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Libretto by the composer, after 'La peau de chagrin' by Honoré de Balzac (G)

Scoring

Major roles: dramS,dramT,charBar; Minor roles: 3S,3T,Bar,3B; ballet; 2(II=picc).2.2.2(II=dbn)-2.2.0.0-timp.perc-harp-hpd-strings; On-stage: 2.2.2.2-2.2.0.0-timp-hpd-strings; reduced orchestration possible

Abbreviations (PDF)

World Premiere
14/06/1959
Düsseldorf
Conductor: Reinhard Peters
Company: Ensemble Deutsche Oper am Rhein

Roles

RAPHAEL VON VALENTIN Dramatic Tenor
PAULINE, a young girl Dramatic Soprano
To be performed by one person: THE CROUPIER, THE OLD MAN, THE OWNER OF THE CURIOSITY SHOP, THE NOTARY CARDOT and JONATHAN, RAPHAEL'S SERVANT Character Baritone
Minor characters in the 1st act: EUPHRASIA and AQUILINA, courtesans Sopranos
CHARLES and NATHAN, rich men about town Tenor, Bass
Raphael's friends: EMIL, FINOT and RASTIGNAC Tenors, Bass
THE BEGGARS Soprano, Baritone
THE SERVANT OF THE GAMBLING HALL Bass
Minor characters in the 2nd act: HORACE BIANCHON, dermatologist Baritone
PROFESSOR PLANCHETTE, mathematician Tenor
MASTER SPIEGHALTER, smith Bass
Minor characters in the 3rd act: THREE GAMBLERS Tenors, Bass
AN OLD LADY Soprano
HER COMPANION Soprano
BOURGEOIS WOMAN Soprano
A YOUNG MAN, duellist Baritone
SURGEON Bass
Passers-by, Servants, Theatre audience, Labourers in the smithery, Visitors at the health resort, Country people, Mail-coach drivers non-speaking roles
Minor characters with the same voice registers can be performed by the same singers in different acts.
In the 1st and 3rd acts, the ballet is performed with soloists.
Time and Place

Paris and a health resort in the middle of the 19th century

Synopsis

The young student Raphael von Valentin wants to end his life after he has lost his last money at gambling. By a twist of fate, he ends up in a mysterious junk shop, whose owner offers him a strange talisman. It is an oriental donkey's skin, the origin of which goes back to dark mythical times. It fulfils every wish of its owner, but becomes smaller at every wish and correspondingly shortens the owner's life. Valentin accepts the pact, having nothing to lose any more. On leaving the shop, he gets to know that he is the sole heir of an immensely rich uncle, and some time later Pauline, a girl he had formerly secretly admired, confesses her love to him. But had Pauline perhaps already been in love with him before, but not dared to reveal it because of her poor circumstances? Would he have inherited the money even without the skin? Valentin resorts to science in order to solve the mystery, to arrest the process of shrinking and thus fate, too, but in vain. When he realizes that only a little time to live is left to him, he parts from Pauline. After all, it was only his desire for the love of her which now shortens his life. Unable to escape the curse of the pact, Valentin falls into agony. Pauline finds him in his old garret where, after a last moment of resistance, he dies in her arms.

Moods

Dramatic, Romantic, Tragic

Subjects

Literary, Magic/Mystery




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