Roland (Piccinni)
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Roland Piccinni

Roland is a tragédie lyrique in three acts by the composer Niccolò Piccinni. The opera was a new setting of a libretto written by Philippe Quinault for Jean-Baptiste Lully in 1685, specially adapted for Piccinni by Jean-François Marmontel and based on Ludovico Ariosto's epic poem Orlando Furioso (The Frenzy of Orlando). The opera was first performed on 27 January 1778 by the Académie Royale de Musique (Paris Opera) at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal.[1]

Background and performance history

Roland was the first opera Piccinni wrote for Paris. He had been hired by the Académie royale de musique in 1776, in spite of his ignorance of the French language. Piccinni still knew no French when he was composing Roland and had to be helped all the way by his librettist Marmontel, who provided a translation of every word along with details on how to accentuate it correctly. Marmontel also helped Piccinni come to terms with the French style of opera, which was very different from the Italian. The French preferred short arias, accompanied recitative and plenty of dance movements. In spite of these obstacles, Roland was a great success at its premiere.

Roland forms part of a late 18th-century vogue for resetting libretti Quinault had written for Lully, the first major French opera composer, almost one hundred years before. Another famous example is Gluck's Armide (1776). In fact, Gluck - who was regarded as Piccinni's rival in Paris - was said to have abandoned work on his own setting of Roland when he learnt of Piccinni's version.[2] Piccinni went on to set another Quinault libretto, Atys, in 1779.


Role Voice type Premiere cast[3]
27 January 1778
(Conductor: - )
Roland (Orlando) baritone Henri Larrivée
Angélique (Angelica) soprano Rosalie Levasseur
Médor (Medoro) haute-contre Joseph Legros
Témire soprano Lebourgeois
Astolfe (Astolfo) haute-contre[4] Tirot
Logistille (Logistilla) soprano Châteauvieux
Isolano bass Nicolas Gélin
Coridon tenor Étienne Lainez
Tersandre baritone Moreau
Belise soprano Anne-Marie-Jeanne Gavaudan


Marmontel's revised libretto adheres closely to Quinault's original. The major changes are the omission of the allegorical prologue and the reduction of Quinault's five acts to three. For an outline of the plot see Roland (Lully).




  1. ^ Rushton 2001, p. 674; Pitou 1985, vol. 2, pp. 472-473 (theatre). Pitou has the incorrect date 17 January 1778 for the premiere.
  2. ^ Rushton 2001, p. 674.
  3. ^ Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). "27 January 1778". L'Almanacco di Gherardo Casaglia (in Italian).
  4. ^ Les spectacles de Paris, ou calendrier historique & chronologique des Théatres ..., volume 27, Paris, Duchesne, 1777, p. 13.


  • Pitou, Spire (1983-1990). The Paris Opéra: An Encyclopedia of Operas, Ballets, Composers, and Performers (3 volumes). Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-686-46036-7.
  • Rushton, Julian (2001). "Niccolò Piccinni", pp. 673-676, in The New Penguin Opera Guide, edited by Amanda Holden. New York: Penguin Putnam. ISBN 0-14-029312-4.
  • Warrack, John; West, Ewan (1992). The Oxford Dictionary of Opera. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-869164-5.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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