Music with Ease > 19th Century French Opera > L'Etoile du Nord - Meyerbeer
L'Etoile du Nord
(English title: The Star of the North)
An Opera by Giacomo Meyerbeer
Another opera by Meyerbeer, but one which has disappeared from the repertoire of the lyric stage, is "L'Etoile du Nord."
"LEtoile du Nord" has a famous air -- a high soprano solo with obligato for two flutes, which was one of Jenny Linds greatest show-pieces, but has not sufficed to keep the opera alive.
The score of "LEtoile du Nord," produced at the Opéra Comique, Paris, February 16, 1854, was assembled from an earlier work, "Das Feldlager in Schlesien" (The Camp in Silesia), produced for the opening of the Berlin Opera House, February 17, 1847; but the plots differ. The story of "LEtoile du Nord" relates to the love of Peter the Great for Catherine, a cantiniere. Their union finally takes place, but not until Catherine has disguised herself as a soldier and served in the Russian camp. After surreptitiously watching Peter and a companion drink and roister in the formers tent with a couple of girls, she loses her reason. When it is happily restored by Peter playing familiar airs to her on his flute, she voices her joy in the show-piece, "La, la, la, air chéri" (La, la, la, beloved song), to which reference already has been made. In the first act Catherine has a "Ronde bohémienne" (Gypsy Rondo), the theme of which Meyerbeer took from his opera "Emma de Rohsburg."
"LEtoile du Nord" is in three act. There is much military music in the second act -- a cavalry chorus, "Beau cavalier au Coeur dacier" (Brave cavalier with heart of steel); a grenadier song with chorus, "Grenadiers, fiers Moscovites" (grenadiers, proud Muscovites), in which the chorus articulates the beat of the drums ("tr-r-r-um"); the "Dessauer" march, a cavalry fanfare "Ah! Voyez nos Tartares du Don" (Ah, behold our Cossacks of the Don); and a grenadiers march: stirring numbers, all of them.
The libretto is by Scribe. The first act scene is laid in Wyborg, on the Gulf of Finland; the second in a Russian camp; the third in Peters palace in Petrograd. Time, about 1700.