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Héléna (opera)

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Héléna (opera)
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Héléna is an opera in three acts by the French composer Étienne Méhul. It premiered at the Opéra-Comique, Paris on 1 March 1803. The libretto is by Jean-Nicolas Bouilly. It enjoyed 36 performances in the space of 20 months before disappearing from the theatre's repertoire. Bouilly was accused of basing the plot too closely on Cherubini's Les deux journées. According to the musicologist Elizabeth Bartlet, "several scholars have pointed out [that] Beethoven's trumpet call in Fidelio was inspired by Méhul's Héléna".

Synopsis

Constantin, Count of Arles, has been accused of killing his father. He flees with his wife Héléna to escape the anger of the common people, egged on by the new count, Romuald. The couple wander through forests trying to escape their pursuers. Their situation becomes so bad that they have to hand their four-year-old son to be brought up under the name "Paul" to a kindly farmer, Maurice. Héléna later takes refuge with Maurice too (without him knowing her identity) and disguises herself as a shepherd, "Petit Jacques". Urbain, a local farmhand in love with Maurice's daughter Anna, becomes jealous of "Petit Jacques", thinking "he" is a rival for Anna's love. Maurice finally recognises Héléna; she convinces him of her husband's innocence and Maurice vows to keep her secret. The governor of Arles issues a proclamation ordering all strangers in the region to declare their true identity. Constantin, disguised as a reaper, is reunited with his wife. He tells her that on learning the death of Count Romuald, he returned to Arles, trusting the honesty of Romuald's son Edmond, but Edmond has given orders to hunt him down. The governor arrives and interrogates Paul, forcing Héléna to reveal her true identity. The governor takes them to Arles. Edmond is determined to find Constantin and asks the captive Héléna where he is. The people demand that Héléna and her son should be executed unless Constantin surrenders himself so Constantin is forced to comply. However, Edmond asks for a private interview with him and reveals that on his deathbed Romuald confessed to the murder of Constantin's father. Edmond persuades the people of Constantin's innocence and the opera ends happily.

References

Héléna (opera) Wikipedia


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