The Sunday Opera: Camille Saint-Saens' "Henry VIII"
Camille Saint-Saens wrote twelve operas in all, and we’ll be enjoying one of them on this week’s Sunday Opera (3/7 3:00 p.m.), and it’s not “Samson et Dalila” which seems to be the only one done with any regularity and the only one to be done at the Metropolitan Opera. “Henry VIII,” which has a libretto by Leonce Detroyat and Armand Silvestre which was based on “The Schism in England” by Pedro Calderon de la Barca, had its premiere on March 5, 1883 and looks at the period in Henry’s life where he tries to dissolve his marriage to Katherine of Aragon so that he can marry the doomed Anne Boleyn. The recording to which we’ll be listening comes from 1991 and features Philippe Rouillon, Michele Command, Lucile Vignon, and Alain Gabriel with the Arts Theatre Chorus of Rouen and the Lyric Orchestra of France with Alain Guingal conducting.
After the opera, the afternoon will be filled with one more piece by a young Saint-Saens. He wrote five symphonies in all, but only four of them were given numbers. His Symphony No. 1 in E flat was completed when the composer was only seventeen years old, and although it offered nothing groundbreaking, its juxtaposition of forms and motifs was enough to garner him quite a bit of praise. Playing it here will be the Orchestre National de la RTF with Jean Martinon conducting.