Royal Academy Opera: Chérubin

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Premiered at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo in 1905, Massenet’s Chérubin provides a sequel to Beaumarchais’s play and Mozart’s opera, both entitled The Marriage of Figaro, placing the romantic exploits of the page boy centre stage.

In the hands of Massenet and librettist Francis de Croisset, Chérubin is no longer the ‘farfallone amoroso’ (amorous butterfly) of Mozart’s opera buffa, but a fiery 17-year-old intent on pursuing every folly he can think of: ‘Freedom! I want to make so many stupid mistakes that you will be horrified!’.

Massenet described his opera as a comédie chantée’ and the flexible structure of the work freely incorporates pastiches of 18th-century opera-ballet with liberal splashes of Spanish local colour, unfolding a dreamy coming-of-age story in which the exuberant protagonist experiences his first taste of heartbreak at the hands of Teatro Real’s dazzling prima ballerina, L’Ensoleillad.