Robert Bruce (opera)

Robert Bruce is an 1846 pastiche opera in three acts, with music by Gioachino Rossini and Louis Niedermeyer to a French-language libretto by Alphonse Royer and Gustave Vaëz, after Walter Scott's History of Scotland. The music was stitched together by Niedermeyer, with the composer's permission, with pieces from La donna del lago, Zelmira, and other Rossini operas. The work was premiered on 30 December 1846, by the Paris Opera at the Salle Le Peletier.[1] The audience may not have noticed, but the orchestra included for the first time a recently invented instrument, which later came to be known as the saxophone.[2]


Rosine Stoltz as Marie

After Rossini's arrival in Paris in 1843 for medical treatment, he was visited by Léon Pillet, the Director of the Paris Opera. Pillet begged Rossini to compose a new work for the house. Rossini declined because of his poor health, but pointed out that his opera La donna del lago (1819), which he felt had never been performed adequately at the Théâtre Italien in Paris, would be "most suitable for the French stage, the one that more than the others, had need of your big choruses, your magnificent orchestra, your beautiful staging. … Now that you have [Rosine] Stoltz at your disposal you would do well to profit by it."[3] However, Pillet was reluctant to present a work which since 1824 in its Italian version was already well known to Parisian audiences.[4]

Rossini went back to his home in Bologna, where in June 1846 he was again visited by Pillet, who was accompanied by librettist Gustave Vaëz, and Louis Niedermeyer.[5] The result (which also involved Vaëz's regular collaborator Alphonse Royer as co-librettist) was Robert Bruce, an elaborate pasticcio, based on music not only from La donna del lago and Zelmira, but also from Bianca e Falliero, Torvaldo e Dorliska, Armida, Mosè in Egitto, and Maometto II.[6] Niedermeyer apparently wrote the necessary recitatives.[7]


Rossini was clearly involved in the collaboration but did not attend the premiere in Paris.[8] The production included a ballet with the dancers Lucien Petipa, Henri Desplaces, Adèle Dumilâtre, and Maria Jacob, and choreography by Joseph Mazilier.[9] The décor was designed by Joseph Thierry (Act 1); Charles Cambon, Jules Diéterle, and Édouard Desplechin (Act 2); and René Philastre and Charles Cambon (Act 3). The costumes were designed by Paul Lormier.[10] It was a moderate success, but the opera was the subject of much criticism from Hector Berlioz, among others.[8]


Role Voice type Premiere Cast,[11] 30 December 1846[1]
(Conductor: -)
Robert Bruce, King of Scotland baritone Paul Barroilhet
Édouard II, King of England tenor Louis Paulin
Douglas, Lord of Douglas bass Raffaele Anconi
Marie, his daughter mezzo-soprano Rosine Stoltz
Dickson, a highlander of Stirling bass Bessin
Nelly, his daughter soprano Maria Nau
Arthur, an official in the service of Édouard tenor Jérémie Bettini
Morton, an English captain bass Rommy
Édouard's page musichetto Moisson
A bard bass
English knights, soldiers and pages, ladies of the Court of England, Scottish bards, Bruce's knights and soldiers, gypsies, jugglers


Year Cast
(Robert Bruce,
Marie, Nelly,
Eduard II, Douglas)
Opera House and Orchestra
2002 Nicolas Rivenq,
Iano Tamar,
Inga Balabanova,
Davide Cicchetti,
Massimiliano Chiarolla
Paolo Arrivabene,
Orchestra Internazionale d'Italia and the Bratislava Chamber Choir,
(Recorded from a performance in the Palazzo Ducale, Martina Franca,
as part of the Festival della Valle d'Itria)
Cat: CDS 421/1-2



  1. ^ a b Osborne 1986, p. 288. In his second edition (2007), Osborne gives the date of the premiere on p. 137 as 23 December and on p. 357 as 30 December. Weinstock 1968, p. 238, explains that the premiere was originally scheduled for 23 December, which is the date found in the printed libretto, but was postponed to 30 December because the lead mezzo-soprano, Rosine Stoltz, was ill. See also Le Ménestrel, vol. 14, no, 4 (27 December 1846).
  2. ^ Weinstock 1968, p. 238.
  3. ^ Weinstock 1968, p. 231.
  4. ^ Everist 2009, p. 39.
  5. ^ Weinstock 1968, p. 237.
  6. ^ Everist 2009, p. 32.
  7. ^ Everist 2009, pp. 39–40.
  8. ^ a b Osborne 1986, p. 98.
  9. ^ Tamvaco 2000, p. 877.
  10. ^ Wild 1987, p. 229.
  11. ^ Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). "Robert Bruce, 30 December 1846". L'Almanacco di Gherardo Casaglia (in Italian).; Weinstock 1968, p. 462; Tamvaco 2000, p. 877.
  12. ^ Recording(s) on


  • Everist, Mark (2009). "Partners in Rhyme: Alphonse Royer, Gustave Vaëz, and Foreign Opera in Paris During the July Monarchy”, in Fashions and Legacies of Nineteenth-Century Italian Opera, pp. 30–52 (ed.) Roberta Montemorra Marvin and Hilary Poriss. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-88998-8. Preview at Google Books.
  • Osborne, Richard (1986). Rossini. London: Dent. ISBN 0-460-03179-1.
  • Osborne, Richard (2007). Rossini: His Life and Works. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-518129-6
  • Tamvaco, Jean-Louis (2000). Les Cancans de l'Opéra. Chroniques de l'Académie Royale de Musique et du théâtre, à Paris sous les deux restorations (2 volumes, in French). Paris: CNRS Editions. ISBN 978-2-271-05685-6.
  • Weinstock, Herbert (1968). Rossini: A Biography. New York: Knopf. OCLC 192614, 250474431. Reprint (1987): New York: Limelight. ISBN 978-0-87910-071-1.
  • Wild, Nicole (1987). Décors et costumes du XIXe siècle. Tome I: Opéra de Paris. Paris: Bibliothèque nationale, Département de la Musique. ISBN 9782717717532.

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