Giacomo Meyerbeer: Robert le Diable

Meyerbeer Critical Edition

Edited by Wolfgang Kühnhold

Opéra en cinq actes
Libretto: Eugène Scribe and Germain Delavigne (in French)
World premiere: 21.11.1831, Paris

“If ever grandeur was seen in the theater, I doubt it has reached the level of magnificence shown in Robert. It is a masterpiece. Meyerbeer has made himself immortal.”
—Frédéric Chopin


Robert has inherited terrible qualities from his father, the devil, who is unbeknown to him. While in exile in Sicily, he falls in love with the King’s daughter, Isabelle. His father appear there as Bertram in order to win him over. In the process, Robert is met by a streak of bad luck that culminates in him losing Isabelle to the Prince of Granada. Bertram leads Robert to the graveyard of an abandoned monastery, where his is to break off a twig onto the grave of St. Rosalie in order to regain his fortune. Instead, all of the graves open up, from which nuns emerge and perform a scary dance. Bertram then leads Robert into a church, reveals himself to be Robert’s father, and want him to swear an oath to him. The clock strikes midnight and Bertram’s time for winning over Robert expires. He returns to Hell alone, and Isabelle and Robert become a couple.


“The whole of the history of music has, for the past 10 years, revolved around your name,” wrote Heinrich Heine to Meyerbeer in 1842, marking an epochal change within the history of opera that had been spectacularly initiated by Meyerbeer’s first French opera, “Robert le Diable (1831). The form of the five-act Grand Opéra provides only the framework for a radical new musical and dramatic language of a vivid direct expression in which aria, ensemble, choir, and ballet change and merge. The text, based on a medieval legend and a romantic gothic novel, in whose arrangement the composer was substantially involved, deals with the forms of a fantasy story with timeless human themes: the conflict between good and evil, light and darkness, heaven and hell, God and the Devil.

Critical edition

  • A table in the critical account illustrates deviations from the main source.
  • Meyerbeer’s original performance indications in French and Italian remain as they bear witness to an extremely fine dynamic graduation between the instruments and instrumental groups. His suggested ornaments are also included.
  • Alternatives to individual numbers and suggested abbreviations can be found in the appendix.
  • The original stage directions, choreography information, and No. 4a (Entr’acte et Récitatif) have been published for the first time.

Recommendations for concert

Overture - 4.2.3.oph - timp.perc - str 

2nd Act No. 7 Pas de cinq - 4.2.3.oph - timp.perc - str 

4th Act No. 18c Cavatine Isabelle, Robert Robert toi que j'aime
S.T - - 4.2.3.oph - timp.perc - 2hp - str 

5th Act No. 22b Air Robert, Bertram Jamais, c'est impossible
T.B - - 4.2.3.oph - timp.perc - 2hp - str