Giacomo Meyerbeer: Les Huguenots


Edited by Oliver Jacob

Opéra en cinq actes
Libretto: Eugène Scribe, Emile Deschamps, Gaetano Rossi (in French)
World premiere: 29.02.1836, Paris

It was only through this work that Meyerbeer won his immortal citizenship […] in the heavenly Jerusalem of art. There is, since Mozart’s Don Giovanni, no greater phenomenon in the realm of musical art.
—Heinrich Heine


The Huguenot Raoul is guest at a feast of the Catholic Count of Nevers when he receives an invitation from Princess Margerite. His is to arrive at Chenonceau Castle blindfolded. She wants to couple him with Valentine de Saint-Bris in order to bridge the divide between the religions. In preparation, Valentine successfully asks Count Nevers to cancel her engagement. Raoul recognizes Valentine, who he once saved from a group of importunate students, and with whom he fell in love. But he now suspects she was Nevers’ lover and no longer wants to enter into the union. The Count of Saint-Bris, Valentine’s father, and Raul plan to duel in Paris. Saint-Bris is meanwhile also plotting a deadly raid on all Huguenots in the city, to which Raoul and Valentine ultimately fall victim.



With Les Huguenots, his second Grand Opéra for Paris, Meyerbeer wanted to turn his turn “dramatic system” to historical source material – the massacre of the Calvinist protestants (Huguenots) at the hands of the Catholics in Paris in 1572, historically known as the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre. Meyerbeer was concerned with criticism of both Christian denominations for betraying their beliefs in favor of political calculations. The composer’s voice, and therefore the ideal protagonist, is the Huguenot Marcel, who turns from a battlesome fanatic into a peaceful martyr. The contemporary understanding of Les Huguenots was not only musical, but as a moment of cultural significance. The work’s richness and the novelty of its musical language was admired, which for the first time lent the opera genre an independent and contemporary voice.

Critical edition

  • The critical edition, based on the first prints authorized by Meyerbeer, restores all associated parts of the work preserved in the autographs and materials of the Paris Opéra.
  • The work was rendered almost unrecognizable through ruthless cuts (Act 5 was often deleted in its entirety). The critical edition presents the work in full for the first time, including previously-unpublished sections.
  • The appendix contains connections to the deleted versions of the first editions, variations, early versions, parts that had been excluded, as well as the version with the role of Catherine de Médicis, which was forbidden by the censor at the time.

Recommendations for concert

Overture - 4.4.3.oph - timp.perc - 2hp - str 

1st Act No. 1D Orgie
Chr (T.B) - picc. - 4.4.3.oph - timp.perc - str

2nd Act No. 7 Entr’acte et Air, Marguerite O beau pays de la Touraine
S(S.A) - - - timp.perc - hp - str 

4th Act No. 24 Grand Duo Final Valentine, Raoul O Ciel! Oú courez-vous?
S.T - picc. - 4.2.3.oph - timp.perc - str