Edouard Lalo composed two operas: “Le Roi d’Ys” enjoyed considerable success at its first performance at the Opera-Comique in 1888, and it remained in the repertory for many years.His other opera, “Fiesque”, on the other hand, had to wait nearly 140 years before it was performed in a concert version in Montpellier in 2006, and then was finally premiered on stage at the National Theatre Mannheim on 16 June 2007.
Fiesque is an opera of action and intrigue, set in Genoa in 1547 and based on Schiller’s early drama “Die Verschwörung des Fiesco zu Genua”. The historical Fiesco led a conspiracy against the ruling Doria family, Doges of Genoa. The plot revolves around Fiesque’s love for Julie, daughter of his enemy Andreas Doria, and his wife Léonore’s bitter suspicion. Fiesque is also opposed by Verrina, an old fanatical republican who distrusts Fiesque’s commitment to overthrowing the Dorias, especially when his involvement with Doria’s daughter is known. In the final act the Dorias are overthrown; the crowd acclaims Fiesque and Léonore in a triumphal march, but Verrina refuses to allow Fiesque to assume supreme power and throws him to his death in the waters of harbour.
Lalo’s invention is remarkable, and the orchestral writing is at times powerful, at times poignant. Its revival adds a remarkable work to the repertory of French operas.