Le prophète
Le prophète is an opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

 in five acts by Giacomo Meyerbeer
Giacomo Meyerbeer
Giacomo Meyerbeer was a noted German opera composer, and the first great exponent of "grand opera." At his peak in the 1830s and 1840s, he was the most famous and successful composer of opera in Europe, yet he is rarely performed today.-Early years:He was born to a Jewish family in Tasdorf , near...

. The French-language libretto
A libretto is the text used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata, or musical. The term "libretto" is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as mass, requiem, and sacred cantata, or even the story line of a...

 was by Eugène Scribe
Eugène Scribe
Augustin Eugène Scribe , was a French dramatist and librettist. He is best known for the perfection of the so-called "well-made play" . This dramatic formula was a mainstay of popular theater for over 100 years.-Biography:...


Performance history

The opera was first performed by the Paris Opera
Paris Opera
The Paris Opera is the primary opera company of Paris, France. It was founded in 1669 by Louis XIV as the Académie d'Opéra and shortly thereafter was placed under the leadership of Jean-Baptiste Lully and renamed the Académie Royale de Musique...

 at the Salle Le Peletier on 16 April 1849. The creators of the three main roles were Anaïs Castellan as Berthe, Pauline Viardot as Fidès, and Gustave Roger as Jean. The second city to hear it was London, on 24 July of the same year. It was given all over Germany in 1850, as well as in Vienna, Lisbon, Antwerp, New Orleans, Budapest, Brussels, Prague and Basel. Its tremendous success continued throughout the 19th century.


Role Voice type
Voice type
A voice type is a particular kind of human singing voice perceived as having certain identifying qualities or characteristics. Voice classification is the process by which human voices are evaluated and are thereby designated into voice types...

Premiere cast, 16 April 1849
Conducting is the art of directing a musical performance by way of visible gestures. The primary duties of the conductor are to unify performers, set the tempo, execute clear preparations and beats, and to listen critically and shape the sound of the ensemble...

: Narcisse Girard)
Jean de Leyde tenor
The tenor is a type of male singing voice and is the highest male voice within the modal register. The typical tenor voice lies between C3, the C one octave below middle C, to the A above middle C in choral music, and up to high C in solo work. The low extreme for tenors is roughly B2...

Gustave-Hippolyte Roger
Fidès, Jean's mother mezzo-soprano
A mezzo-soprano is a type of classical female singing voice whose range lies between the soprano and the contralto singing voices, usually extending from the A below middle C to the A two octaves above...

Pauline Viardot
Berthe, Jean's lover soprano
A soprano is a voice type with a vocal range from approximately middle C to "high A" in choral music, or to "soprano C" or higher in operatic music. In four-part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part, which usually encompasses the melody...

Jeanne-Anaïs Castellan
Jonas, an Anabaptist tenor Louis Guéymard
Louis Guéymard
Louis Guéymard was a French operatic tenor. Born in Chapponay, his parents were farmers and he worked on his family's farm until the age of 19. He then received voice taining at the Opéra National de Lyon...

Mathisen, an Anabaptist bass
Bass (voice type)
A bass is a type of male singing voice and possesses the lowest vocal range of all voice types. According to The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, a bass is typically classified as having a range extending from around the second E below middle C to the E above middle C...

 or baritone
Baritone is a type of male singing voice that lies between the bass and tenor voices. It is the most common male voice. Originally from the Greek , meaning deep sounding, music for this voice is typically written in the range from the second F below middle C to the F above middle C Baritone (or...

Zacharie, an Anabaptist bass Nicolas Levasseur
Nicolas Levasseur
Nicolas Levasseur was a French bass, particularly associated with Rossini roles.Born Nicolas-Prosper Levasseur at Bresle, Somme, he studied at the Paris Music Conservatory from 1807 to 1811, with Pierre-Jean Garat. He made his professional debut at the Paris Opéra in 1813, as Osman Pacha, in La...

Oberthal, a feudal count bass Hippolyte Brémond


Time: The religious wars of 16th century
Place: Germany.

(Jean de Leyde (based on the historical John of Leiden
John of Leiden
John of Leiden , was an Anabaptist leader from the Dutch city of Leiden. He was the illegitimate son of a Dutch mayor, and a tailor's apprentice by trade.-Life:...

), whose beloved, Berthe, is coveted by Count Oberthal, ruler of Dordrecht
Dordrecht , colloquially Dordt, historically in English named Dort, is a city and municipality in the western Netherlands, located in the province of South Holland. It is the fourth largest city of the province, having a population of 118,601 in 2009...

, is persuaded by a trio of sinister Anabaptist
Anabaptists are Protestant Christians of the Radical Reformation of 16th-century Europe, and their direct descendants, particularly the Amish, Brethren, Hutterites, and Mennonites....

s to proclaim himself king in Münster
Münster is an independent city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is located in the northern part of the state and is considered to be the cultural centre of the Westphalia region. It is also capital of the local government region Münsterland...



Meyerbeer originally wrote a long overture for the opera but this was cut, with various other sections of the work, during rehearsals due to the excessive length of the opera itself.

The overture now survives only in the arrangement made for piano solo or duet made at Meyerbeer's request by Charles-Valentin Alkan
Charles-Valentin Alkan
Charles-Valentin Alkan was a French composer and one of the greatest virtuoso pianists of his day. His attachment to his Jewish origins is displayed both in his life and his work. He entered the Paris Conservatoire at the age of six, earning many awards, and as an adult became a famous virtuoso...


Act 1

Before Oberthal's castle

Berthe explains to Fidès that she needs the Count's permission to marry Jean. The Anabaptists enter singing their chorale, Ad nos ad salutarem (to a tune created by Meyerbeer) and arouse the interest of local peasants in their revolutionary ideas. Oberthal refuses Berthe's request and arrests the two women.

Act 2

Jean's inn at Leyden

The Anabaptists enter and try to persuade Jean that he is their destined leader. Berthe enters, fleeing Oberthal; the Count arrives and threatens to execute Jean's mother Fidès unless Berthe is returned to him. In despair, Jean hands over Berthe and succumbs to the lures of the Anabaptists.

Act 3

The camp of the Anabaptists

The first scene includes a 'skating' interlude set on the ice of a lake, which became a favourite part of the opera. (Apparently Meyerbeer was persuaded to include this at a late stage when roller-skating became a craze in Paris). The Anabaptists determine to seize Münster; their decision is overheard by Oberthal who has entered the camp in disguise. On his detection he is arrested; but when he informs Jean that he has seen Berthe alive in Münster, Jean cancels the order for his execution. Jean, in his role as Prophet and Leader, inspires the Anabaptist troops with a celestial vision of their impending success.

Act 4


Jean has taken the city, whose citizens are in despair at his rule. Berthe recognises Fidès, who has been told that Jean is dead, begging in the streets. Berthe determines to kill the wicked Prophet. Jean's coronation is preceded by a splendid March. Fidès is determined to carry out Berthe's plan for revenge but at the last moment recognises her son. Jean denies her and forces her to retract her recognition.

Act 5

John's palace in Münster

The Anabaptist trio resolve to hand over Jean to the Imperial
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 armies to buy their own protection. Fidès encourages Jean to acknowledge her and his sins, and repent. Berthe enters intending to set fire to the palace. When she realises that Jean is the Prophet she has come to destroy, she commits suicide. Jean and Fidès determine to end the revolt; during the celebrations of his coronation, Jean sets off an explosion which brings the palace down on all who remain of the principal characters.


The musical and theatrical influences of the opera can be felt in, amongst others, Liszt
Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt ; ), was a 19th-century Hungarian composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher.Liszt became renowned in Europe during the nineteenth century for his virtuosic skill as a pianist. He was said by his contemporaries to have been the most technically advanced pianist of his age...

's monumental Fantasy and Fugue on the chorale "Ad nos, ad salutarem undam"
Fantasy and Fugue on the chorale Ad nos ad salutarem undam
The Fantasy and Fugue on the chorale "Ad nos, ad salutarem undam", S.259, is a piece of organ music composed by Franz Liszt in the winter of 1850 when he was in Weimar...

 for organ
Organ (music)
The organ , is a keyboard instrument of one or more divisions, each played with its own keyboard operated either with the hands or with the feet. The organ is a relatively old musical instrument in the Western musical tradition, dating from the time of Ctesibius of Alexandria who is credited with...

 which is based on the Anabaptists' chorale, the duet between mother and lost child in Giuseppe Verdi
Giuseppe Verdi
Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi was an Italian Romantic composer, mainly of opera. He was one of the most influential composers of the 19th century...

's Il trovatore
Il trovatore
Il trovatore is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Salvadore Cammarano, based on the play El Trovador by Antonio García Gutiérrez. Cammarano died in mid-1852 before completing the libretto...

, and the catastrophic finale of Richard Wagner
Richard Wagner
Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, conductor, theatre director, philosopher, music theorist, poet, essayist and writer primarily known for his operas...

's Götterdämmerung
is the last in Richard Wagner's cycle of four operas titled Der Ring des Nibelungen...

. The tremendous success of Le prophète at its Paris première also provoked Wagner's anti-Jewish attack on Meyerbeer, Das Judenthum in der Musik
Das Judenthum in der Musik
Das Judenthum in der Musik is an essay by Richard Wagner, attacking Jews in general and the composers Giacomo Meyerbeer and Felix Mendelssohn in particular, which was published under a pseudonym in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik of Leipzig in...



In 1937 Constant Lambert
Constant Lambert
Leonard Constant Lambert was a British composer and conductor.-Early life:Lambert, the son of Russian-born Australian painter George Lambert, was educated at Christ's Hospital and the Royal College of Music...

 arranged excerpts from this opera and from L'étoile du nord
L'étoile du nord
L'étoile du nord is an opéra comique in three acts by Giacomo Meyerbeer. The French-language libretto was by Eugène Scribe....

into the ballet Les Patineurs
Les Patineurs (ballet)
Les patineurs is a ballet created in 1937 with choreography by Frederick Ashton, to the music of Giacomo Meyerbeer arranged by Constant Lambert, for the Vic-Wells company, with designs by William Chappell.-Performance history:...

, choreographed by Sir Frederick Ashton
Frederick Ashton
Sir Frederick William Mallandaine Ashton OM, CH, CBE was a leading international dancer and choreographer. He is most noted as the founder choreographer of The Royal Ballet in London, but also worked as a director and choreographer of opera, film and theatre revues.-Early life:Ashton was born at...



  • Renata Scotto
    Renata Scotto
    Renata Scotto is an Italian soprano and opera director.Recognized for her sense of style, musicality and as a remarkable singer-actress, Scotto is considered one of the preeminent singers of her generation, specializing in the bel canto repertoire with excursions into the verismo and Verdi...

    , Marilyn Horne
    Marilyn Horne
    Marilyn Horne is an American mezzo-soprano opera singer. She specialized in roles requiring a large sound, beauty of tone, excellent breath support, and the ability to execute difficult coloratura passages....

    , James McCracken
    James McCracken
    James McCracken was an American operatic tenor. At the time of his death The New York Times stated that McCracken was "the most successful dramatic tenor yet produced by the United States and a pillar of the Metropolitan Opera during the 1960s and 1970s."-Biography:Born in Gary, Indiana,...

    , Jerome Hines
    Jerome Hines
    The American Jerome A. Hines was a basso opera singer who performed at the Metropolitan Opera from 1946 to 1987...

    ; Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
    Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
    The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is a British orchestra based in London. It tours widely, and is sometimes referred to as "Britain's national orchestra"...

    , Henry Lewis, 1976 (Sony).


– arranged for piano four hands by Charles-Valentin Alkan
Charles-Valentin Alkan
Charles-Valentin Alkan was a French composer and one of the greatest virtuoso pianists of his day. His attachment to his Jewish origins is displayed both in his life and his work. He entered the Paris Conservatoire at the age of six, earning many awards, and as an adult became a famous virtuoso...

 – for piano by Henri Herz
Henri Herz
Henri Herz was a pianist and composer, Austrian by birth, and French by domicile.Herz was born Heinrich Herz in Vienna...

 – for organ by Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt ; ), was a 19th-century Hungarian composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher.Liszt became renowned in Europe during the nineteenth century for his virtuosic skill as a pianist. He was said by his contemporaries to have been the most technically advanced pianist of his age...

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.