Main content

Storming the Operatic Battlements

Donald Macleod investigates Saint-Saens's determination to fulfil his ultimate ambition to be recognised as an operatic composer.

Donald Macleod investigates Saint-Saëns' determination to fulfil his ultimate ambition to be recognised as an operatic composer. There were plenty of obstacles along the way. His first venture into serious opera failed when the production was shelved due to the bankruptcy of the theatre director. The next had a happier outcome as Liszt agreed to premiere it at his opera house in Weimar, but Saint-Saëns had to wait 15 years before it received its first performance in Paris. Of the 13 operas Saint-Saëns composed just one has stood the test of time, though many of them would prove to be hugely successful in his lifetime and contribute to his reputation as a globally successful composer.

La Princesse Jaune: Overture
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Neeme Järvi, conductor

O Cruel Souvenir (Henry VIII)
Veronique Gens, soprano
Les Talens Lyriques
Christophe Rousset, conductor

Samson et Dalila: Act II (excerpt)
Placido Domingo, tenor (Samson)
Waltraud Meier, soprano (Dalila)
Orchestra of the Opéra Bastille
Myung-Whun Chung, conductor

Bacchanale (Samson et Dalila)
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Neeme Järvi, conductor

Proserpine: Act II (excerpt)
Frédèric Antoun, tenor (Sabatino)
Marie-Adeline Henry, soprano (Angiola)
Jean Teitgen, bass (Renzo)
Andrew Foster-Williams, baritone (Squarocca)
Flemish Radio Choir
Munich Radio Orchestra
Ulf Schirmer, conductor

Produced by Deborah Preston for BBC Wales

22 days left to listen

59 minutes

Music Played

Add music you love and enjoy it with My Tracks

Broadcast

Composers A to Z

Visit the extensive audio archive of Radio 3 programmes about Composers and their works.

A man out of time – why Parry's music and ideas were at odds with his image...

The composer of Jerusalem was very far from the conservative figure his image suggests.

Five reasons why we love Parry's Jerusalem

What is the strange power of Jerusalem which makes strong men weep?

Composer Help Page

Find resources and contacts for composers from within the classical music industry.