Le calife de Bagdad

Le calife de Bagdad (The Caliph of Baghdad) is an opéra comique in one act by the French composer François-Adrien Boieldieu with a libretto by Claude Godard d'Aucourt de Saint-Just. Dedicated to the landscape painter Bidauld it was first performed at the Opéra-Comique, Paris, on 16 September 1800 and soon became highly popular throughout Europe.

Le calife de Bagdad
Opéra comique by François-Adrien Boieldieu
The composer c. 1800
TranslationThe Caliph of Baghdad
LibrettistClaude Godard d'Aucourt de Saint-Just
16 September 1800 (1800-09-16)

It was Boieldieu's first major triumph. One member of the audience who was less impressed was the noted composer Luigi Cherubini who reproached Boieldieu, "Aren't you ashamed of such a great success, and doing so little to deserve it?" Boieldieu immediately applied to Cherubini for lessons in compositional techniques.

Le calife de Bagdad was part of the vogue for operas on Oriental subjects and the music makes use of local colour, especially the overture with its prominent "eastern" percussion. Késie's aria "De tous pays" is a bravura piece which illustrates the musical styles of several European countries, including Spain, Italy, Germany, Scotland and England. Le calife de Bagdad is believed to have influenced Carl Maria von Weber, particularly his operas Abu Hassan and Oberon.


Roles, voice types, premiere cast
Cast Voice type Premiere, 16 September 1800[1]
Isaoun, the caliph tenor Jean Elleviou
Zétulbé, a young woman of Baghdad soprano Alexandrine Marie Agathe Gavaudan-Ducamel (Mme Gavaudan)
Késie, her friend soprano Philis
Lémaïde, Zétulbé's mother mezzo-soprano Louise Dugazon
A judge tenor


Isaoun, the Caliph of Baghdad, has adopted a disguise so he can roam the streets of the city freely, going under the name "Il Bondocani". Two months before the action begins, he rescued Zétulbé from a band of brigands and Zétulbé has fallen in love with him. But Zétulbé's mother, Lémaïde, is unimpressed by his shabby appearance and refuses to let her marry him. She is amazed when "Il Bondocani" orders his followers to bring in gifts including a casket of jewels. Thinking "Il Bondocani" is a brigand, Lémaïde's neighbour has reported him to the police, who now try to break down the door. After further intrigue, Isaoun finally reveals his true identity to Zétulbé and the two can now be married.


  • Le calife de Bagdad Laurence Dale, Lydia Mayo, Joelle Michelini, Claudine Cheriez, Chorus and Orchestra of the Camerata de Provence, conducted by Antonio de Almeida (Sonpact, 1993)
  • The overture, a popular concert piece, has been recorded separately many times.


  1. ^ Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). "Le calife de Bagdad, 16 September 1800". L'Almanacco di Gherardo Casaglia (in Italian).

Further readingEdit

  • Holden, Amanda (ed.), The New Penguin Opera Guide, New York: Penguin Putnam, 2001. ISBN 0-14-029312-4
  • Work details, delteatro.it (in Italian)

External linksEdit