La princesse jaune – criticism


Opéra-comique en 1 acte

By Camille Saint-Saëns

Saint-Saëns’s first performed opera, set in Japan

Libretto : Louis Gallet

First performed : Opéra-Comique (2e salle Favart), Paris, 12 June 1872.

For my review, see here.

For the dossier, see here.

Félix Clément, Dictionnaire des opéras, supplément, 1872

The premise of the play is not very interesting, like all that is improbable, and does not rest on the feelings of nature.  A young Dutch scientist has become fond of a Japanese image, and in his madness he disdains the love his young cousin feels for him.  He drinks a beverage whose effect must be to transport him to Japan with his idol.  He thinks himself at her feet; but he finds her again with the features of his cousin, whose portrait is besides fixed on the wall with her Dutch clothes.  At last he emerges from this strange dream, and surrenders with good grace to the charms of his young kinswoman.  M. Saint-Saëns’ music is still more strange than the libretto; if he wished to avoid traveling through the known paths of musical art, he realized his thought; but he did it with a rare disinterestedness, for he seriously compromised his reputation; the sentences are disjointed and obscure, the modulations vague and too frequent.  We have distinguished a romance and a duet.  Score and instrumentation are treated with great skill.