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Saint-Saëns and the Stage
Operas, Plays, Pageants, a Ballet and a Film

$120.00 (C)

Part of Cambridge Studies in Opera

  • Date Published: April 2019
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108426381

$ 120.00 (C)

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About the Authors
  • The stage works of Saint-Saëns range from grand open-air pageants to one-act comic operas, and include the first composed film score. Yet, with the exception of Samson et Dalila, his twelve operas have lain in the shadows since the composer's death in 1921. Widely performed in his lifetime, they vanished from the repertory - never played, never recorded - until now. With four twenty-first-century revivals as a backdrop, this timely book is the first study of Saint-Saëns's operas, demonstrating the presence of the same breadth and versatility as in his better known works. Hugh Macdonald's wide knowledge of French music in the nineteenth century gives a powerful understanding of the different conventions and expectations that governed French opera at the time. The interaction of Saint-Saëns with his contemporaries is a colourful and important part of the story.

    • The first ever book devoted to Saint-Saëns's stage works as a whole
    • Offers a timely contribution to the study of Saint-Saëns - both for the 2021 centenary of his death and in response to increased interest in his stage works
    • Provides essential historical context and critical assessments of all twelve of Saint-Saëns' operas and other stage works
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'While Saint-Saëns as an opera composer is primarily remembered today for Samson et Dalila, his other works for the stage have been given short shrift by critics and performers. Macdonald decisively changes this historiographical trend. He makes a brilliant case not only for the cultural significance of the Saint-Saëns operas, but also for their viability in modern revival. This is an accessible account, one deeply aware of context and sensitive to musical style. Macdonald not only gives attention to the genesis and performance history of the works, but in particular lavishes special attention on what makes them compelling to the listener. Saint-Saëns was one of the great musical virtuosos of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century European culture. This book is a virtuoso performance worthy of its subject.' Steven Huebner, James McGill Professor, McGill University, Montreal

    'Macdonald has for many years eloquently introduced English-speaking readers to neglected gems of French music. Examining the composer’s legacy of a dozen full-length operas, plus a few unfinished works and ballets, he persuasively counters the received opinion that Saint-Saëns’s operas ‘contain much agreeable and skilfully-shaped music but are deficient in theatrical effect’ … The reader will soon realise that there is more - much more - to Saint-Saëns than Samson et Delilah.' Richard Langham Smith, Royal College of Music, London

    '… surprising though this may seem, given that Samson and Dalila is one of the most-performed French operas in the world, [Saint-Saëns and the Stage] tackles a subject that has never been dealt with before … [and] demolishes several received ideas. … the theatrical work of Saint-Saëns is certainly very lucky to be presented here and defended by Hugh Macdonald … no one knows French music of the nineteenth century better than he. Not only does he scrutinize each of Saint-Saëns' contributions to the theater - even the most obscure stage music - but this examination is constantly enriched by references which are sometimes unexpected but always relevant. … a discography completed the volume and make it even more valuable for researchers and for anyone interested in one of the greatest figures in French music …' Translated from (

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2019
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108426381
    • length: 446 pages
    • dimensions: 253 x 182 x 25 mm
    • weight: 1.05kg
    • contains: 203 b/w illus. 186 music examples
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. Preparations for opera, Le Duc de Parme
    2. Le Timbre d'argent
    3. Samson et Dalila
    4. La Princesse jaune
    5. Etienne Marcel
    6. Henry VIII
    7. Proserpine
    8. Ascanio
    9. La Crampe des écrivains, Phryné
    10. Antigone, Frédégonde
    11. Javotte, Déjanire
    12. Lola, Les Barbares
    13. Parysatis, Botriocéphale, Andromaque, Le Roi Apépi, Hélène
    14. L'Ancêtre, La Foi
    15. L'Assassinat du Duc de Guise, Déjanire, On ne badine pas avec l'amour
    16. Saint-Saëns the Dramatist.

  • Author

    Hugh Macdonald, Washington University, St Louis
    Hugh Macdonald's distinguished career has included appointments at the University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, University of Glasgow and Washington University, St Louis. He was General Editor of the New Berlioz Edition (1967–2006), and has published books on Skryabin, Berlioz and Bizet.

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