Thursday 30 September 2021

Gounod's opera La nonne sanglante finally receives its UK premiere, from Gothic Opera at Hoxton Hall

Gounod: La nonne sanglante - Gothic Opera at Hoxton Hall

Gounod's opera La nonne sanglante, a five-act opera to a libretto by Eugene Scribe, debuted at the Paris Opera in 1854. It ran for 11 performances, but was poorly received and the opera house was itself in the midst of management crises. A new director immediately cancelled the run and after this unfortunate beginning, no other management would take on the opera.  

The story is based on the bleeding nun episode from the 1796 novel The Monk, written by the English Gothic horror writer Matthew Gregory Lewis, in which the hero accidentally elopes with the ghost of the nun, rather than his beloved Agnes in disguise.

The work's UK premiere is finally taking place during October 2021, when Gothic Opera present Gounod's La nonne sanglante at Hoxton Hall. That the work has taken so long to reach the UK is partly due to the fact that not long after Gounod's opera premiered in Paris, Edward Loder's opera Raymond and Agnes, based on the same novel, debuted in Manchester [read my review of the premiere recording of Raymond and Agnes].

The libretto for La nonne sanglante was not highly regarded, it had been rejected by Auber, Meyerbeer and Verdi, whilst back in 1841 Berlioz had started work on it and failed. For Gounod, Scribe reworked the text but critics were far more positive about Gounod's music than Scribe's words, Berlioz, for example, said in the Journal des débats that was "masterfully done, poetic, and terrifying".

Full details from the Hoxton Hall website.

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