Françoise de Rimini

Françoise de Rimini (Francesca da Rimini) is an opera in four acts with a prologue and an epilogue. The last opera composed by Ambroise Thomas, it sets a French libretto by Michel Carré and Jules Barbier which is based on an episode from Dante's Divine Comedy. The opera was first performed by the Paris Opera on 14 April 1882 but fell into relative obscurity until its revival in 2011.

Françoise de Rimini
Opera by Ambroise Thomas
Françoise de Rimini by Ambroise Thomas, illustration of the prologue from Le théâtre illustré.jpg
Prologue scene from the premiere production where Virgil and Dante first encounter Francesca and her lover Paolo in Hell
14 April 1882 (1882-04-14)

Background and performance historyEdit

Françoise de Rimini was the last opera by Ambroise Thomas. Its French libretto was written by Michel Carré and Jules Barbier based on Dante's Divina commedia, where Francesca da Rimini is mentioned in the section Inferno.[1]

The opera's world premiere at the Paris Opera was originally planned for 1880. It was to be a highlight of the first season of Auguste Vaucorbeil as director, who also planned to produce Gounod's Le tribut de Zamora.[2] The first performance was finally staged by the Paris Opera on 14 April 1882 at the Palais Garnier.[3] Some of the most notable singers of the time participated in a lavish stage setting by Jean-Baptiste Lavastre to honour the prestigious composer. It received a mixed reception, and despite the efforts of supporters it mostly disappeared from the repertory.[3][4]

The opera was revived in Metz in 2011 at the Opéra-Théâtre de Metz Métropole to mark the bicentenary of the composer's birth. Catherine Hunold [fr] sang the title role and the Orchestre national de Lorraine [fr] was conducted by Jacques Mercier.[5]


Thomas in a January 1896 by Toulouse-Lautrec which shows him seated behind the conductor listening to the rehearsal of a concert where the opera's Prologue was performed.
Roles, voice types, premiere cast
Role Voice type Premiere cast, 14 April 1882[3]
Conductor: Ernest Eugène Altès
Paolo (Malatesta) tenor Henri Sellier
Ascanio, his page mezzo-soprano Renée Richard
Malatesta (Giancotto), Paolo's brother baritone Jean-Louis Lassalle
Francesca soprano Caroline Salla
Guido da Polenta, Francesca's father bass Pierre Gailhard
Beatrice soprano
Dante bass Alfred-Auguste Giraude
Virgile contralto Madeleine-Philippine Barbot
An officer bass Léon Melchissédec
Choir of angels


The action takes place in Hell (prologue and epilogue) and in Rimini at the end of the 13th century.

In the prologue, Dante and Virgil meet the lovers Paolo and Françoise in Hell, and Virgil suggest that Dante tell their story. During the four acts, their passionate love unfolds against the background of the battles between the Guelphs and Ghibellines. In the epilogue, the lovers still sing their passionate duet in the presence of the poets. Finally a heavenly choir pardons them.[4]


The work is partly still in the style French grand opera, namely the conclusions of the first and third act. The vocal writing shows influence from the Italian opera, while some audacious harmonies and dissonances are part of a more modern style. The duet of the lovers in the fourth act is similar to the duet in Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, in both structure and dramatic function.[5]


  1. ^ "Françoise de Rimini" (in German). Operone. Archived from the original on 15 April 2013. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
  2. ^ Fauser, Annegret; Everist, Mark, eds. (2009). Music, Theater, and Cultural Transfer: Paris, 1830–1914. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226239286. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). "Françoise de Rimini, 14 April 1882". L'Almanacco di Gherardo Casaglia (in Italian).
  4. ^ a b Gelli, Piero (ed.) (2001), "Françoise de Rimini". Dizionario dell'Opera. Baldini & Castoldi. ISBN 8880899236. Online version retrieved 17 March 2017 via (in Italian).
  5. ^ a b Degott, Pierre (28 November 2011). "Metz : Françoise de Rimini, dernier opéra d'Ambroise Thomas" (in French). p. 134. Retrieved 17 March 2017.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit