- Le Prophète: Edition, Konzeption, Rezeption by Giacomo Meyerbeer
It’s perhaps appropriate that a collection of essays dedicated to one of Meyerbeer’s grands opéras conceived on a massive scale and with a world-wide distribution and reputation should run to a massive 678 pages. The thirty-two essays on Le Prophète (1849) in this book arise out of a colloque international at the Folkwang Hochschule Essen-Werden, which took place between 13 and 16 May 2007. In turn, the conference was centred on the new edition of Le Prophète first used in performance in Münster in 2004 (p. 10) and eventually published in 2011, seven years after the premiere, four years after the conference, and two years after its published proceedings.
The book is divided into six sections: ‘Edition’; ‘Konzeption und Context’; ‘Lieder’; ‘Musikliterarische Rezeption’; ‘Kompositorische Rezeption’; ‘Le prophète an den Bühnen der Welt’. Andreas Jacob’s ‘Editorische Probleme in Meyerbeers Le prophète’ reads like little more than an advertisement for the edition that it describes (Le Prophète: Opéra en cinq actes: Giacomo Meyerbeer; paroles d’Eugène Scribe, ed. Matthias Brzoska, 7 vols. (Giacomo Meyerbeer Werkausgabe, Abt. 1, Bühnenwerke / Giacomo Meyerbeer; Bd. 14; Munich: Ricordi, 2011)), an edition whose price-tag is as hyperbolic as the size of this collection of essays (€2,936.00 for all seven volumes <http://www.ricordi.de/meyerbeer-le-prophete-work.0.html>, consulted 5 Dec. 2012, would easily swallow up most of a small departmental library budget in the UK or USA, perhaps also even in Essen). It is disappointing that the scope of the chapter is so narrowly circumscribed: it would have been interesting to have read how the editors saw their work alongside the challenges faced by other editors of mid-century grand opéra in collected editions significantly better developed than the one dedicated to Meyerbeer. Good examples that differ radically in their aims and ambitions already exist for Rossini’s Guillaume Tell (1829) and Donizetti’s La Favorite (1840), works that are obvious precursors of Le Prophète, and that depend on the same types of sources (often in the same libraries) (Guillaume Tell, Opéra en quatre actes di Victor Etienne de Jouy e Hippolyte Louis Florent Bis; musica di Gioachino Rossini, ed. M. Elizabeth C. Bartlet, 4 vols. (Edizione critica delle opere di Gioachino Rossini, Sezione prima, 39; Pesaro: Fondazione Rossini, 1992) and Gaetano Donizetti: La Favorite, ed. Rebecca Harris-Warwick, 2 vols. [paginated consecutively] (Edizione critica delle opere di Gaetano Donizetti; Milan: Ricordi, 1997). News arrived far too late for the author of this chapter and for the editors of the critical edition that the Houghton Library at Harvard University has recently acquired an autograph manuscript in the hand of Pauline Viardot, who created the role of Fidès in Le Prophète. In this document, her entire role is laid out and it clearly shows details of the ways in which Viardot and Meyerbeer worked on the role together in the months before the premiere, and would have been a key source for the critical edition (Hilary Poriss, ‘Viardot and Le prophète’, paper read at 17th Biennial Conference on Nineteenth-Century Music, University of Edinburgh, June 2012). There was scope here for a more ambitious account of the editorial implications of the critical edition, one that gave some account of the singers’ roles in its origins.
Much more interesting is Fabien Guilloux’s ‘Le livret du prophète: Notes en marge d’une édition critique’, which takes a serious look at the implication of editing a mid-nineteenth-century libretto and which does all the things that Jacob’s chapter does not. Particularly good is the subtle recognition of the mobility of the text and its sources (‘un texte en mouvement’), and the range of reference that Guilloux brings to the study, both from within musicology (studies by Roccatagliati, Castelvecchi, Fabbri, Bianconi...