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Music Text

Libretto by Eugène Scribe; German version by Ferdinand Gumbert (F,G)

Scoring

3S,2T,2Bar,3B; chorus; ballet;
4(III,IV=picc).2(II=corA).2.bcl(or barsax).4-4.4.2crt.3.0.ophicleide-timp.perc-2harps-strings;
On-stage: 2.2.2.asax(opt.).2(or harmonium instead of woodwinds)-wind band-perc

Abbreviations (PDF)

World Premiere
4/28/1865
Opéra, Paris
Company: Paris Opéra

Roles

DON PEDRO, President of the Council of the King of Portugal Bass
DON DIEGO, Admiral Bass
INES, his daughter Soprano
VASCO DA GAMA, naval officer Tenor
DON ALVAR, member of the Council Tenor
The Grand Inquisitor of Lisbon Bass
NELUSKO and SELICA, slaves Baritone, Soprano
The High Priest of the Brahma Baritone
ANNA, Ines’s servant Soprano
Naval officers, Bishops, Councillors, Priests of the Brahma, Indian men and women, Officers, Soldiers, Sailors
Time and Place

Lisbon and India at the end of the 15th century

Synopsis



For years, the Portuguese fleet has tried to find a sea route around the Cape of Good Hope in order to discover new countries beyond Africa and to break the Arab trade monopoly in India. Once more a ship has crashed off the West African coast. Vasco da Gama, the sole survivor, presents two slaves to the High Council of Lisbon, Sélica and Nélusko, who he purchased at an African slave market and who bear testimony to an unknown culture. His plan to send out a new expedition led by himself fails because the Grand Inquisitor objects. When Vasco consequently thunders against the narrow-mindedness of the Council, he is put into prison, along with his slaves. Inès, the daughter of Admiral Diego, who is in love with Vasco and has waited for him for two years, is to be married to Don Pedro, the Council’s President, according to her father’s wish. To save Vasco from execution and under the condition of his liberation, she accepts the liaison. In prison, Sélica, who in truth is a Madagascan princess, tells Vasco how the South Cape of Africa can be circumnavigated without danger. Don Pedro, who wants to realize Vasco's plans in his own interest, prepares a separate expedition. Apart from Inès, he takes the two Madagascans along who are supposed to serve him as pilots. But Nélusko, who hates Europeans, wants to undo them. Vasco, once at large again, sails after Don Pedro to save Ines. For he suspects Nélusko's intentions ...

Moods

Romantic, Tragic




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