Salammbô (Reyer)

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Salammbô is an opera in five acts composed by Ernest Reyer to a French libretto by Camille du Locle. It is based on the homonymous novel by Gustave Flaubert (1862). Initially refused by Paris, Reyer's opera enjoyed its first performance at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels, on 10 February 1890, with sets designed by Pierre Devis and Armand Lynen. The Parisian premiere at the Palais Garnier took place on 16 May 1892 with costumes by Eugène Lacoste and sets by Eugène Carpezat (Acts I and V), Auguste Alfred Rubé and Philippe Chaperon (Act II), and Amable and Eugène Gardy (Act IV).

Opera by Ernest Reyer
Rose Caron dans le rôle de Salammbo.jpg
Rose Caron in the title role, after a portrait by Léon Bonnat
LibrettistCamille du Locle
Based onGustave Flaubert's Salammbô
10 February 1890 (1890-02-10)

The American premiere was at the French Opera House in New Orleans on 25 January 1900 with Lina Pacary[1] in the title role. It was first performed in New York at the 'old' Metropolitan Opera House on 20 March 1901, with Lucienne Bréval in the title role, Albert Saléza, Eustase Thomas-Salignac, Marcel Journet, Charles Gillibert, Eugène Dufriche, and Antonio Scotti with Luigi Mancinelli conducting.[2]

Portions of the opera were performed in 1906 in the ancient Roman Carthage amphitheatre during an event sponsored by the Carthage Institute, making it among the first pieces formally staged there since the structure was destroyed by the Vandals in AD 439.

This rarely nowadays performed opera received the last performance at the Paris Opera in 1943, and the most recent one in Marseilles on 27 September 2008, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Reyer's death.[3]


Role Voice type Premiere Cast,
(Conductor: Edouard Bärwolf)
Hamilcar, Carthaginian leader baritone Maurice Renaud
Salammbô, a priestess, Hamilcar's daughter soprano Rose Caron
Taanach, Salammbo's servant mezzo-soprano Anna Wolff
Shahabarim, high priest of Tanit tenor Edmond Vergnet
Narr'Havas, King of Numidia bass Sentein
Giscon, Carthaginian general bass Edmond Peeters
Mathô, chief Libyan mercenary tenor Henri Sellier
Spendius, Greek slave baritone Max Bouvet
Autharite, Gaulish mercenary bass Challet


Other opera adaptationsEdit

In 1863, Modest Mussorgsky also started writing text and music for an opera based on Flaubert's novel, but he never managed to complete the work. Other versions were written by V. Fornari (1881), Niccolò Massa (1886), Eugeniusz Morawski-Dąbrowa, Josef Matthias Hauer (1930), Alfredo Cuscinà (1931), Veselin Stoyanov (1940) and Franco Casavola (1948). Contemporary French composer Philippe Fénélon's Salammbô was first performed at the Opéra Bastille in 1998.


  1. ^ Lina Pacary on
  2. ^ Krebhiel, Henry Edward (1911). Chapters of Opera (3rd ed.). New York: Henry Holt and Co. p. Chapter XX. (NB plain text only lacking page numbers, full scan not currently available.)
  3. ^ Salammbô, Opéra de Marseille, 9-27-08 Opera News The Met Opera Guild, accessed 20 April 2010
  • Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). "Salammbô, 10 February 1890". L'Almanacco di Gherardo Casaglia (in Italian).
  • Pauline Girard, ‘Ernest Reyer et la Monnaie : un malentendu?’, in La Monnaie symboliste, ed. Manuel Couvreur and Roland Van der Hoeven (Brussels: ULB, 2003), 52-81.
  • Warrack, John and West, Ewan (1992), The Oxford Dictionary of Opera, 782 pages, ISBN 0-19-869164-5

External linksEdit