An international scholarly online history journal on First and Second Empire subjects: articles, bibliographies, book reviews, in english and in french


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Each month we present an important recent book, and every week we report on recent publications.
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KREUTZER Rodolphe, La Mort d'Abel

Recording by: Choeur de chambre de Namur / Les Agrémens, Guy Van Waas.

Is it a book, is it a cd? Well, it's both. This month's book is a book/cd of Rodolphe Kreutzer's famous opera The Death of Abel. The opera itself was based on an curious libretto, set halfway between opera and oratorio, and it was first performed at the Napoleonic Académie Impériale de Musique on 23 March, 1810, portraying in spectacular manner, the biblical story of Cain's murder of his brother, Abel, in a deadly fit of jealousy. Whilst the piece is firmly in the tradition of great French tragédie lyrique as elaborated by Gluck, it nevertheless also includes many personal touches, proving that Kreutzer was much more than the merely famous dedicatee of Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata.

The book, beautifully produced by the Palazetto Bru Zane, includes four articles (in both French and English) and the opera libretto (in both French and English). And inserted in the book's covers are two cds of a performance of Kreutzer's opera by the Belgian group Les Agrémens and the Choeur de chambre de Namur directed by Guy Van Waas. Soloists include tenor Sébastien Droy and baritones Jean-Sébastien Bou and Alain Buet.
The articles are by:
Alexandre Dratwicki, "La Mort d'Abel by Rodolphe Kreutzer"
Etienne Jardin, "La Mort d'Abel, 1810: the reception in the press"
François-Joseph Fétis, "Rodolphe Kreutzer by a contemporary"
Benoît Dratwicki, "Oratorio and opéra sacré in France (1700-1830): experimental genres?"
David Chaillou, "The fantastic element at the Paris Opéra under Napoleon I"
Alexandre Dratwicki, "La Mort d'Abel at the centre of a controversy"

Berlioz famously loved the opera and excoriated his fellow listeners for not appreciating this absolute masterpiece, so much better (he thought) than “a buffoonery by that buffoon Rossini”. Strong words indeed!
Here's the Berlioz quote in full:
'O genius! I succumb! I die! Tears choke me! La Mort d'Abel ! Ye gods! What a wretched public! It feels nothing! What would it take to move it? […] Sublime, heart-rending, pathetic! Ah ! I can bear it no more: I must write! To whom shall I write? To the genius? No, I dare not. I will write to the man, to Kreutzer. He will laugh at me. What does it matter? I would die if I were to remain silent. Ah, if I could only see him, speak to him; he would understand me, he would see what is in my lacerated soul; perhaps he would restore to me the courage I lost at the sight of the insensibility of those feeling beggars who barely deserve to hear the buffooneries of that buffoon Rossini.'

Place and publisher: Palazetto Bru Zane: Ediciones Singulares

Date of publication: 2012

Number of pages: 143

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