Music with Ease > 19th Century French Opera > Hamlet - Thomas
An Opera by Ambroise Thomas
"Hamlet," the words by Barbier and Carré, based on Shakespeares tragedy, is another opera by Ambroise Thomas. It ranks high in France, where it was produced at the Grand Opéra, March 9, 1868, with Nilsson as Ophelia and Faure in the title role; but outside of France it never secured any approach to the popularity that "Mignon" at one time enjoyed. It was produced in London, in Italian, as "Amleto," Covent Garden, June 19, 1869, with Nilsson and Santley. In America, where it was produced in the Academy of Music, March 22, 1872, with Nilsson, Cary, Brignoli, Barré, and Jamet, it has met the fate of practically all operas in which the principal character is a baritone -- esteem from musicians, but indifference on the part of the public. It was revived in 1892 for Lasalle, and by the Chicago Opera Company for Ruffo.
The opera contains in Act I, a love duet for Hamlet and Ophelia, and the scene between Hamlet and his fathers Ghost; in Act II, the scene with the players, with a drinking song for Hamlet; in Act III, the soliloquy, "To be or not to be," and the scene between Hamlet and the Queen; in Act IV, Ophelias mad scene and suicide by drowning; in Act V, the scene in the graveyard, with a totally different ending to the opera from that to the play. Hamlet voices a touching song to Ophelias memory; then, stung by the Ghosts reproachful look, stabs the King, as whose successor he is proclaimed by the people.
Following is the distribution of voices: Hamlet, baritone; Claudius, King of Denmark, bass; Laertes, Poloniuss son, tenor, Ghost of the dead King, bass; Polonius, bass; Gertrude, Queen of Dermark; Hamlets mother, mezzo-soprano; and Ophelia, Poloniuss daughter, soprano.
Ambroise Thomas was born at Metz, August 5, 1811; died at Paris, February 12, 1896. He studied at the Paris Conservatory, where, in 1832, he won the Grand Prix de Rome. In 1871, he became director of the conservatory, being considered Aubers immediate successor, although the post was held for a few days by the communist Salvador Daniel, who was killed in battle, May 23rd.