|Buxton Opera House|
Mozart was 18 when he wrote the opera for performance in Munich in 1775. He already had quite a few operatic works under his belt but it would be 6 years before he wrote Idomeneo which is reckoned the first of Mozart's mature operas. Saint Saens's opera is a real rarity in this country. It is an opera comique premiered in Paris in 1872 and is highly influenced by Japan and the vogue for all things Japanese. It was the third of his operas, but the first to be actually staged. It was first performed in a triple bill which included Bizet's Djamileh. All three operas came in for a critical mauling and Saint Saens's was dropped after five performances.
Gounod's opera comique, on the other hand, was well received at the time of its first performances. It was premiered in Baden Baden in 1860 in a one-act version and then Gounod expanded it to two acts for performances in Paris by the Opera Comique in 1866. Though it did not do quite as well in the revised version it did travel and in the 1920's Francis Poulenc even added sung recitatives.
Neither the Gounod nor the Saint Saens operas have, on paper, particularly strong stories so it will be interesting to see how the operas work on stage.