What we have here is the grandest opera never heard—in spite of the fact that Giacomo Meyerbeer’s Robert le Diable made, arguably, the most sensational debut of any in the history of the Paris Opéra. The massive work was hailed by nearly every composer of its day as a masterpiece, save a few bitter pill takers—Herrs Wagner and Mendelssohn I’m looking at you—and then transcribed into concert pieces by many of them.
Staging innovations for that first production included the first use in Paris of the English theatrical trap door. It even started trends in dance that live on to this day with the invention of the ur-tutu and the introduction of the “ballet blanc” genre with the ladies of the corps all in white. Being immortalized by Degas twice in paint and having the singular distinction of being the only 19th Century opera to have a rose named after it hardly even scratches the veneer of how wildly popular Robert was in its heyday. Read more »