August 183 0, and ends with i t s reinstatement i n September 1835. In Popular French Romanticism James A l l e n Smith describes the eighteenth-century emergence i n France of a society based on bourgeois values: T r a d i t i o n a l l y the year 183 0 has marked something of a minor h i s t o r i c a l watershed. Ea r l y h i s t o r i a n s . . . characterized the three glorious days as the completion of a s e l f - c o n s c i o u s l y middle-class revolution that had i t s o r i g i n s i n 1789. For forty-one years i t had been fru s t r a t e d by a succession of regimes--republican, o l i g a r c h i c a l , imperial, and r o y a l i s t . But July brought about at l a s t the p o l i t i c a l triumph of established commercial and f i n a n c i a l e l i t e s embodied i n the c i t i z e n - k i n g Louis-Philippe. . . . (Allen 178) For the writers, the a r t i s t s , and the i n t e l l e c t u a l s who had supported i t , the July Monarchy eventually came to symbolize the f a i l u r e of a great hope. To t h e i r dismay, the monarchy of Louis-Philippe soon proved i t s e l f to be as conservative and repressive as the r e c e n t l y deposed Bourbon regime. As Roger Fayolle states i n an a r t i c l e on nineteenth-century c r i t i c i s m : "The r e v o l u t i o n had been made possible by the active r a l l y i n g of a l l those who had regained confidence i n progress and who refused to acquiesce i n the re-establishment of the old order. The united front of the various trends i n the romantic movement, a l l of which 37 abandoned the defence of a retrograde monarchy i n order to ensure the l i b e r t y of art, appeared as one manifestation, among others, as a r e j e c t i o n of the past" (263). However, les trois glorieuses were not successful i n turning France into a nation united i n i t s support of i t s new great men: i t s p o l i t i c i a n s , professors, generals, poets and a r t i s t s . "A new regime was established," continues Fayolle, "under the protection of Louis-Philippe, a mediocre, bourgeois king, to the advantage of the manufacturers and bankers, and i n the midst of b i t t e r r i v a l r y between f a c t i o n s " (263). Indeed, with the accession of Louis-Philippe, the i n d u s t r i a l bourgeoisie was f i r m l y established as a r b i t o r of taste i n French culture: "The romantics had yearned to be the glorious representatives of a new art welcomed and recognized by h i s t o r y . In f a c t , that art was now regarded as no more than the art of a p a r t i c u l a r school or even chapel, and one much resented and opposed" (Fayolle 263). At the outset, however, the July Monarchy had appeared to espouse more lenient p o l i c i e s concerning a r t i s t i c and i n t e l l e c t u a l freedom of expression. A major step was taken i n August 1830, when Louis-Philippe's government abolished censorship of the press. The famous seventh a r t i c l e i n the new Charter stated: "Les Francais ont l e d r o i t de p u b l i e r et de f a i r e imprimer leurs opinions, en se conformant aux l o i s ; l a censure ne peut jamais etre r e t a b l i e " (qtd. i n Krakovitch Hugo censure 7). In "Les Romantiques et l a censure au theatre," Odile Krakovitch writes: "Le gouvernement de Louis-Philippe qui ne pensait qu'a l a presse . . . donna a i n s i , inconsciemment et probablement contre son gre, l a l i b e r t e a l a parole en meme temps qu'a l ' e c r i t " (56). 38 However, the government's motives for abolishing censorship had i n fac t l i t t l e to do with l i b e r a l i s m . P o l i t i c i a n s knew that the press had enormous power to inflame the public with subversive and revolutionary ideas, yet they also r e a l i z e d the p o t e n t i a l danger of imposing too many r e s t r i c t i o n s . The d r a s t i c steps taken by the Bourbon government to control publishing had backfired, and i t was c l e a r that censorship had, at lea s t i n part, i n d i r e c t l y l e d to the July Revolution. Louis-Philippe was f e a r f u l that any further provocation of the press could lead to his downfall as well, and so, contrary to his i n s t i n c t s , he abolished censorship. As Krakovitch notes, freedom of p u b l i c a t i o n also implied freedom of speech, and t h i s was cause for c e l e b r a t i o n among the romantic playwrights (58). For the f i r s t time i n the h i s t o r y of French theatre, plays could be mounted without government interference, and many works which formerly had been s t r i c t l y p r ohibited were f i n a l l y staged. Not s u r p r i s i n g l y , a great many of these plays contained harsh c r i t i c i s m s of both the monarchy and the bourgeoisie and the conservative, m a t e r i a l i s t i c values they espoused. Louis-Philippe soon r e a l i z e d , a l i t t l e l a t e perhaps, the danger of having re l i n q u i s h e d a l l control to the theatres, "les seuls moyens de culture populaire en ce Paris au t i e r s i l l e t t r e " (Krakovitch "Romantiques" 58). Moreover, i t was inc r e a s i n g l y d i f f i c u l t f o r the government to maintain order i n a society that was constantly on the brink of r e v o l t . The economy was i n recession, food p r i c e s were high, and the working classes were beginning, to agitate f o r better wages and working conditions. A writer at the time observed: "Like the smell of gunpowder . . . r e v o l t was 39 everywhere: i n the streets, i n books, and i n the theatre" (qtd. i n A l l e n 178). The s o c i a l and p o l i t i c a l i n s t a b i l i t y were r e f l e c t e d i n the l i t e r a t u r e of the time, and the theatre was no exception. As a r e s u l t , by 1831 Louis-Philippe was already c a l l i n g f o r a reinstatement of censorship. Ultimately, works such as Robert Macaire. as well as other "subversive" plays which appeared during the next few years, were more than the government could t o l e r a t e . In an attempt to reverse what i t viewed as an increasing trend towards anarchy and vice, the French government re i n s t a t e d censorship by a law passed i n September 1835. A b r i e f period of freedom i n the theatre thus ended. Between 1830 and 1835, Hugo was p r o l i f i c i n terms of his t h e a t r i c a l output. During t h i s period he completed four drames, a l l of which were based on h i s t o r i c a l subjects, and a l l of which were staged. He was also successful i n mounting the previously banned Marion de Lorme (1829). Shortly a f t e r the debacle of Le Roi s'amuse, Hugo completed Lucrece Borgia (1833), a play whose pl o t and themes are s i m i l a r to the former, and i s therefore considered i t s twin. It was followed by Marie Tudor (1833) and Angelo, tyran de Padoue (1835). In order to avoid further problems with the censors, the three plays which succeeded Le Roi s'amuse were set i n sixteenth century England and I t a l y . As long as Hugo steered c l e a r of French h i s t o r y and p o l i t i c s , he was permitted to produce his plays i n r e l a t i v e peace. Noteworthy too i s the fact that these three plays were written i n prose, for reasons which w i l l be discussed momentarily. None of these plays r e t a i n any great hold on the public's a f f e c t i o n , however, and t h e i r importance l i e s perhaps le s s i n 40 t h e i r q u a l i t i e s as dramatic works than i n the prefaces which Hugo composed to accompany t h e i r publication, and which contain an exposition of h i s ideas about the s i g n i f i c a n c e of the theatre and the r e s p o n s i b i l i t y of the writer. The preface to Lucrece Borgia c l e a r l y states t h i s r e s p o n s i b i l i t y : Le theatre, on ne saurait trop l e repeter, a de nos jours une importance immense, et qui tend a s'ac c r o l t r e sans cesse avec l a c i v i l i s a t i o n meme. Le theatre est une tribune. Le theatre est une chaire. . . . L'auteur . . . s a i t que l e drame, sans s o r t i r des l i m i t e s impartiales de l ' a r t , a une mission nationale, une mission humaine. . . . I l ne faut pas que l a multitude sorte du theatre sans emporter avec e l l e quelque moralite austere et profonde. (47-8) The references to the p o l i t i c a l ("tribune") and even the q u a s i - r e l i g i o u s ("chaire") purpose of the theatre seem a f a r cry from the more aesthetic concerns of the "Preface de Cromwell." By now Hugo viewed the theatre as a place where the p u b l i c should be enlightened and educated, and i t was the r e s p o n s i b i l i t y of the dramatist to provide suitable moral lessons. Hugo's departure from the use of verse, which he had so strongly advocated i n 1827, i s d i r e c t l y a t t r i b u t a b l e to his preoccupation with reaching a wider p u b l i c . Moreover, despite his scathing attack on the July Monarchy i n the preface to Le Roi s'amuse, which culminated i n the s a r c a s t i c question "Est-ce q u ' i l y a eu en e f f e t quelque chose qu'on a appele l a revolution de j u i l l e t ? " (448) Hugo's didacticism i n these drames i s not e s s e n t i a l l y p o l i t i c a l . In Marion de Lorme, Le Roi s'amuse and Lucrece Borgia, p o l i t i c a l concerns are downplayed, whereas the themes of morality and f a t a l i t y appear to be of greater concern. It i s perhaps i r o n i c 41 that the government chose to ban Le Roi s'amuse. Although t h i s play contains some provocative l i n e s i n reference to Francois I and the n o b i l i t y , i t i s hardly comparable to Hernani as a p o l i t i c a l c a l l to arms. I would now l i k e to turn to Le Roi s'amuse and discuss the reasons why i t received such a disastrous response, why the government suspended the play a f t e r only one performance, and the ways i n which Hugo attempted to defend his work. Although I discuss the play i n much greater d e t a i l i n the next chapter, i t seems appropriate to give a b r i e f overview of the plo t at t h i s point. The play centres on Triboulet, the hunchbacked j e s t e r who has free r e i n at the court of Francois I. He r i d i c u l e s the noblemen whose wives the King has seduced, and they i n turn plot t h e i r revenge. Both Triboulet and the King are cursed by S a i n t - V a l l i e r , a nobleman whose daughter, Diane de P o i t i e r s has been seduced by the l i c e n t i o u s monarch. Triboulet's daughter Blanche, the epitome of innocence, meets a s i m i l a r fate. Now i t i s Triboulet who swears revenge, and he plots to have the King murdered. However, the buffoon's scheme backfires, and i t i s Blanche who i s k i l l e d , whereas the King escapes unharmed. Since he had been granted permission to stage Marion de Lorme, Hugo's fears of censorship had greatly diminished. They s t i l l hadn't e n t i r e l y disappeared, however, and almost i n s t i n c t i v e l y , Hugo took the precaution of planning a supplementary act i n the eventuality that the censors would t r y to p r o h i b i t Le Roi s'amuse. His i n t u i t i o n proved to be correct, since on 15 November 1832, two weeks before the play was to open at the Theatre-Francais, he was summoned by the ministry. Krakovitch notes: 42 L'entretien roula uniquement sur l e personnage de Francois Ier qui, d'apres l e comte d'Argout, f o u r m i l l a i t d'allusions contre Louis-Philippe. V i c t o r Hugo repondit q u ' i l "n'avait pas 1'habitude de proceder par allus i o n s et qu'en peignant Francois Ier, c'est Francois Ier q u ' i l a voulu peindre." II obtint 1'autorisation. (Hugo Censure 17) The morning of the performance Hugo d i s t r i b u t e d t i c k e t s to his supporters who occupied large sections of the theatre. As the play unfolded, however, i t became apparent that most of the audience was f a r from pleased with what they were watching. Le Courrier des Theatres reported that the reaction of the audience was "melee" and that the two f i r s t acts were applauded "avec transport." However, during the second act "une opposition assez vive s'est declaree, et e l l e n'a point cess£ jusqu'a l a chute du rideau" ( P o u i l l i a r t 445). In her d e f i n i t i v e study of Hugo's plays e n t i t l e d Le Roi et le bouffon. Anne Uberfseld describes the f i r s t performance of Le Roi s'amuse as "un des grands scandales de cette periode pourtant f e r t i l e en representations troublees. Non pas un echec, mais une deroute, une catastrophe" (121). The c r i t i c s were unanimous i n t h e i r condemnation of the play. Merle, writing f o r La Ouotidienne, was disgusted by what he considered as a s u r f e i t of " l ' h o r r i b l e , et de' 1'ignoble, de l a r e a l i t e trop crue" (qtd. i n Krakovitch, Hugo censure 19). According to him, Le Roi s'amuse represented "le Waterloo du Romantisme." Other c r i t i c s attacked the play's language, i t s h i s t o r i c a l innaccuracies, and i n p a r t i c u l a r , the play's moral stance. In Le Roi et l e bouffon Ubersfeld comments: 43 Or ce n'est pas un public de p h i l i s t i n s qui a condamne Le Roi s'amuse. ce sont des ecrivains, des a r t i s t e s , l e s plus e c l a i r e s parmi les banquiers, l e s hommes d'affa i r e s , les directeurs de journaux. Toute l a bourgeoisie organisee, avec toutes l e s nuances de son arc-en-ciel p o l i t i q u e , s'affirme h o s t i l e a l a tentative de Hugo au Theatre-Francais. (127) What was condemned was not the p o l i t i c a l aspect of the play (the audience applauded Triboulet's tirades against the courtiers) as much as i t s blatant v i o l a t i o n of the established moral code. Referring n o s t a l g i c a l l y to the decorum of neo-c l a s s i c a l theatre, the Le Journal des Debats asked: Sont-ce de t e l l e s moeurs que l ' a r t doit exposer aux yeux du public? Est-ce l a que devaient nous mener ces nouvelles fastueuses theories? Dans l e theatre antique, l a royaute p r o s c r i t e et malheureuse a l l a i t se refugier au pied du Cytheron, appuyee au bras d'Antigone; dans notre theatre maintenant, l a royaute ivre vient dormir dans un mauvais l i e u , entre l e s bras d'une f i l l e publique. V o i l a ce qu'on nomme progres! (qtd. i n P o u i l l i a r t 627) Another a r t i c l e i n the same journal offered a succinct analysis of the reasons for the audience's distaste for Le Roi s'amuse: Toutes les f o i s que l'auteur s'elevait a l a passion, j e t a i t dans son dialogue quelques grandes pensees, quelques sentiments v r a i s du coeur humain, alors toutes les sympathies s ' e v e i l l a i e n t , toutes les croyances l i t t e r a i r e s meme, s'empressaient de l u i rendre j u s t i c e ; mais l o r s q u ' i l tombait dans l e bouffon, l e t r i v i a l , l e populaire, aussitot naissaient 1'inattention et le degout. (qtd. i n Ubersfeld Le Roi 127) 4 4 The consensus was that i n writing Le Roi s'amuse, Hugo had v i o l a t e d the foundations upon which French bourgeois culture was based. C l e a r l y Hugo had misjudged his audience, and by aggressively i n f l i c t i n g upon them a type of theatre to which they could only object, he had been the a r c h i t e c t of h i s own f a i l u r e . The government, likewise convinced that Hugo had gone too f a r , was quick to step i n , and on 23 November 1832, further performances of Le Roi s'amuse were prohibited. Hugo was incredulous, since the Charter of 183 0 had expressly guaranteed l i t e r a r y freedom. Moreover, many plays which c r i t i c i z e d the s o c i a l and p o l i t i c a l status quo were being staged without interference. Hugo was j u s t i f i a b l y shocked by the suddenness of the suspension and the lack of explanation f o r i t . Despite the publ i c ' s h o s t i l e reception of Le Roi s'amuse. Hugo hardly expected the play to be permanently suppressed. Two weeks l a t e r the government f i n a l l y issued a terse statement claiming that the play had been suspended on the grounds that "dans un grand nombre de scenes . . . l e s moeurs sont outragees" (qtd. i n Ubersfeld Le Roi 139). It was obvious to Hugo, however, that the play's p o l i t i c a l overtones were the r e a l reason f o r such prompt and •drastic measures. Immediately Hugo launched a two-pronged counter-attack. F i r s t , he mounted a l e g a l case against the Comedie-Francaise f o r breach of contract, and second, he wrote the preface to Le Roi s'amuse, i n which he p i l l o r i e d the July Monarchy and defended both himself and his play. Hugo's r e a l quarrel was with the •government, not with the theatre. However, by launching a case against the Comedie-Francaise, Hugo hoped that the government 45 would be implicated as well. Since i t had taken the unlawful step of imposing censorship, the government had thus prevented the theatre from f u l f i l l i n g i t s contract with the author. Moreover, as Ubersfeld comments i n Le Roi et l e bouffon: "en fai s a n t un proces a l a Comedie-Francaise . . . d'un c e r t a i n sens [Hugo] se r v a i t l e s i n t e r e t s des comediens qui avaient f a i t des f r a i s pour une piece q u ' i l s ne pouvaient pas jouer; s ' i l avait gagn6, i l eut mis l e gouvernement dans un grand embarras" (154). Ultimately, however, the f i g h t was f u t i l e , and Hugo had to admit that the government's power to uphold i t s actions, however reprehensible, was p r a c t i c a l l y l i m i t l e s s . But v i c t o r y or defeat was not the main issue i n the t r i a l of Le Roi s'amuse. As a man who possessed a keen sense of p u b l i c i t y and theatre, Hugo knew that a courtroom drama with himself i n the leading r o l e would be an excellent means of winning p u b l i c support and sympathy. The scope of t h i s chapter does not allow for a d e t a i l e d account of the complexities of the e n t i r e l e g a l b a t t l e . S u f f i c e i t to say that the t r i a l revealed a lack of c l e a r l y defined l e g a l guidelines regarding the the necessity or the use of censorship. The government had abused i t s power i n s i n g l i n g out and suppressing a work which was seen to challenge i t s authority. On 13 December Le National noted that "en depit de l a Charte, l e ministere s'obstine a maintenir l a censure sur les ouvrages dramatiques: car nous ne pouvons donner une autre q u a l i f i c a t i o n a l ' a r b i t r a i r e qui s'arroge l e pouvoir en permettant ou en interdisant l a representation de certaines pieces de theatre" (qtd. i n Ubersfeld Le Roi 141 -2). In his testimony, Hugo c l e a r l y underlined the dangers of a p o l i t i c a l 46 regime which could impose i t s w i l l so f l a g r a n t l y and so c a p r i c i o u s l y on the people. According to him, an act of censorship today could mean a t o t a l loss of c i v i l r i g h t s tomorrow: Aujourd'hui on me f a i t prendre ma l i b e r t e de poete par un censeur, demain on me fera prendre ma l i b e r t e de citoyen par un gendarme: aujourd'hui on me bannit du theatre, demain on me deportera; aujourd'hui l ' e t a t de siege est dans l a l i t t e r a t u r e , demain i l sera dans l a c i t e . De l i b e r t e , de garanties, de Charte, de d r o i t public, plus un mot. Neant. (qtd. i n Uberseld Le Roi 150) Hugo's second l i n e of defense was to write the famous preface to the f i r s t e d i t i o n of Le Roi s'amuse which came out i n the midst of the t r i a l . The preface begins with a reaffirmation that the Charter of 1830 had completely and irrevocably abolished censorship. This act was supposed to guarantee every c i t i z e n the freedom of speech and of pub l i c a t i o n . This freedom also applied to the theatre, since as Hugo argues: "Le theatre n'est qu'un moyen de p u b l i c a t i o n comme l a presse, comme l a gravure, comme l a lithogra p h i e . La l i b e r t e du theatre est done implicitment e c r i t e dans l a Charte, avec toutes les autres l i b e r t e s de l a pensee" (447). Hugo also reminds his readers that the Charter had proh i b i t e d the co n f i s c a t i o n of personal property and that i n se i z i n g the play, the government had f l a g r a n t l y disregarded i t s own law. The suppression of Le Roi s'amuse was thus "un acte monstrueux de censure et d ' a r b i t r a i r e , [et] une v e r i t a b l e c o n f i s c a t i o n ; c'est une propriete violemment derobee au theatre et a l'auteur" (447-8). 47 Hugo then defends his play against the government's charge that i t i s immoral: "La piece est immorale? Croyez-vous? Est-ce par l e fond? V o i c i l e fond. Triboulet est difforme, Triboulet est malade, Triboulet est bouffon de cour; t r i p l e misere qui l e rend mechant" (450). Despite Triboulet's misanthropy and his r o l e i n pushing the King towards vice and tyranny, the f a c t remains that i n l o s i n g Blanche he i s ultimately punished. According to Hugo, t h i s renders the play "moral par 1'invention." Act 2, which contains Triboulet's most savage attack on the n o b i l i t y ("Vous etes tous batards!"), i s nevertheless intended to create an impression that i s "chaste, vertueuse, et honnete." Moreover, Hugo argues that the sordid s i t u a t i o n s depicted i n acts 4 and 5 are hardly unprecedented: "Depuis quand n ' e s t - i l plus permis a un r o i de c o u r t i s e r sur l a scene une servante d'auberge?" Even Maguelonne i s no more brazen than "Toutes l e s L i s e t t e s et toutes les Martons du vieux theatre." Admittedly, Saltabadil's tavern i s "un l i e u s i n i s t r e , t e r r i b l e , h o r r i b l e " , but i t i s not "un l i e u obscene" (452). As was the case with his testimony before the Tribunal, Hugo's main purpose i n the preface was to chastise the government and to a l e r t his readers to what he saw as an i n e v i t a b l e march towards despotism. Ubersfeld states that the preface was "choquante, non seulement par ce qu'elle osa i t dire, en depit de certaines i n f l e x i o n s , mais par l e ton d'ironie d e s t r u c t r i c e . . . par l a hauteur dedaigneuse . . . enfin par une sorte de detachement et hautaine v u l g a r i t e " (Le Roi 114). Hugo expressed i n no uncertain terms his profound disgust for a government that had l o s t i t s nerve and had regressed into pettiness and 48 intolerance: Le moment de t r a n s i t i o n p o l i t i q u e ou nous sommes est curieux. C'est un des instants de fatigue generale et tous l e s actes despotiques sont possibles dans l a soci€t€ meme l a plus i n f i l t r e e d'idees d'emancipation et de l i b e r t e . La France a march6 v i t e en j u i l l e t 1830; e l l e a f a i t t r o i s bonnes journ^es; e l l e a f a i t t r o i s grandes etapes dans l e champ de l a c i v i l i s a t i o n et du progres. Maintenant beaucoup sont harasses, beaucoup sont essouffles, beaucoup demandent a f a i r e h a l t e . . . . A notre avis, l e gouvernement abuse de cette d i s p o s i t i o n au repos et de cette crainte des revolutions nouvelles. II en est venu a tyranniser petitement. I l a t o r t pour l u i et pour nous. (455-6) Echoing his testimony before the court, Hugo states; "L'etat de siege sera leve dans l a c i t e l i t t e r a i r e comme dans l a c i t e p o l i t i q u e " (457). In his preface Hugo thus accused the July Monarchy of a lack of honesty and i n t e g r i t y . The suppression of Le Roi s'amuse on the grounds of immorality was but a smokescreen, part of an elaborate "echafaudage des mauvaises et honteuses raisons" (454) . Although those responsible wouldn't admit to i t , i t was very l i k e l y that one of p r i n c i p a l reasons for the suppression of the play was to make an example of Hugo and his work. According to the poet, " i l s ont voulu a l a f i n , pousses a bout, f a i r e , a travers toutes l e s l o i s et tous les d r o i t s , un exemple sur un ouvrage et un e c r i v a i n " (453). Perhaps, as he believed, Hugo was t r u l y the v i c t i m of "un p e t i t coup d'Etat l i t t e r a i r e " which was supported by a r i v a l "cabale" of arch-conservative p o l i t i c i a n s , a r t i s t s and i n t e l l e c t u a l s . As a po s t - s c r i p t to t h i s chapter i t should be mentioned that 49 Verdi experienced s i m i l a r problems with censorship throughout his career. Rigoletto i n p a r t i c u l a r involved the composer and his l i b r e t t i s t i n a struggle with the censor. As i n France, the most common method by which the various governments i n I t a l y attempted to stem the revolutionary t i d e was to impose s t r i c t censorship laws. The Austrian a u t h o r i t i e s were the most lenient i n the whole of I t a l y , thus Verdi, whose ea r l y years were l a r g e l y spent i n the Austrian t e r r i t o r i e s , suffered l i t t l e i n the way of censorship provided that he was composing f o r Milan or Venice. However, when he t r i e d to introduce his Risorgimento idealism or his dramatic boldness to Rome or Naples, he encountered numerous obstacles. Censorship i n I t a l y was p r i m a r i l y concerned with three issues: p o l i t i c s , r e l i g i o n , and morals. In general, the l a t t e r category was of l e s s e r importance than the former two, although even i n the Austrian t e r r i t o r i e s there was a ban on a great number of romantic dramas, including, not s u r p r i s i n g l y , those of V i c t o r Hugo. The a u t h o r i t i e s were well aware of the scandals created by Hernani and Le Roi s'amuse, and they wished to avoid s i m i l a r disturbances i n t h e i r own domains. The reports of the prefect of the Milan p o l i c e c l e a r l y i l l u s t r a t e the o f f i c i a l view on such matters: "Theatres are designed to correct morals, and must therefore never present anything but moral themes, or i f they present wickedness, i t must be done i n such a way that v i r t u e appears the more glorious and b e a u t i f u l as a r e s u l t " (qtd. i n Kimbell 24). But i t was on p o l i t i c a l issues that the censors were the most s e n s i t i v e . Subjects and si t u a t i o n s that could be 50 interpreted as d i s r e s p e c t f u l towards sovereigns or established governments, expressions of patriotism or l i b e r t a r i a n i s m , mention of conspiracy or assassination of a r u l e r , were a l l regarded with d i s t r u s t . In those parts of the country under more severe rule than i n Milan, p o l i t i c a l overtones often l e d to a l i b r e t t o ' s being d r a s t i c a l l y altered, or suppressed altogether. In A p r i l 1 8 5 0 Verdi became intere s t e d i n Le Roi s'amuse. He brought the subject to the attention of Piave, encouraging him to consider the play's musical p o s s i b l i t i e s : Have a t r y ! The subject i s grand, immense, and there's a character i n i t who i s one of the greatest creations that the theatre of a l l countries and a l l times can boast. The subject i s Le Roi s'amuse and the character I'm speaking about i s Triboulet. . . . As soon as you get t h i s l e t t e r . . . run about the c i t y and f i n d someone of influence to get us permission to do Le Roi s'amuse. (qtd. i n Budden Operas 4 7 7 ) Hugo's drama had remained highly c o n t r o v e r s i a l since i t was banned i n Paris 1 8 years e a r l i e r , but since the Venetian a u t h o r i t i e s had permitted Ernani, Verdi hoped they might also permit Le Roi s'amuse. Inevitably, however, censorship became a serious threat. In the aftermath of the uprisings of 1 8 4 8 , the Venetian a u t h o r i t i e s had become les s tolerant. In any case, Verdi and Piave c e r t a i n l y overestimated the censor's readiness to accept an opera based on Le Roi s'amuse. When the m i l i t a r y governor of Venice, Cavalier de Gorzkowski, eventually got around to performing his censor's duty, he was h o r r i f i e d by the content of the proposed l i b r e t t o . Here was a drama depicting a royal household as a hotbed of debauchery and corruption; a story 51 p i v o t i n g on a curse, a seduction, and an assassination; a l i s t of characters including a l i b e r t i n e monarch, a hunchback buffoon, a professional assassin and his harlot s i s t e r . The whole thing, which Verdi and Piave had e n t i t l e d La Maledizione. was disgusting to him, and was t o t a l l y a l i e n to the noble, humanist t r a d i t i o n s of I t a l i a n opera. In early December Gorzkowski had the following message conveyed to the management of the Fenice: His Excellency . . . has commanded me to inform the Noble Prezidenza [Mazari, president of La Fenice] that he regrets that the poet Piave and the celebrated Maestro Verdi have not been able to choose some other theme on which to exhibit t h e i r talents than one of such repellent immorality and obscene t r i v i a l i t y as the subject of the l i b r e t t o e n t i t l e d La Maledizione. . . . His Excellency has therefore determined absolutely to f o r b i d the performance, and wishes me, at the same time, to admonish the Prezidenza to r e f r a i n from further representations on t h i s matter. (qtd. i n Kimbell 268-9) Verdi was stunned: "Coming so soon a f t e r the 'castration' of S t i f f e l i o [also heavily censored] i t seems to have deprived him, momentarily, of a l l determination and resource. Had things depended upon him at t h i s juncture, i t looks as i f Riqoletto would have got no further" (Kimbell 269). Verdi was furious at his l i b r e t t i s t and blamed him f o r having bungled the a f f a i r . Piave had been commissioned on the understanding that he would be able to obtain the censor's approval, but he had f a i l e d to do so. The weeks that followed saw a complicated and exhausting series of negotiations involving Verdi, Piave, and Guglielmo Brenna (the secretary of La Fenice) on one side, and the General Director of Public Order, one Martello, on the other. It i s i n t e r e s t i n g to 52 note that during these negotiations, Verdi quoted sections from Hugo's preface to Le Roi s'amuse i n order to defend his own a r t i s t i c freedom. Fortunately, Martello proved to be more open-minded than anticipated, and the version of the l i b r e t t o which he approved required only some very minor changes. In a l e t t e r to Martello, Verdi summarized the elements of the story he would be w i l l i n g to change, as well as those which he i n s i s t e d must remain unaltered: 1. The scene s h a l l be changed from the French court to that of an independent Duke of Burgundy or Normandy, or to the court of a minor a b s o l u t i s t I t a l i a n state, preferably that of Pier L u i g i Farnese, and i n the period most suitable for scenic and dramatic e f f e c t . 2. The o r i g i n a l characters of. the drama Le Roi s'amuse by V i c t o r Hugo s h a l l be retained, but other names s h a l l be found for them, dependent on the period chosen. 3. The scene i n which Francesco appears determined to use the key i n his possession to enter the room of the abducted [Blanche] s h a l l be omitted. It s h a l l be replaced by another which preserves the decencies but does not detract from the intere s t of the play. 4. The King or Duke s h a l l come to the rendezvous i n Magellona's tavern as the resu l t of a pretended i n v i t a t i o n brought to him by the T r i b o l e t t o character. 5. In the scene i n which the sack containing the corpse of Tribo l e t t o ' s daughter appears, Maestro Verdi reserves to himself the right to make such changes as he considers necessary. 6. The above-mentioned changes require more time than was o r i g i n a l l y supposed. Therefore Maestro Verdi declares that the new opera cannot be performed before 28 February or 1 March. (qtd. i n Osborne, Verdi 107) Ultimately, Verdi had his way, but i t was not u n t i l the end of January 1851, s i x weeks before the opera's premiere, that the 53 heroic engagement with the Venetian censors ended. The rest of the music was composed very quickly, as Verdi l a t e r admitted that much of the score had been already written some months e a r l i e r . In t h i s chapter I have attempted to i l l u s t r a t e the extreme cont r o l that many governments exercised over a r t i s t s during the f i r s t h a l f of the nineteenth century. As we have seen, Hugo and Verdi were not exempt from t h i s rule, and censorship b a t t l e s would continue to f r u s t r a t e t h e i r creative endeavors f o r many years. Nevertheless, the two men demonstrated uncommon tenacity i n t h e i r resistance to p o l i t i c a l regimes which t r i e d to s t i f l e t h e i r p o l i t i c a l , moral and aesthetic views. Although some defeats were inev i t a b l e , r e a l progress was made i n the f i g h t f o r a r t i s t i c and i n t e l l e c t u a l freedom. Hugo may have l o s t the court b a t t l e over Le Roi s'amuse, for example, but the t r i a l at least had the e f f e c t of slowing down the re-establishment of a p o l i c y of censorship. 54 C H A P T E R 4 LE ROI S'AMUSE A N D RIGOLETTO: F R O M F A I L U R E T O S U C C E S S With the creation of Riaoletto i n 1851, Verdi took I t a l i a n opera to unprecedented heights. This opera, and the two which immediately followed i t - - I I Trovatore and La Traviata (both premiering i n 1853)--represented the f u l l flowering of Verdi's genius as a dramatic composer. Moreover, many musical scholars a f f i r m that Rigoletto was t r u l y revolutionary, f o r i n t h i s work the composer rejected many of the conventions that had governed e a r l y I t a l i a n romantic opera. Once audiences and c r i t i c s became used i t s innovative and sometimes even shocking q u a l i t i t e s , R igoletto established i t s e l f as one of most enduringly popular operas ever written. By contrast, Le Roi s'amuse. the play which was the i n s p i r a t i o n f o r Rigoletto, i s considered by many as a c r i t i c a l and a p u b l i c f a i l u r e . Many scholars speculate that even i f i t had not been abruptly suppressed, the play would most c e r t a i n l y have f a i l e d due to i t s inherent weaknesses as a dramatic work. Despite the almost universal condemnation of Le Roi s'amuse, Verdi was g r e a t l y impressed by i t . As mentioned i n the preceding chapter, he found the play to be "grand" and "immense." He even described Triboulet as a "creation worthy of Shakespeare" (qtd. i n Budden Operas 4 7 7 ). This was high praise indeed f o r a work which had been d e c i s i v e l y rejected by audiences and c r i t i c s a l i k e . The comparison with Shakespeare i s s i g n i f i c a n t , since for some time Verdi had been considering the p o s s i b i l i t y of basing an opera on King Lear. In fact, t h i s play would become a l i f e - l o n g 55 obsession f o r the composer, even though the project was never r e a l i z e d . 3 Given the s i m i l a r i t i e s between Le Roi s'amuse and Shakespeare's drama, i t i s easy to comprehend why Verdi was drawn to Hugo's play. Both Kincr Lear and Le Roi s'amuse are tragedies of p a t e r n i t y and self-deception. Like Lear, Triboulet plays a r o l e - - a l b e i t an unwitting one--in the destruction of h i s beloved daughter. Despite t h e i r power and influence, the two protagonists are unable to prevent the s e r i e s of h o r r i f i c events that fate has condemned them to. Conscious of the p a r a l l e l s between the two plays, Verdi's dramatic i n s t i n c t s t o l d him that Le Roi s'amuse had considerable operatic p o t e n t i a l . Indeed, the composer's enthusiastic praise of Hugo's play indicates his willingness to overlook many of i t s inherent flaws, as well as i t s h i s t o r y of scandal and f a i l u r e . Verdi thus i n s i s t e d that the l i b r e t t o should r e f l e c t Hugo's work as much as possible. His wish was l a r g e l y r e a l i z e d , since apart from the change i n s e t t i n g and the a l t e r a t i o n of most of the names, Piave's text c l o s e l y p a r a l l e l s Le Roi s'amuse. I r o n i c a l l y , however, i n t h e i r desire to emulate Le Roi s'amuse. Verdi and Piave succeed i n creating an opera which, on several l e v e l s , f a r surpasses Hugo's play. In t h i s chapter I w i l l examine how many of the weaknesses of Le Roi s'amuse are overcome i n Riqoletto. Despite obvious s i m i l a r i t i e s between the two works, there are notable differences 3Howarth notes: "It has been suggested by J u l i a n Budden that i n Riqoletto the composer r e a l i z e s his ambition to 'blend the comic and the t e r r i b l e i n Shakespeare's manner'; while the same c r i t i c , r e f e r r i n g to Verdi's obsession with King Lear, elsewhere c a l l s R iqoletto 'one of the Lears that might have been'" ("From Le Roi s'amuse to Riqoletto" 83-4). 56 which ensure much of the opera's success. The f i r s t section of the chapter i s devoted to a comparison of Hugo's play and Piave's l i b r e t t o . By juxtaposing the two texts I hope to demonstrate that Piave's i s the more successful i n i t s a b i l i t y to create and sustain dramatic tension. In the the second part of t h i s chapter I discuss the importance of Verdi's music to the enduring success of Rigoletto. The l i b r e t t o and the play Considering his h o s t i l e reaction to Ernani. i t i s not sur p r i s i n g that Hugo expressed s i m i l a r sentiments towards Rigoletto. In the case of the l a t t e r opera, the writer resented what he viewed as the demotion of his drama into a "mere l i b r e t t o " (Martin 275) . 4 But had Hugo taken the time to acquaint himself with the text of the opera, he may have changed his views. Although Piave's l i b r e t t o retains much of Hugo's story, i t also represents some r e a l improvements. In the cases where Piave deviates from the play, either by necessity or by choice, the story usually gains i n dramatic power. The most obvious difference between the two texts i s that the l i b r e t t o i s much shorter. Not only i s the number of l i n e s g reatly reduced (the play contains 1660 l i n e s as compared to the l i b r e t t o ' s 705), but the acts are reduced from f i v e to three. Also reduced i s the number of ro l e s . In Le Roi s'amuse there are twenty characters l i s t e d as well as a unspecified number of non-4Moreover, Hugo was adamant that Rigoletto should not be performed i n Paris, and due to his influence, i t was s i x years before Parisians were able to hear t h i s masterpiece. 57 speaking roles, whereas i n Riqoletto Piave reduced the number to t h i r t e e n . The l i b r e t t i s t compensates fo r the loss of these characters by making use of the chorus who speak as a s i n g l e voice, i n t e r j e c t i n g and commenting on the action. Piave presents the story i n four tableaux which mirror the f i r s t four acts of Le Roi s'amuse (much of act 5 i n the play i s omitted f o r reasons I w i l l address l a t e r ) . Act 1 of Riqoletto i s based on acts 1 and 2 of Le Roi s'amuse. A f t e r a b r i e f though ominous orchestral prelude, the c u r t a i n r i s e s on a scene of g l i t t e r and gaiety. Hugo t e l l s us that i t i s a "fete de nuit au Louvre" during the reign of Francois I. The year i s stated as "152-." A night of revelry i s drawing to a close, and as Hugo's stage d i r e c t i o n s indicate, "une certaine l i b e r t e regne; l a fete a un peu l e caractere d'une orgie" (461). Since i t was agreed that the opera's s e t t i n g could not be h i s t o r i c a l l y accurate (thus making i t impossible to s u l l y the reputation of any past monarch -French, I t a l i a n , or otherwise), Piave moves the action to the court of an imaginary duke of Mantua. Both playwright and l i b r e t t i s t waste l i t t l e time i n getting r i g h t to the story, and t h e i r opening scenes contain a great deal of r e s t l e s s a c t i v i t y . Like the King i n the play, the Duke mentions to Borsa (Hugo's de l a Tour-Landry) that he wants "to bring to a head [his] adventure with the unkown beauty of the town." He i s r e f e r r i n g to Gilda (Blanche) whom he has. noticed i n church. Like his Hugolian counterpart, the Duke suddenly abandons his thoughts of Gilda to pursue the Countess Ceprano (Madame de Cosse). Both the music and the words of his b a l l a t a "Questa o quella" c l e a r l y reveal his philosophy (and his 58 hypocrisy) on romantic matters: "This woman or that, to me they're just the same / As a l l the others I see around me." As i n the play, the s t y l i z e d courtliness of the Duke's f l i r t a t i o n s i s suddenly demolished by the i n t e r r u p t i o n of Rigoletto, appearing out of nowhere to throw an i n s u l t at Ceprano. Godefroy notes that the entry of Rigoletto i s subtle: "He i s the protagonist; but i n t h i s b r i l l i a n t gathering of the n o b i l i t y he i s a cipher, lumbering with a b i t t e r heart i n a twisted body" (199). While the Duke and his j e s t e r are o f f stage for a few moments, the courtiers discuss the sensational r e v e l a t i o n that the j e s t e r has a "mistress." Hugo's "Triboulet l a nuit se change en Cupido" (1.2.144) i s echoed by "II gobbo i n Cupido or s'e transformato." Since many of the characters i n t h i s scene have been absorbed by the chorus (only de Cosse, Marot and de La Tour-Landry remain as Ceprano, Marullo, and Borsa respectively) a great deal of the play's a l l u s i o n and repartee at t h i s point has been l o s t . Although they have s a c r i f i c e d t h e i r p e r s o n a l i t i e s , Piave ensures that the courtiers at least preserve t h e i r i d l e s u p e r f i c i a l i t y . We do we miss Hugo's acid-tongued Triboulet, however, for the dramatist took pains to show us why the c o u r t i e r s a l l hated him. For example, Triboulet provokes de Cosse with such impudent l i n e s as "Ou done est l a necessite / De ne pas vous couper l a tete?" (1.4.263-4) The l i b r e t t o now c a l l s for a crowd of dancers to f l o c k on to the stage as the chorus sings " A l l i s gaiety and pleasure, / Everything i n v i t e s us to enjoyment! See, does t h i s not seem / The very kingdom of revelry?" This contrasts with the s i n i s t e r p l o t t i n g s of the courtiers against Rigoletto as well as sets the 59 scene f o r the f i r s t of several coups de th.ei.tre devised by Hugo. Above the revels of the cou r t i e r s emerges the lone voice of Monterone, demanding an audience with the Duke. Based on Hugo's S a i n t - V a l l i e r , Monterone i s a venerable o l d nobleman whose daughter, Diane de P o i t i e r s , has been "ternie, s o u i l l e e , deshonoree, brisee" by the King. S a i n t - V a l l i e r ' s a r r i v a l puts a sudden end to what he describes as the court's "orgies." In a 7 3-line morceau de bravoure he r a i l s against the King's debaucheries, and swears vengeance. Although his tirade i s eloquent, i t s excessive length interru p t s the flow of the story, and i s the f i r s t of several occasions i n Le Roi s'amuse where Hugo allows poetry to take precedence over drama. In the l i b r e t t o , on the other hand, the cause of Monterone's anger with the Duke i s described i n much b r i e f e r terms: the nobleman refe r s only to a "father's g r i e f " and to the "atrocious i n s u l t " to h i s family. T y p i c a l l y , Piave's version of t h i s scene progresses much more rapidly, thus allowing the dramatic tension of Monterone/s confrontation with the c o u r t i e r s to continue without i n t e r r u p t i o n . Like Triboulet, R i g o l e t t o does what he can to make the o l d man look f o o l i s h , and here Verdi's supreme a b i l i t y to portray character through music i s f u l l y evident. Godefroy remarks that Rigoletto's . . . t a s t e l e s s deportment i s accurately depicted by the stri n g s , which swagger d e f i a n t l y as he moves, aping his insolent gestures and hollow heroics . . . . Having taken up his position, the buffoon taunts the o l d nobleman about his daughter's dishonour. . . . A twisting figure i n the orchestra s u c c i n c t l y portrays the bent mind and body of the clown. (201) 60 What follows i n the play i s S a i n t - V a l l i e r ' s "malediction" which sets i n motion the unstoppable mechanism of F a t a l i t y : Soyez maudits, tous deux! --Sire, ce n'est pas bien. Sur l e l i o n mourant vous lachez votre chien! Qui que tu sois, valet a langue de vipere, Qui f a i s r i s e e a i n s i de l a douleur d'un pere, Sois maudit! --J'avais d r o i t d'etre par vous t r a i t e Comme une majeste par une majeste. Vous etes r o i , moi pere, et l'age vaut l e trone. Nous avons tous l e s deux au front une couronne Ou nul ne doit lever de regards insolents, Vous, de fleur s - d e - l y s d'or, et moi de cheveaux blancs. Roi, quand un sacrilege ose i n s u l t e r l a votre, C'est vous qui l a vengez; --c'est Dieu qui venge l'autre! (1.5.383-94) Since S a i n t - V a l l i e r ' s curse i s expressed i n the same eloquent vein as his preceding tirade (except f o r his i n s u l t i n g reference to Triboulet as "tu"), i t lacks some of the directness that Piave's shorter passage achieves. C l e a r l y both the l i b r e t t i s t and the composer understand how cen t r a l Monterone's curse i s to the drama. Indeed, while Rigoletto was s t i l l i n the planning stages, Verdi advised Piave: The whole theme l i e s i n that curse, which also becomes [the] moral. An unhappy father who weeps over h i s daughter's honour, which has been stolen; mocked by a court j e s t e r , whom the father curses; and t h i s curse s t r i k e s the j e s t e r i n the most t e r r i f y i n g way, [al l ] t h i s seems moral to me and great, stupendously great. Be sure that [Saint-Vallier] should appear only twice (as i n the French play), and say a very, very few, strong, prophetic words. I say again that the whole theme l i e s i n that curse. (qtd. i n Phillips-Matz 266) Piave thus gives Monterone the following explosive outburst: "May you both be accursed!"/ 'Tis base, o Duke, to set your curs upon 61 •a dying l i o n , " which i s followed by l i n e s d i r e c t e d at Rigoletto alone: "And you, v i l e snake, / Who mock at a father's g r i e f , / My curse be upon you!" (1.6) The e f f e c t of these words i s immediate, and Rigoletto's smugness i s replaced by stunned t e r r o r . Hugo concludes act 1 as S a i n t - V a l l i e r i s l e d o f f to prison, but Piave and Verdi choose to end the act with an e x c i t i n g ensemble f i n a l e . While the c o u r t i e r s express t h e i r i r r i t a t i o n at Monterone's in t r u s i o n , Rigoletto, almost speechless with fear, can only repeat "What do I hear! Horror!" The second tab2eau of act 1 i s based on act 2 of Hugo's play. The night-time s e t t i n g provides an e f f e c t i v e contrast to the l i g h t and splendour of the previous scenes. As i n Le Roi s'amuse, the stage i s divided. On one side we see the courtyard of Rigoletto's modest house, with i t s enclosed terrace and garden. On the other side i s the darkened street, flanked by Rigoletto's high garden wall. On the second f l o o r of the house there i s a balcony which i s high enough to be seen from the s t r e e t . In the background the Hotel de Cosse becomes the Palazzo d i Ceprano. Rigoletto enters the dark gloom of the s t r e e t . His opening words, "The o l d man cursed me" are exactly those which Tribo u l e t u t t e r s at the beginning of act 2 i n Le Roi s'amuse: "Ce v i e i l l a r d m'a maudit!" Sparafucile (Saltabadil) makes his appearance. He i s a h i r e d assassin who o f f e r s his services with the " s e l f -conscious rectitude of an honest tradesman," (Budden Operas 492) claiming simply to be a man "who for a modest fee / Would r i d you of a r i v a l . 1 1 Here Piave manages to r e t a i n much of the cloak and 62 dagger atmosphere of the play with i t s undercurrent of black humour. Out of t h i s dialogue Verdi creates a duet which "recaptures a l l of the gallows-humour of the o r i g i n a l " (Budden Operas 492). In the play Sa l t a b a d i l ' s e x i t i s followed by another extended, impassioned monologue. Triboulet laments h i s fate as a p h y s i c a l and a moral grotesgue--a monster created by nature and society. Having dropped the mask of the court j e s t e r with his "langue aceree," he appears as a man who i s f e a r f u l and vulnerable. Moreover, he i s ashamed of the conduct that his p u b l i c r o l e demands of him: Ah, l a nature et les hommes m'ont f a i t Bien mechant, bien cruel et bien lache en e f f e t ! 0 rage! etre bouffon! 6 rage! etre difforme! Toujours cette pensee! et qu'on v e i l l e ou on dorme, Quand l e monde en revant vous avez f a i t l e tour, Retomber sur c e c i : Je suis bouffon de cour! Ne vo u l o i r , ne pouvoir, ne devoir et ne f a i r e Que r i r e ! --Quel exces d'opprobre et de misere! (2.2.463-70) It i s obvious that Hugo wants the reader to understand and even to p i t y the hunchback. But despite the outpouring of emotion, Tr i b o u l e t i s almost too a r t i c u l a t e i n the expression of h i s s u f f e r i n g s . Although he t a l k s at length about h i s excessive misery, much of the emotion that Triboulet i s attempting to describe i s l o s t i n the endless floods of h i s poetry. Piave, however, i s able to convey the essence of t h i s 74-l i n e speech i n just 20 l i n e s . Like Triboulet, Rigoletto begins by equating himself with Sparafucile: "We are a l i k e ! I with my tongue, / He with a dagger; I am the man who mocks, / He the one 63 who slays . . . " The l i n e s which follow--"0 rabbia . . . Esser difforme . . . Esser buffone . . . / Non dover, non poter a l t r o che ridere"--echo Triboulet's l i n e s . F i n a l l y , Rigoletto lashes out at h i s oppressors: "I loathe you, you sneering c o u r t i e r s ! / How I love to s t i n g you! / If I am e v i l you alone are the cause!" For h i s part, Verdi r e s i s t s the temptation to develop t h i s monologue into an extended, formal a r i a , as many composers would have done. Instead he keeps to r e c i t a t i v e , judging that Rigoletto's emotional turmoil i s better conveyed by t h i s l e s s structured form. For the remainder of act 1, Piave makes few changes to Hugo's p l o t . Rigoletto enters his garden where Gilda awaits him. Like Blanche, Gilda i s a symbol of beauty and innocence. She i s the i d e a l i z e d a n t i t h e s i s to the corruption of the outside world--a world from which she has always been sheltered. Blanche i s one of Hugo's characters who are a pure embodiment of the sublime. Moreover, i t i s through his love f o r Blanche that Triboulet i s morally redeemed and i s able to transcend h i s lowly s t a t i o n as a grotesque. Like her counterpart i n the play, Gilda knows almost nothing about her father or her dead mother, but Rigoletto i s u n w i l l i n g to enlighten her. He shares Triboulet's fear that his daughter may be tempted to leave the confines of t h e i r walled garden, that she might be seen, seduced, and l o s t for ever. Their duet i s interrupted by Rigoletto's sudden suspicion that someone may be l u r k i n g outside and he breaks off i n mid-phrase to investigate. As he rushes out into the street the Duke, disguised i n "bourgeois dress," s l i p s into the garden and conceals himself. 64 Rigoletto returns to give Gilda a few more words of warning, and departs once more. Rigoletto's.unexplained departure i s a s t r u c t u r a l weakness i n h e r i t e d from Hugo, since the audience i s l e f t wondering why the hunchback should be obliged to go out again so soon without even entering h i s house. If he had pressing business elsewhere, why come home at a l l ? Of course, Rigoletto has to be out of the way fo r Gilda's love scene with the Duke, just as he has to return f o r the dramatic f i n a l e i n which he unknowingly p a r t i c i p a t e s i n his daughter's abduction. In the play Triboulet remarks vaguely that " i l est temps de reprendre mon c o l l i e r , " (2.3.640) but the revels at the Louvre have ended, and i t i s doubtful that the King would be needing his services at t h i s time. Piave's Rigoletto makes no sort of excuse, however. He just sings "Addio" and departs. G i l d a i s now alone with Giovanna, the duenna. Of course the Duke i s l u r k i n g i n the shadows, yet u n t i l now he has contributed but two b r i e f i n t e r p o l a t i o n s : "Rigoletto!" and "Sua f i g l i a ! " Godefroy notes that t h i s contrasts with the play, since Hugo's King "indulged i n much by-play over the bribery of Dame Berarde. His comment on discovering that the g i r l i s the j e s t e r ' s daughter--'1'histoire est impayable.1 ' --gives an insolent bravado to the escapade" (205). Not r e a l i z i n g that the Duke can overhear her, Gilda confides i n Giovanna. She fantasizes about the unknown stranger whom she has seen i n church, saying that she would love him even more i f he were poor. These sentiments p a r a l l e l those of Blanche when she says "Je ne voudrais pas q u ' i l fut seigneur n i prince. / Mais un pauvre e c o l i e r qui vient de sa 65 province" (2.4.693-4). The Duke suddenly emerges from his hiding-place. Gilda c r i e s for help but the Duke has sent Giovanna away. She begs the intruder to leave, but he w i l l not hear of i t . They are soon caught up i n a passionate duet i n which the Duke's words are a seductive ploy to which the simple Gilda n a t u r a l l y responds. Before he departs, the Duke states that h i s name i s G u a l t i e r Malde (obviously derived from Hugo's Gaucher Mahiet), and that he indeed i s a poor student. Once she i s alone, Gilda muses on his name. In the play Blanche murmurs: "Gaucher Mahiet! nom de c e l u i que j'aime, / Grave-toi dans mon coeur!" (2.5.766-7) In the opera, however, Piave and Verdi seize upon t h i s utterance and transform i t into the a r i a which brings Gilda so completely to l i f e : Dearest name which f i r s t Made my heart beat f a s t , You f i l l my mind With v i s i o n s of love's d e l i g h t ! My thoughts and desires Now f l y to you f o r ever And with my l a s t breath I ' l l u t t e r that sweet name. For a l l i t s s i m p l i c i t y , "Caro nome" i s a p e r f e c t l y conceived expression of Gilda's character, one which captures her f r a g i l i t y , her c l o i s t e r e d prudery, her tentative yearning. Her music also allows us an emotional connection with Gilda which the corresponding moment i n Hugo's play does not provide. "Caro nome" i s one of the best examples of Piave and Verdi using some very basic dramatic material to create a character who i s both ca p t i v a t i n g and convincing. 6 6 The act concludes with the kidnapping of Gilda and i n which Rigoletto unwittingly p a r t i c i p a t e s . The events unfold almost exactly as they do i n the play, and c a l l for the same suspension of d i s b e l i e f by the audience. Although the scene i s awkwardly contrived, Piave recognizes i t s importance to the story and resigns himself to getting i t over with as quickly (and as painlessly) as possible. Perhaps to compensate f o r the u n r e a l i t y of the events taking place on the stage (or even to d i s t r a c t us from them), Verdi contributes one of his best known choruses, " Z i t t i , z i t t i moviamo a vendetta" ("Quietly, q u i e t l y we work at our revenge"). Sung sotto voce by the courtiers, " Z i t t i , z i t t i " conveys t h e i r mischievious glee. Gilda i s dragged out, bound and gagged. The courtiers cry " V i t t o r i a ! " and disappear into the night with t h e i r victim. Rigoletto f i n a l l y r e a l i z e s that something i s wrong and tears off the b l i n d f o l d . Seeing the door of his house wide open and Gilda's shawl on the ground, he rushes into the courtyard, c a l l i n g her name. After a great e f f o r t , Rigoletto at l a s t c r i e s out "Ah! l a maledizione!" and collapses. The second act of the opera, based on act 3 of Le Roi s'amuse, takes place i n a h a l l of the Duke's palace. At t h i s point there i s a departure from the play as demanded by the Venetian censor. In Le Roi s'amuse the King brandishes a key which he uses to gain entry to the bedroom where Blanche has taken refuge. However, due to the censor's insistence that the "key scene" be omitted because of i t s sexual overones, Piave was obliged to invent an alternative to t h i s scenario. In Le Roi s'amuse the King i s party to Blanche's abduction, whereas i n Rigoletto i t happens without his knowledge. In despair, the Duke 67 thinks that Gilda has been taken from him and believes, at least for the moment, that she i s the one person i n the world who could have in s p i r e d him with l a s t i n g love. To portray his depressed state, Verdi and Piave devised a f a i r l y conventional scena which begins with a r e c i t a t i v e , " E l l a mi fu ra p i t a ! " ("She was stolen from me!") The a r i a which follows, "Parmi veder l e lagrime," i s rather surprising, for i t seems almost too be a u t i f u l , tender and sincere, and appears to c o n f l i c t with everything we know about the Duke's character. Up to t h i s point we have seen him only as a l i b e r t i n e and a hypocrite, devoid of morals or a conscience. But unlike Hugo i n his one-sided portrayal of the King, Verdi and Piave want to show us that the Duke i s a human being, and not a monster. Although t h i s scene has been heavily c r i t i c i s e d and i s often omitted i n performance, i t i s i n fact a masterly stroke of characterization. Budden notes: "To the compulsive amorist the woman [the Duke] desires but i s prevented from having i s pr e c i s e l y the one with whom he could happily have shared the rest of his days. It i s not so much an insincere as a sel f - d e c e i v i n g emotion. . . " (Operas 4 9 9 ) . The following scene, i n which Rigoletto confronts the cour t i e r s about Gilda's abduction, i s again based on s i m i l a r events i n Le Roi s'amuse. At t h i s point i n the play we witness Triboulet's t r a n s i t i o n from the defiant court j e s t e r to the despairing and humiliated father. It i s another bravura scene c a r e f u l l y engineered by Hugo for maximum dramatic e f f e c t . Admittedly, there are some ex c i t i n g moments, for example the coup de theatre where Triboulet y e l l s out "Je veux ma f i l l e ! " and at which the courtiers r e a l i z e t h e i r mistake i n thinking that 68 Blanche i s his mistress. This i s followed by the infamous l i n e s i n which Triboulet gives f u l l vent to his hatred of the c o u r t i e r s : Courtisans! courtisans! demons! race damnee! Vos meres aux laquais se sont prostituees! Vous etes tous batards! (3.3.988-1017) As i n the play, the courtiers watch with cruel amusement as Rigoletto looks everywhere for signs of his daughter. He accosts Ceprano and hints that he i s aware of Gilda's abduction, but the nobleman denies any knowledge of the events of the previous night. Eventually the truth tumbles out and Rigoletto at l a s t r e a l i z e s that Gilda i s i n the palace, and even worse, she i s with the Duke. He demands that his daughter be returned to him. Everyone i s s t u p i f i e d : "His daughter!" Rigoletto hurls himself at the door of the Duke's bedchamber, but i s repulsed by the c o u r t i e r s . He lashes out at them with " V i l e , damnable race of c o u r t i e r s , " but does not go so f a r as to include Triboulet's infamous reference to t h e i r legitimacy. Howarth comments on Piave's more concise adaptation of Triboulet's t i r a d e : But whereas i n Hugo's play [Triboulet's] t i r a d e develops into a tour de force of ninety l i n e s , broken only by the b r i e f e s t of i n t e r j e c t i o n s by one or another of the courtiers, who bar his passage as he seeks to follow his daughter into the king's apartment, Piave and Verdi reduce t h i s into two short stanzas, one on either side of Rigoletto's s c u f f l e with the c o u r t i e r s ; the f i r s t i s an angry, vehement outburst, the second the pathetic plea of a broken man. ("From Le Roi s'amuse" 82) 6 9 At t h i s point i n the play Blanche suddenly emerges from the the King's bedroom. Hugo describes her as being "eperdue, egaree, en desordre," and Gilda's appearance i s s i m i l a r l y disheveled. Hugo makes i t c l e a r that Gilda has been raped, but Piave, ever mindful of the censors, i s not so e x p l i c i t . When Blanche mutters " l a honte . . . " Triboulet understands. Shaking with rage, he c r i e s "Oh! 1'infame!--Elle aussi!" Gilda, on the other hand, refers only to "Those men who c a r r i e d me o f f / And brought me here by force / In most cruel anguish." As with the ommission of the key scene, Piave again avoids e x p l i c i t sexual references. However, Gilda implies enough, and her father comprehends. Echoing Triboulet, he c r i e s , "The a l t a r i s overthrown / And a l l i s l o s t ! Weep, my c h i l d , and l e t your tears / F a l l upon my heart." Following t h i s exchange i s a vigorous duet i n which Rigoletto swears vengeance, not only on his own account, but also on behalf of Monterone, who passes by as he i s led o f f to prison. He pauses before a p o r t r a i t of the Duke (Piave's invention), lamenting that his curse was i n vain and that the Duke w i l l continue to prosper. Rigoletto assures him that he i s mistaken, and that he w i l l be avenged. Hugo's single l i n e at t h i s point: "Comte! vous vous trompez. Quelqu'un vous vengera!" (3.4.1158) has an exact counterpart i n "No, vecchio, t'inganni . . . un vindice a v r a i , " which leads into a "marvelous f i n a l e of suspense and tension for which there was no source at a l l i n the text of Le Roi s'amuse" (Howarth "From Le Roi s'amuse 85). In t h e i r cabaletta, father and daughter sing the same music successively, though i n d i f f e r e n t keys. Rigoletto sings of "Revenge, t e r r i b l e 70 revenge /. . . / The j e s t e r knows how to s t r i k e you / L i k e a thunderbolt hurled by God," whereas Gilda begs her father to forgive the man who has betrayed her, but whom she s t i l l loves: Forgive him . . . even as for us A voice from Heaven w i l l c a l l for pardon. (He betrayed me, but I love him: O God, I plead for pardon for his sin!) (2.8) The s e t t i n g of act 3 of Riqoletto corresponds to acts 4 and 5 of Le Roi s'amuse. Once again, the stage i s divided. On one side s i t s Sparafucile's d i l a p i t a t e d tavern, on the other there i s a road which runs along a deserted r i v e r bank. Inside the tavern we see Sparafucile p o l i s h i n g his belt while Gilda and Rigoletto converse outside. She affirms that she s t i l l loves the Duke and believes that he has remained f a i t h f u l . Rigoletto knows otherwise, and hopes that by showing her the truth, Gilda w i l l be cured of her infatuation. They peer through a hole i n the tavern wall as the Duke arrives, dressed as a cavalry o f f i c e r . Almost immediately he bursts into his famous song "La donna e mobile," in s p i r e d by a d i t t y i n Le Roi s'amuse, "Souvent femme v a r i e . " By t h i s time Maddalena (Maguelonne) has entered. Coquettishly she eludes the Duke's advances while Sparafucile s l i p s out to converse with Rigoletto. At t h i s point one of the highlights of the opera--the famous quartet--begins. It i s a b r i l l i a n t piece of vocal writing and, l i k e "Caro nome," i s another example of Piave and Verdi's a b i l i t y to overcome the melodramatic c l i c h e s of Hugo's scenario. The quartet i s based on act 4, scene 2 of Le Roi s'amuse i n which Blanche and Triboulet 71 observe and comment on the f l i r t a t i o n between the King and Maguelonne inside the tavern. Piave provides each character with a s i x - l i n e verse which encapsulates t h e i r emotions at t h i s moment. The Duke, thinking of nothing but the conquest of Maddalena, serenades her with "Lovely daughter of pleasure, / I'm enslaved by your charms." This i s inspired by the King's l i n e where he exclaims "Quelle f i l l e d'amour del i c i e u s e et f o l l e ! " Maddalena, who i s not taken i n by these sentiments, r e p l i e s laughingly, "I know exactly / What your f l a t t e r y i s worth. / I'm f a m i l i a r , handsome s i r , / With advances l i k e these." Gilda, h o r r i f i e d by the spectacle unfolding before her, sings "Ah, I have heard the t r a i t o r / Speak words of love l i k e these to me! / Betrayed, unhappy heart, / Do not break from misery." S i m i l a r l y , Blanche utters "0 trahison!-- L'ingrat!-- Grand Dieu! mon coeur se fend! / Oh! comme i l me trompait!--mais c'est q u ' i l n'a point d'ame!" Rigoletto promises Gilda that he w i l l avenge her: "Hush, and l e t mine be the task / Of exacting vengeance. / It s h a l l be soon, and f a t a l : I s h a l l s t r i k e him down." This r e f l e c t s Triboulet's l i n e : "Pas de pleurs. Laisse-moi te venger!" Despite i t s melodramatic content, act 4 of Le Roi s'amuse i s at least more quickly paced than the three acts which precede i t . By using short l i n e s and matter-of-fact language, p a r t i c u l a r l y i n the f i n a l two scenes, Hugo i s able to create a mood that i s t r u l y dramatic and suspenseful. Moreover, these scenes provide some welcome r e l i e f from the verbosity which weighs down most of the play. Consequently, Piave's task i n t h i s section of the l i b r e t t o i s mostly one of t r a n s l a t i o n . He also retains the storm which provides an appropriate backdrop to the series of events which 72 culminate i n Gilda's death as she s a c r i f i c e s her own l i f e i n order to spare her perfidious lover. The t r i o which Piave and Verdi devise as a lead-up to Gilda's murder begins to b u i l d i n i n t e n s i t y . Like Blanche, Gilda now r e a l i z e s that the Duke no longer loves her, and that she was simply another i n a long l i s t of his conquests. Inexplicably she s t i l l loves him, however, and decides to s a c r i f i c e her own l i f e i n order to thwart Rigoletto's plans to have him k i l l e d . S a i n t - l i k e , Gilda goes to her death, fo r g i v i n g her malefactors, and imploring her father's pardon. At t h i s point i n the play there i s a quick curtain, s i g n a l i n g the end of act 4. Piave, however, chooses not to break the action at t h i s point, thereby allowing the dramatic tension of the scene to continue uninterrupted. At the stroke of midnight Rigoletto returns and knocks at the door of the inn. Sparafucile drags out a sack containing what i s supposed to be the murdered Duke. He o f f e r s to help throw i t i n the r i v e r , but l i k e Triboulet, Rigoletto wants to savour his moment of revenge. Sparafucile bids him goodnight and disappears, leaving Rigoletto alone with p r i z e . In the play Triboulet now embarks on a f i n a l bravura speech i n which he gloats "with half-crazed megalomania" (Howarth "From Le Roi s'amuse" 78) over his imagined v i c t o r y over the King: . . . . Maintenant, monde, regarde-moi. Ceci, c'est un bouffon, et c e c i , c'est un r o i ! Et quel r o i ! l e premier de tous! l e r o i supreme! Le v o i l a sous mes pieds, je l e tie n s . G'est lui-meme. La Seine pour sepulcre, et ce sac pour l i n c e u l . Qui done a f a i t cela? He bien! oui, c'est moi seul! (5.3.1483-9) 73 A l l t h i s i s a set-up for the ghastly revelation that awaits him, and i n Hugo's play t h i s ought to be the supreme moment of dramatic suspense. However, for s i x t y - s i x l i n e s Triboulet declaims over what he imagines to be the body of the King, and by the end of t h i s speech our suspense wanes considerably. Since the play has just recently gained some much-needed energy and excitement, Triboulet's oration at t h i s c l i m a c t i c moment seems out of place. Despite i t s r h e t o r i c a l b r i l l i a n c e , t h i s speech only underlines the d e f i c i e n c i e s of Hugo's dramatic technique. Howarth comments: This passage i s t y p i c a l of Hugo's grandiose imagination; with i t s f a n c i f u l dialogue between God and the earth, i t looks forward to the more vis i o n a r y pieces of the Legende des s i e c l e s . There i s no denying the power of the writing; but the incongruity of such apocalyptic fantasies, when put into the mouth of a court jester, i s inescapable. ("From Le Roi s'amuse" 78-9) By contrast, Piave reduces t h i s long, vehement outburst to a b r i e f solo which conveys the g i s t of the f i r s t dozen l i n e s of Hugo's scene. He makes no attempt, however, to reproduce the twenty l i n e s i n which Triboulet's soliloquy digresses into philosophical abstractions. As Rigoletto i s about to heave the sack into the r i v e r he hears the voice of the Duke singing "La donna e mobile," which p a r a l l e l s the King's r e p e t i t i o n of "Souvent femme va r i e . " This i s another coup de theatre taken d i r e c t l y from the play, for i n a few seconds the t e r r i b l e truth i s discovered. Rigoletto cuts open the sack and a f l a s h of l i g h t n i n g reveals his daughter's 74 face. He i s h o r r i f i e d , but his senses do not deceive him. He hears the f a i n t voice of Gilda, who i s barely a l i v e . In a f i n a l short duet, Gilda begs her father to forgive both her and the Duke. A l l the while Rigoletto's urgent phrases break i n upon Gilda's unearthly harmonies, but they are unheard, and f u t i l e . In the middle of a word she dies, and Rigoletto l e t s out a f i n a l anguished cry of "La maledizione!" and collapses over the body of his daughter. The curtain f a l l s as the orchestra thunders out repeated chords of D f l a t minor. The play concludes on a d i f f e r e n t , though arguably le s s powerful, note. After Blanche's death, Hugo has Triboulet desperately ringing a f e r r y b e l l by the Seine. Various people appear, including a surgeon. Triboulet's downfall i s now complete, f o r he who recently taunted the n o b i l i t y at the Louvre i s now abject and quite unrecognized by the passers-by of Paris. However, his f i n a l words--"J'ai tue mon enfant"--seem considerably less forthright and catastrophic than Rigoletto's f i n a l utterance. "Ah! La maledizione!" allows Piave to emphasize more strongly the underlying theme of the story, the implaccablity of Fate--a force which i s as incomprehensible as i t i s unstoppable (Godefroy 222). In t h i s section I have attempted to i l l u s t r a t e some of the reasons why the l i b r e t t o of Riqoletto may be considered more e f f e c t i v e l y dramatic than Le Roi s'amuse i t s e l f . Although i t i s not nearly on the same poetic l e v e l as Hugo's play, Piave's streamlined version of the story i s superior i n i t s a b i l i t y to e s t a b l i s h and to maintain far greater momentum. The l i b r e t t i s t recognizes and successfully exploits those elements i n Le Roi 75 s'amuse which have genuine dramatic power, while at the same time he condenses the play's numerous long speeches. Despite t h e i r l y r i c a l beauty, these monologues are sometimes only marginally relevant to the story, and have the decidedly undramatic e f f e c t of bringing the action to a complete stop. From " v e r s i f i e d melodrama" to operatic triumph As I mentioned at the beginning of t h i s chapter, Le Roi s'amuse contains many flaws as a dramatic work f o r the stage. Most of the i n i t i a l c r i t i c i s m of the play (and the reason for i t s suppression) was i n response to i t s aggressive v i o l a t i o n of a c o l l e c t i v e moral code of conduct--a code which was s p e c i f i c to a p a r t i c u l a r time and place. But beyond the play's moral or aesthetic stance, i t i s very l i k e l y that other inherent problems would have contributed to i t s eventual f a i l u r e . Some of the obvious weaknesses regarding the plot have been pointed out i n the preceding section. But other aspects of the play, such as pacing or character development, pose more serious problems. L i g i e r , who was cast as Triboulet for the play's premiere, found the work extremely moving when i t was f i r s t read to him, e s p e c i a l l y the f i n a l act. But he also t e s t i f i e d to the extreme d i f f i c u l t y of t h i s same act from the point of view of the actor playing the central r o l e . It i s an exceptionally d i f f i c u l t part, both i n i t s unusual length and the emotional i n t e n s i t y c a l l e d f o r . From the end of act 2 onwards, when Triboulet discovers that Blanche has been abducted, there i s a sustained i n t e n s i t y of fe e l i n g , with only a b r i e f respite i n act 4 when the King f l i r t s p l a y f u l l y with Maguelonne. The whole of the l a s t act i s a series 76 of impassioned, even frenzied s o l i l o q u i e s , with l i t t l e c ontribution from the other characters. Another flaw common to Hugo's drames i s the author's d i f f i c u l t y i n creating rounded, convincing characters. In t h i s respect I f e e l that Le Roi s'amuse i s p a r t i c u l a r l y defective. In Triboulet we see an example of characterization by the juxtaposition of quite incompatible elements. As he appears i n act 1, Triboulet i s a rancorous and s p i t e f u l court f o o l , as morally degenerate as the King, and who laughs at the misfortunes of others. This act closes with S a i n t - V a l l i e r ' s "malediction" which seals Triboulet's fate, but despite the goodness and repentance that he l a t e r demonstrates, Triboulet i s not spared. It i s almost as i f r e t r i b u t i o n were f a l l i n g on the head of an innocent person, as i f the sins of the court j e s t e r were being paid f o r by a complete stranger. Indeed, when Triboulet, g r i e f s t r i c k e n at the death of Blanche, asks "6 Dieu! pourquoi?" the answer i s clear neither to him nor to the reader. To summarize, most of Hugo's works for the stage betray his obsession with the "violent, the picturesque, the contrary" (Kimbell 463). Moreover, those q u a l i t i e s which are generally regarded as c r u c i a l to good spoken drama--the a b i l i t y to characterize, to devise plots that develop n a t u r a l l y out of the i n t e r a c t i o n of character and s i t u a t i o n , to impart the dialogues and s o l i l o q u i e s , however beautiful they may be, with a c e r t a i n dynamic that bears upon the course of the drama--appear to have concerned Hugo very l i t t l e . It i s also c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of Hugo's dramatic s t y l e that the t r a d i t i o n a l r e l a t i o n s h i p between poetry and drama i s reversed. In Hugo's plays the purpose of the poetry 77 does not seem to be the development or the i l l u m i n a t i o n of the drama, rather i t i s the purpose of the drama to contrive s i t u a t i o n s i n which the characters can launch themselves into poetic speeches. In some cases these speeches are only tangentally relevant to the main issues of the play. Ultimately, Hugo's ambition to create a new, all-encompasing kind of drama was only p a r t i a l l y r e a l i z e d . Too often i n his plays the scenes of spectacle and the outpourings of emotion are strung along and prompted by a chain of rapid, violent and none-too-rational incidents. As a r e s u l t , a play such as Hernani resembles what Kimbell describes as "a monstrously i n f l a t e d opera l i b r e t t o " (465). Although Kimbell's judgement i s perhaps a l i t t l e severe, i t raises an i n t e r e s t i n g point, since i t was p r e c i s e l y the "operatic" q u a l i t y of Hugo's plays that drew Verdi (and many other composers) to them. So although none of Hugo's plays i s included among the great masterpieces for the stage, many musicians have found them to be i d e a l l y suited f o r musical adaptation. The composer Busoni once stated: "While for the drama there are almost boundless p o s s i b i l i t i e s of material, i t seems that for the opera the only suitable subjects are such as could not ex i s t or reach complete expression without music--which demand music and only become complete through i t " (qtd. i n B a r r i c e l l i 26). This insight may help us understand how Verdi i s able to overcome the d e f i c i e n c i e s of Le Roi s'amuse as a spoken play by giving "complete expression," as Busoni puts i t , to those elements i n the work which have true dramatic p o t e n t i a l . Indeed, from beginning to end, Rigoletto i s f i l l e d with examples where 78 Verdi's music i s able to create a strong emotional response i n the l i s t e n e r . The opening prelude, for instance, f i r m l y establishes the dark, brooding atmospere which pervades the work. Though barely three minutes i n length, the prelude gives us a foretaste of the horror, the shame, the disgust and the despair that w i l l pursue Rigoletto and his daughter to t h e i r catastrophic end. Even the f e s t i v e dance music which signals the beginning of act 1 cannot disp e l our f e e l i n g of impending dis a s t e r . Another example where Verdi's music i s able to create an emotionally charged atmosphere occurs i n the t r i o i n act 3. A musical storm acts as the backdrop to the cli m a c t i c series of events which culminates i n Gilda's murder, and here the composer takes p a r t i c u l a r care to make the scene as e x c i t i n g as possible. At one point the t r i o pauses for a clock to s t r i k e the half hour before midnight, the hour when Rigoletto i s to return to claim h i s p r i z e . Gilda to knocks twice on the door of the inn between peals of thunder. Offstage the chorus hums i n imit a t i o n of the moaning wind, a s t a r t l i n g l y e f f e c t i v e innovation. Knowing that she i s about to die i n order to save the f a i t h l e s s Duke, Gilda knocks for the l a s t time, and i s admitted. The storm suddenly bursts overhead with alarming violence: Verdi l e t s a l l h e l l loose for sixty-three bars with the whole orchestra pouring down torrents together with drummage and cymbalclature and a thunder machine. Woodwind depicts the pattering rain, ' c e l l o s and basses rumble, v i o l i n s race, the chorus adds i t s weirdly gothic moaning. Then oboes, f l u t e s and v i o l i n s f l i c k e r f i t f u l l y as the storm abates i t s fury. (Godefroy 217) Admittedly t h i s scenario contains many melodramatic c l i c h e s that 79 ' could come across as ludicrous i n the hands of a l e s s e r composer. But Verdi i s able to transcend the b a n a l i t i e s of the scene and creates a dramatic moment that i s as plausible as i t i s e x c i t i n g . Whereas Hugo's methods of dramatic characterization have been shown to be i n e f f e c t i v e , Verdi i s more successful i n h i s a b i l i t y to create rounded, believable characters. We see how Gilda i s v i v i d l y brought to l i f e i n "Caro nome." The Duke's arias "Parmi veder l e lagrime" and "Le donna e mobile" are s i m i l a r l y revelatory of his character. Moreover, although both Triboulet and Rigoletto undergo the same swift metamorphosis from the e v i l court buffoon to the loving, morally upright father, Verdi's version of t h i s transformation seems easier to accept. Rigoletto's music allows us to sympathise with his pain, his rage, and his despair to an extent that we cannot with Triboulet. One of the best examples of Verdi's characterization of Rigoletto occurs i n act 2 where the j e s t e r confronts the cou r t i e r s a f t e r Gilda's abduction. Verdi's shortened version of Triboulet's tirade i s presented i n three contrasting sections, "each stage i n his abjection being marked by a further move to the f l a t side of the key" (Budden Operas 501). The f i r s t section, beginning with "Co r t i g i a n i , v i i razza dannata!" has a r e s t l e s s accompaniment which seems to hearken back to Verdi's less mature s t y l e . However, as Budden comments, the orchestration here i s "no mere pedestal for a larger than l i f e character. It absorbs the impetus of the preceding movement and at the same time embodies Rigoletto's impotent despair as he hurls himself at the courtiers" (Operas 501). This i s followed by the slower "Ebben i o piango, Marullo . . . signore" i n which 80 Rigoletto breaks down and weeps while appealing to Marullo's "gentle heart." Budden continues: "The musical pattern i n t h i s section i s one of pleading, to which the v i o l a s give an added poignancy by doubling part of the v i o l i n l i n e at the lower octave" (Operas 501). F i n a l l y , his pride and defiance gone, Rigoletto begs the courtiers to forgive him and to give him back his daughter. Here the instrumentaion takes on the character of chamber music, music of an almost unbearable intimacy as Rigoletto's humiliation i s complete. Howarth, too, stresses the effectiveness of t h i s a r i a . . . whose innovation consists i n the inversion of the t r a d i t i o n a l development, which would have increased i n energy and volume from beginning to end. The reverse development here, together with the much greater economy, shows a considerable increase i n psychological c r e d i b i l i t y , stressing the coherence that Verdi and his l i b r e t t i s t sought to produce i n t h e i r central figure by a synthesis of contrasting elements rather than a bizarre juxtaposition of opposites. ("From Le Roi s'amuse" 83) With Rigoletto. Verdi and Piave had succeeded i n creating an opera that was highly unconventional for i t s time. In t h i s work many of the accepted s t r u c t u r a l and s t y l i s t i c conventions which had governed early I t a l i a n romantic opera were rejected, and the r e s u l t was an e n t i r e l y new kind of t h e a t r i c a l experience. It i s l i t t l e wonder that those who heard Rigoletto f o r the f i r s t time were ba f f l e d , even intimidated, by such innovative and complex music. A review which appeared i n the Gazzetta d i Venezia exemplifies the common reaction of those who heard Rigoletto f o r the f i r s t time: 81 An opera l i k e t h i s cannot be judged i n one evening. Yesterday we were almost overwhelmed by i t s o r i g i n a l i t y ; o r i g i n a l i t y or rather strangeness i n the choice of subject; o r i g i n a l i t y i n the music, i n the st y l e , even i n the form of the pieces; and we d i d not comprehend i t i n i t s entirety. Nevertheless the opera had the most complete success and the composer was applauded, c a l l e d for and acclaimed at almost every piece; two of them had to be repeated. And i n truth, the s k i l l of the orchestration i s stupendous, wonderful: the orchestra speaks to you, weeps fo r you, transfuses passion. Never was the eloquence of sound more powerful. The vocal part was less splendid, or so i t seemed at a f i r s t hearing. It i s quite d i s t i n c t from the st y l e previously employed, since large ensembles are wanting, and a quartet and t r i o i n the l a s t act i n which the musical thought was not even p e r f e c t l y grasped scarcely gained our attention, (qtd. i n Kimbell 279) At the beginning of t h i s section I mentioned Hugo's vehement opposition to the success of Rigoletto. and how he even prevented i t s being performed i n Paris for several years. However, when the opera was f i n a l l y staged i n the French c a p i t a l i n 1857, the author was persuaded to forget his i l l - w i l l towards Verdi and he attended a performance. During the course of the evening Hugo's c r i t i c i s m was replaced by increasingly enthusiastic praise, and at l a s t he acknowledged the composer's genius and the beauty of the opera. It i s reported that at the end of the quartet i n the l a s t act he jumped to his feet and exclaimed: "If I could only make four characters i n my plays speak at the same time and have the audience grasp the words and sentiments of each, I would obtain the very same e f f e c t " (qtd. i n Ga t t i 125). Although Hugo f i n a l l y expressed his admiration both for Verdi and the dramatic p o s s i b i l i t i e s of opera, i t i s tempting to speculate that the poet must also have f e l t a cer t a i n amount of pride i n the knowledge that his play had been the i n s p i r a t i o n for such a masterpiece. 82 Riqoletto could thus be said to represent both a v i c t o r y f o r Verdi and a kind of vi n d i c a t i o n for Hugo. It was almost as Hugo's "Romantic Waterloo" had been refought, and won. 83 C O N C L U S I O N Hugo's verse dramas and Verdi's Risorgimento operas are infused with the revolutionary s p i r i t of European romanticism. However, the view that each held of his own work i n the context of the a r t i s t i c and s o c i a l events of his society was markedly d i f f e r e n t . To V i c t o r Hugo, the maverick, romanticism represented a means by which many a r t i s t i c and s o c i a l freedoms could be won. Hugo was p a r t i c u l a r l y determined to l i b e r a t e French drama from the constraints of n e o - c l a s s i c a l tragedy, a form which had changed l i t t l e since the seventeenth century and which was derided by the romantics as a s t y l i s t i c dinosaur. Beginning with Cromwell and i t s famous preface, Hugo t r i e d to put his dramatic theories into p r a c t i s e . While not always successful, h i s plays were nevertheless both con t r o v e r s i a l and i n f l u e n t i a l . Consequently, works such as Hernani and Le Roi s'amuse are remembered les s f o r t h e i r l i t e r a r y merit than f o r t h e i r s t r a t e g i c importance i n the war against neo-classicism. Like most of h i s contemporaries, Hugo was influenced by the l i t e r a t u r e of other countries and other centuries. For Hugo, Shakespeare was the model f o r the creation of a new kind of drama, one i n which a l l walks of l i f e and a l l the v a r i e t y of nature were represented. Consequently, marked contrast, p a r t i c u l a r l y between the sublime and the grotesque, became Hugo's p r i n c i p a l dramatic technique. He also borrowed heavily from popular melodrama--perhaps too heavily, f o r some c r i t i c s dismiss Hugo's plays simply as well written melodramas. Despite his shortcomings as a playwright i t i s undeniable 84 that Hugo's dramas had a p o s i t i v e influence on French theatre of the 1830's. Perhaps his most important contribution was h i s l i b e r a t i o n of the poetic language from the l i m i t a t i o n s imposed upon i t by the n e o - c l a s s i c a l s t y l e noble. In both Hernani and Le Roi s'amuse Hugo's poetic genius i s s t r i k i n g l y apparent--overflowing with invention and exuberance, yet capable of a most moving l y r i c i s m . Giuseppe Verdi was not the charismatic t r a i l blazer that Hugo was. Although he came to be revered as the greatest I t a l i a n composer of his century, Verdi's e a r l y a r t i s t i c development consisted of a slow and often f r u s t r a t i n g process of a s s i m i l a t i o n and i m i t a t i o n . Rather than impetuously r e j e c t i n g a l l that was sacred, Verdi i n i t i a l l y preferred to work within the boundaries and conventions already established by other composers. In the end h i s apprenticeship served him well, since the astounding innovation that distinguishes such operas as Rigoletto was only achieved by a mastery of t r a d i t i o n a l forms and techniques. Like the French writers of the period, the I t a l i a n composers of opera drew t h e i r i n s p i r a t i o n not only from the past, but from contemporary l i t e r a r y sources as well. Eight of Hugo's plays, f o r example, were set to music before the end of the nineteenth century. The fact that Verdi and other composers were adapting the works of contemporary writers indicates how much I t a l i a n opera s e r i a had changed since the eighteenth century. Like n e o - c l a s s s i c a l tragedy, opera s e r i a had previously r e s t r i c t e d i t s e l f to the portrayal of an arcadian world populated by the gods and heroes of antiquity. These characters were conceived as i d e a l i z e d models of v i r t u e and bore l i t t l e 85 resemblance to r e a l people. But by the 1830's the s i t u a t i o n had changed. Not only were the actual subjects of operas f a r more varied and unconventional, but the cast of characters had been s u b s t a n t i a l l y broadened to represent a l l l e v e l s of society. Luisa M i l l e r (184 9), f o r example, i s a drame bourgeois i n which Verdi portrays the struggles and emotions of ordinary people (Budden Verdi 206-7). As the dramatic element become much more important, composers began to take a more h o l i s t i c approach to t h e i r work. From the q u a l i t y of the l i b r e t t o and the nuances of the score, to the d e t a i l s of costumes and staging, a l l aspects of production were c a r e f u l l y planned and coordinated. The r e s u l t was an e n t i r e l y new kind of opera. Here at l a s t were characters one could believe i n and sympathize with; here was the e n t i r e spectacle of the human heart revealed and animated by v i v i d l y powerful music. Of course, no a r t i s t i n Restoration France or Risorgimento I t a l y was free from the threat of p o l i t i c a l censorship, and both Hugo and Verdi knew too well the i n d i g n i t y of having t h e i r works expunged or banned outright by overzealous o f f i c i a l s . The p o l i t i c a l leaders of these countries were int o l e r a n t of much of what the romantic "rabble", professed and produced. To the Ultras, romantic art represented the d i s i n t e g r a t i o n of c i v i l i z e d s o c i e t y . Plays such as Le Roi s'amuse were viewed as subversive and were quickly suppressed. For the same reason Riqoletto and many other Verdi operas often had to be extensively a l t e r e d before they were allowed to be performed. Hugo was more deliberate than Verdi i n his provocation of the censor's wrath, 86 and r e l i s h e d the p u b l i c i t y incurred by the banning of Le Roi s'amuse and the sensational t r i a l that ensued. Indeed, Hugo f i r m l y believed that his most sacred r e s p o n s i b i l i t y as France's premier homme de lettres was to take a stand against the p o l i t i c a l and i n t e l l e c t u a l Establishment, a group infamous f o r i t s conservatism. Although Verdi was not the p o l i t i c a l extremist that Hugo was, he quite openly supported the I t a l i a n n a t i o n a l i s t cause. Works such as Ernani and La B a t t a g l i a d i Legnano betray Verdi's Risorgimento sympathies, and he i n e v i t a b l y came to be regarded as the o f f i c i a l composer of the movement. Moreover, when he f e l t that his a r t i s t i c freedom was threatened, Verdi, l i k e Hugo, r a r e l y hesitated to challenge h i s oppressors. Although Hugo was a b r i l l i a n t poet, many scholars c r i t i c i z e his s k i l l s as a dramatist. A commonly c i t e d problem i s h i s i n a b i l i t y to devise p l o t s that advance i n a p l a u s i b l e manner, and too often he r e l i e s on a great deal of elaborate stage business borrowed from popular melodrama. More serious d i f f i c u l t i e s are posed by his methods of characterization. T y p i c a l l y Hugo presents characters who are ei t h e r a l l good or a l l e v i l , or he creates s t i l l more u n l i k e l y figures compounded of contrasting c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s without troubling to demonstrate the r e l a t i o n s h i p between them. Despite the v a l i d i t y of many of these c r i t i c i s m s , I also agree with those scholars who assert that the best of Hugo's verse p l a y s - - p a r t i c u l a r l y Hernani and Ruy Bias--belong to a d i s t i n c t l y Hugolian genre: the drame lyrique. Indeed, because of the l y r i c i s m and the emotional i n t e n s i t y that infuses much of t h e i r writing, works such as Hernani, Marion de Lorme, and Ruy 87 Bias create an e f f e c t that i s closer to opera than to spoken drama. Consequently, many of the c r i t e r i a by which plays are normally judged cannot, i n a l l fairness, be applied to Hugo's verse dramas. Howarth comments: With Hugo, r a t i o n a l i s t i c concepts of p l a u s i b i l i t y of characterization are not r e a l l y appropriate. In rHernanil perhaps more than anywhere else i n Hugo's theatre, characters are above a l l vehicles f o r poetic developments of a l y r i c a l , elegaic, or s a t i r i c a l nature. It i s impossible not to be struck by . . . the d i s t i n c t l y operatic q u a l i t y of Hugo's dramatic writing. For the playwright has rejected the l i n e a r p l o t -development of the t r a d i t i o n a l serious drama of the r a t i o n a l i s t neoclassical era, i n which even s o l i l o q u i e s f u l f i l l e d a d i a l e c t i c a l function; i n place of t h i s we have a structure i n which "plot" i s a framework fo r a series of solos and duets, arias and r e c i t a t i v e s . . . ("Hugo and the Romantic Drama i n Verse" 70) Unlike the heroes of neo-classical drama, who are intensely inward looking and constrained by t h e i r p a r t i c u l a r circumstances, Hugo's characters, l i k e Shakespeare's, look outward from the p a r t i c u l a r to the universal. Their imaginative f l i g h t s transcend the l i m i t a t i o n s of context, and i t i s the function of the imagery, l i k e that of the music i n opera, to give memorable, s t r i k i n g form to t h e i r utterances (Howarth "Hugo and the Romantic Drama i n Verse" 70). Seen i n t h i s l i g h t , even Le Roi s'amuse. with i t s cumbersome, melodramatic plot and i t s heavy-handed sublime/grotesque a n t i t h e s i s , contains many passages which convey both a dramatic grandeur and a l y r i c a l beauty. Triboulet's so l i l o q u y i n the l a s t act, for example, although incongruous with his character, i s neverthless a glorious expression of a folie de grandeur (Howarth "Drama" 223), and stands on i t s own as a kind of spoken "concert a r i a " : 88 Songer que s i demain Dieu d i s a i t a l a t e r r e : --0 terre, quel volcan vient d'ouvrir son cratere? Qui done emeut a i n s i l e Chretien, 1'ottoman, Clement-Sept, Doria, Charles Quint, Soliman? Quel Cesar, quel J£sus, quel guerrier, quel apotre, Jette l e s nations a i n s i l'une sur l'autre? Quel bras te f a i t trembler, terre, comme i l l u i p l a i t ? La terre avec terreur repondrait: Triboulet! Oh! j o u i s , v i i bouffon, dans ta f i e r t e profonde. La vengeance d'un fou f a i t o s c i l l e r l e monde! (5.1.1457-66) B a r r i c e l l i affims that whereas Hugo wrote more fo r the reader, Verdi wrote more for the l i s t e n e r . He argues that Hugo's plays succeed on an i n t e l l e c t u a l l e v e l , whereas Verdi's operas speak to our emotions. For t h i s reason B a r r i c e l l i considers Hernani to be "roman manque" while Ernani i s a "drame r e a l i s e " (26). In my opinion, t h i s judgement does not do j u s t i c e to Hugo's achievement as a dramatist. It i s true that most of his plays have f a l l e n i n t o obscurity, whereas Verdi and Piave's adaptations of them--particularly Rigoletto--continue to enjoy popular and c r i t i c a l success. Neverthless, i t was Hugo who provided the o r i g i n a l i n s p i r a t i o n f o r these and other masterpieces of the operatic repertoire. But f a r from simply serving as g r i s t f o r the operatic m i l l , Hugo's verse dramas possess a l y r i c i s m and an exuberance which attest to his poetic genius, and which s t i l l have the power to move us. Like Verdi's operas, Hugo's plays changed the course of French theatre forever. Moreover, l i k e Verdi, Hugo not only d e c i s i v e l y rejected the aesthetic and p o l i t i c a l t r a d i t i o n s of the previous century, but he created something new and b e a u t i f u l i n 8 9 the process. In Chapter 4 I c i t e a review of the premiere performance of Riqoletto which states: "Never was the eloquence of sound more powerful," a judgement which I believe applies as e a s i l y to the music of Verdi's operas as to the poetry that i n s p i r e d them. 90 B I B L I O G R A P H Y PRIMARY SOURCES: Hugo, V i c t o r . Hernani. Hugo: Theatre. Ed. Raymond P o u i l l i a r t . Vol. 1. Paris: Garnier-Flammarion, 1979. 311-440. Hugo, V i c t o r . Le Roi s'amuse. Hugo: Theatre. Ed. Raymond P o u i l l i a r t . Vol. 1. Paris: Garnier-Flammarion, 1979. 461-572. Hugo, V i c t o r . Lucrece Borgia. Hugo: Theatre. Ed. Raymond P o u i l l i a r t . Vol. 2. Paris: Garnier-Flammarion, 1979. 45-142. Hugo, V i c t o r . Preface de "Cromwell". Paris: Flammarion, 1972. Piave, Francesco Maria. L i b r e t t o . Ernani. Music by Verdi. Trans. Mary E l l i s Paltz. New York: Fred Rullman Inc., 1956. Piave, Francesco Maria. L i b r e t t o . Rigoletto. Music by Verdi. New York: Fred Rullman Inc., n.d. Verdi, Giuseppe. Ernani. With Placido Domingo, Renato Bruson, and M i r e l l a Freni. Cond. Riccardo Muti. Orchestra and chorus of the Teatro a l i a Scala. EMI, CDS 7470838, 1983. Verdi, Giuseppe. Rigoletto. With Maria Callas, T i t o Gobbi, and Giuseppe Di Stefano. Cond. T u l l i o Serafin. Orchestra and chorus of the Teatro a l i a Scala. EMI, CDS 7474698, 1955. SECONDARY SOURCES: All e n , James Smith. Popular French Romanticism. Syracuse: Syracuse UP, 1981. B a r r i c e l l i , Jean-Pierre. "Percept and Concept: From Hugo's Hernani to Verdi's Ernani." Le ravonnement int e r n a t i o n a l de V i c t o r Hugo: Actes du symposium de 1'Association Internationale de L i t t e r a t u r e Gomparee (Paris, aout 1985). Ed. Francis Claudon. New York; Peter Lang, 1989. 17-26. Bassan, Fernande. "La reception c r i t i q u e d'Hernani de V i c t o r Hugo." Revue d'histoire du theatre 1 (1984): 69-77. Budden, J u l i a n . Jacket notes. Ernani. By Giuseppe Verdi. EMI, CDC 7470842, 1983. Budden, J u l i a n . The Operas of Verdi. Vol. 1. London: Cas s e l l , 1973 . Budden, J u l i a n . Verdi. London: J.M. Dent and Sons, 1985. Charlton, D. G., ed. The French Romantics. 2 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1984. Coe, Richard N. "Meli-melo-drame ou dramaturges francais et l i b r e t t i s t e s i t a l i e n s . " L i t t e r a t u r e et Opera. Eds. Philippe Berthier and Kurt Ringger. Grenoble: Presses U n i v e r s i t a i r e s de Grenoble, 1987. 55-68. C o l l i n s , Herbert F. Introduction. Hernani. By Hugo. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1968. Comeau, Paul T. Diehards and Innovators: The French Romantic Struggle--1800-1830. New York: Peter Lang, n.d. Coe, J e f f r e y N. In the Shadows of Romance: Romantic Tragic Drama i n Germany. England, and France. Athens: Ohio UP, 1987. Do n a t e l l i , Bruna. "Les Drames de V i c t o r Hugo et l e s l i v r e t s d'opera i t a l i e n s . " Le Ravonnement international de V i c t o r Hugo: Actes du symposium de 1'Association Internationale de L i t t e r a t u r e Comparee (Paris, aout 1985). Ed. Francis Claudon. New York: Peter Lang, 1989. 27-35. Daniels, Barry V. Revolution i n the Theatre: French Romantic Theories of Drama. London: Greenwood Press, 1983. Dauvin, Jacques, and Sylvie Dauvin. "Hernani" 1830--"Ruy Bias" 1838. Paris: Hatier, 1986. Descotes, Maurice. "Du drame a 1'opera: l e s transpositions l y r i q u e s du theatre de V i c t o r Hugo." Revue de l a societe d ' h i s t o i r e du theatre 2 (1982): 103-156. Evans, D. O. Introduction. Hernani. By Hugo. London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1936. F a i r c h i l d , Sharon L. "Les Theories de V i c t o r Hugo appliquees a son theatre." Revue de l a societe d ' h i s t o i r e du theatre 2 (1982): 157-85. Fayolle, Roger. " C r i t i c i s m and Theory." The French Romantics. Ed. D.G. Charlton. Vol. 2. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1984. 248-73. G a t t i , Carlo. Verdi: The Man and his Music. Trans. E l i s a b e t h Abbot. London: V i c t o r Gollancz Ltd., 1955. Gaudon, Jean. "En Marge de l a B a t a i l l e d'Hernani." Europe 671 (1985): 117-26. Gaudon, Jean. "Sur Hernani." Les Dictionnaires de l a langue francaise: Le theatre a l'epooue romantique. Paris: Les Be l l e s Lettres, 1983. 101-20. Gaudon, Jean. V i c t o r Hugo et l e theatre. P a r i s : Suger, 1985. Godefroy, Vincent. The Dramatic Genius of Verdi: Studies of Selected Operas. Vol. 1. London: V i c t o r Gollancz Ltd., 1975. ^ Goldstein, Robert J. " P o l i t i c a l Censorship of the Theatre i n Nineteenth-Century Europe." Theatre Research International 12:3 (1987): 220-39. Halbwachs, Pierre. "A propos de l a ' B a t a i l l e d'Hernani'." Romantisme et P o l i t i q u e 1815-1851 (Collogue de l'Ecole Normale Superieure de Saint-Cloud (1966). Pa r i s : Armand Colin, 1969. 99-109. Hobson, Harold. French Theatre since 1830. London: John Calder, 1978. Howarth, W.D. "Drama." The French Romantics. Ed. D.G. Charlton. Vol. 2. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1984. 205-47. Howarth W. D. "From Le Roi s'amuse to Rigoletto: More Sublime but Less Grotesque?" Ouinquereme 5:10 (1987): 72-87. Howarth W. D. "Hugo and the Romantic Drama i n Verse." V i c t o r Hugo. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1988. 63-84. Jensen, Luke. Giuseppe Verdi and Giovanni Rico r d i with notes on Francesco Lucca: From "Oberto" to "La Traviata". New York: Garland Publishing Inc., 1989. Kimbell, David. Verdi i n the Age of I t a l i a n Romanticism. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1981. Krakovitch, Odile. Hugo Censure: La Liberte au theatre au 19e s i e c l e . Paris: Calmann-Levy, 1985. Krakovitch, Odile. "Les Romantiques et l a censure au theatre." Revue d ' h i s t o i r e du theatre 1 (1984): 56-68. Kunze, Stephan. Jacket notes. Lucio S i l l a . By Mozart. Teledec, 2292-44928-2, 1990. Laster, Arnaud. "L'Antiromantisme secondaire et sa p r i n c i p a l e victime: Le theatre de V i c t o r Hugo." Europe 671 (1985): 203-12. Lote, Georges. En Preface a "Hernani": Cent ans apres. Paris: L i b r a i r i e U n i v e r s i t a i r e J. Gamber, 1930. Lough, John. Paris Theatre Audiences i n the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. London: Oxford UP, 1957. Marsan, Jules. La B a t a i l l e romanticrue. Pa r i s : L i b r a i r i e Hachette, 1912. Martin, George. Verdi: His Music. L i f e and Times. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1963. Mazour, Charles. "Le Tragique dans Le Roi s'amuse et Lucrece Borgia." Revue francaise d ' h i s t o i r e du l i v r e 5 (1988): 237 56 . Moussinac, Leon. Le Theatre: Des origines a nos iours. Paris: Flammarion, 1966. Osborne, Charles. The'Complete Operas of Verdi. London: V i c t o r Gollancz Ltd., 1969. Osborne, Charles. Verdi: A L i f e i n the Theatre. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1987. Phillips-Matz, Mary Jane. Verdi: A Biography. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1993. P o u i l l i a r t , Raymond. Introduction. "Amy Robsart", "Marion de Lorme". "Hernani". "Le Roi s'amuse". By Hugo. Pa r i s : Garnier-Flammarion, 1979. 17-31. Przybos, J u l i a . L'Entreprise melodramatique. Paris: L i b r a i r i e Jose C o r t i , 1987. Regaldo, Marc. "Melodrame et Revolution Francaise." Europe 703 70.4 (1987) : 6-12 . Rosa, Guy. "Victor Hugo poete romantique ou l e d r o i t a l a parole." Romantisme 60 (1988): 37-56. R o s s e l l i , John. The Opera Industry i n I t a l y from Cimarosa to Verdi. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1984. Turim, Maureen. "French Melodrama: Theory of a S p e c i f i c History." Theatre Journal 39:3 (1987): 307-27. Uberseld, Anne. Afterword. Hernani. By Hugo. Paris: Le L i v r e de Poche, 1987. Ubersfeld, Anne. Le Roi et l e Bouffon. Paris: Jose C o r t i , 1974. Ubersfeld, Anne. Le Roman d'"Hernani". Paris: Mercure de France, 1985. Van Tieghem, P. Le Romantisme francais. Paris: Presses U n i v e r s i t a i r e s de France, 1944. V i g i e r , Philippe. "Le melodrame s o c i a l dans les annees 1840." Europe 703-704 (1987): 71-81. V i l l a r i , L u i g i . " I t a l y , History of." Encyclopaedia Britannica. 1936 ed. Wallis, Cedric. Jacket notes. Rigoletto. By Verdi.. EMI, CDS 747698, 1986. Wren, Keith. "Hernani" and "Ruy Bias". London: Grant and Cutler, 1982. 

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