Les Huguenots

In five acts by GIACOMO MEYERBEER.

Text by SCRIBE.

This is the best opera of this fertile composer, and one with which

only his "Robert le diable" can compare. The music is not only

interesting, but highly dramatic; the "mise en scene", the

brilliant orchestration, the ballet, everything is combined to

fascinate the hearer. We find such an abundance of musical ideas, that
we feel Berlioz but spoke the truth, when he said that it would do for

twenty others of its kind.

The scene is laid in France, at the time of the bloody persecutions of

the Protestants or Huguenots by the Catholics. The Duke of Medicis has

apparently made peace with Admiral Coligny, the greatest and most

famous of the Huguenots, and we are introduced into the castle of Count

Nevers, where the catholic noblemen receive Raoul de Nangis, a

protestant, who has lately been promoted to the rank of captain.

During their meal they speak of love and its pleasures, and everybody

is called on to give the name of his sweetheart. Raoul begins, by

telling them, that once when taking a walk, he surprised a band of

students, molesting a lady in a litter. He rescued her and as she

graciously thanked him for his gallant service, he thought her more

beautiful than any maiden he had ever before seen. His heart burnt

with love for her, though he did not know her name. While Raoul drinks

with the noblemen, Marcel, his old servant warns him of the danger of

doing so.

Marcel is a strict old protestant and sings a ballad of the Huguenots

to the young people, a song wild and fanatic. They laugh at his

impotent wrath, when a lady is announced to Count Nevers, in whom Raoul

recognizes the lady of his dreams.

Of course he believes her false and bad, while as a matter of fact she

only comes to beseech Nevers, her destined bridegroom, to set her free.

Nevers does so, though not without pain. When he returns to his

companions, he conceals the result of the interview, and presently

Urbain, a page, enters with a little note for Raoul de Nangis, in which

he is ordered to attend a lady, unknown to him. The others recognize

the seal of Queen Margarita of Valois, and finding him so worthy, at

once seek to gain his friendship.

In the second act we find Raoul with the beautiful Queen, who is trying

to reconcile the Catholics with the Protestants. To this end the Queen

has resolved to unite Raoul with Valentine, her lady of honor, and

daughter of the Count of St. Bris, a staunch catholic. Valentine tells

her heart's secret to her mistress, for to her it was that Raoul

brought assistance, and she loves him. The noble Raoul, seeing

Margarita's beauty and kindness, vows himself her knight, when suddenly

the whole court enters to render her homage. Recognizing her at last

to be the Queen, Raoul is all the more willing to fulfil her wishes and

offers his hand in reconciliation to the proud St. Bris, promising to

wed his daughter. But when he perceives in her the unknown lady, whom

he believes to be so unworthy, he takes back his word. All are

surprised, and the offended father vows bloody vengeance.

In the third act Marcel brings a challenge to St. Bris, which the

latter accepts, but Maurevert, a fanatical catholic nobleman, tells him

of other ways in which to annihilate his foe. Valentine though deadly

offended with her lover, resolves to save him. Seeing Marcel, she bids

him tell his master not to meet his enemy alone. Meanwhile Raoul is

already on the spot, and so is St. Bris with four witnesses. While

they fight, a quarrel arises between the catholic and the protestant

citizens, which is stopped by Queen Margarita. The enemies accuse each

other, and when the Queen is in doubt as to whom she shall believe,

Valentine appears to bear witness. Then Raoul hears that her interview

with Nevers had been but a farewell, sought for but to loosen forever

the ties which her father had formed for her against her will; but the

knowledge of his error comes too late, for St. Bris has once more

promised his daughter to Nevers, who at this moment arrives with many

guests, invited for the wedding. The presence of the Queen preserves

peace between the different parties, but Raoul leaves the spot with

death in his heart.

In the fourth act the dreadful night of St. Bartholomew is already


We find Valentine in her room despairing. Raoul comes to take a last

farewell, but almost immediately St. Bris enters with a party of

Catholics and Raoul is obliged to hide in the adjoining room. There he

hears the whole conspiracy for the destruction of the Protestants,

beginning with their leader, Admiral Coligny. The Catholics all assent

to this diabolical plot; Nevers alone refuses to soil his honor,

and swears only to fight in open battle. The others, fearing treason,

decide to bind and keep him prisoner until the next morning. Raoul

prepares to save his brethren or die with them. Vain are Valentine's

entreaties; though she confesses to her love for him, he yet leaves

her, though with a great effort, to follow the path of duty.

In the last act Raoul rushes pale and bloody into the hall, where Queen

Margarita sits with her husband, Henry of Navarre, surrounded by the

court; He tells them of the terrific events, which are going on

outside, and beseeches their help. It is too late however, Coligny has

already fallen, and with him most of the Huguenots.

Raoul meets Valentine once more; she promises to save him, if he will

go over to her faith. But Marcel reminds him of his oath, and

Valentine, seeing that nothing can move her lover's fortitude and

firmness, decides to remain with him. She accepts his creed and so

they meet death together, Valentine falling by the side of her deadly

wounded lover, both praising God with their last breath.