Florestan, ou Le conseil des dix

Ponte dei Sospiri
by Gennaro Favai

Florestan, ou Le conseil des dix (Florestan, or the Council of Ten) was the second grand opera composed by Manuel del Pópulo Vicente García for the Paris Opéra. The previous, La mort du Tasse (premiered February 7, 1821), had been quite successful, but Florestan was a complete failure, not lasting past its premiere on June 26, 1822.

One of the likely reasons for the failure was that García had just recovered from a long illness and was probably behind schedule in preparing the score. According to the German critic Georg L. P. Sievers, García reportedly had composed the entire score in just two weeks [Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, 36 (4 Sept. 1822), 592]. This is believable, given the chaotic condition of the autograph score: music and text are written in several hands; music is out of order; cuts and emendations appear throughout.

Nonetheless, Florestan is an interesting work from an historical perspective. It is one of several "Florestan" operas composed at the turn of the century (the most famous being Beethoven's Fidelio) and features the theme of freedom and liberation—which was dear to García's heart. But, most importantly, the role of Noradin in Florestan was composed for the young Adolphe Nourrit and it gives us an idea of the young tenor's voice at the time (when he was taking lessons from García).

Le premier rôle écrit pour le jeune           The first role written for the young 
ténor fut celui d'un esclave maure           tenor was that of a Moorish slave
dans une pièce mise en musique             in a piece set to music by García,
par Garcia, Florestan ou le Conseil           Florestan ou le Conseil des Dix 
des Dix (26 juin 1822). Garcia était         (26 June 1822). García was a
meilleur chanteur que compositeur,          better singer than composer,
et Nourrit, malgré son désir et ses           and Nourrit, despite his desire and effort,   
efforts, ne put faire vivre la partition        was unable to bring alive the music
de soncher maître.                                 of his dear master.                                             
[Louis Quicherat, Adolphe Nourrit: Sa vie, son talent, son caractère, sa correspondance (Paris, 1867)]
The libretto was by Étienne-Joseph-Bernard Delrieu (1761-1836) and the original is available on-line at the Bibliothèque Nationale's Gallica website: Florestan ou Le conseil des dix.

The story is set in Venice in the sixteenth century, during the reign of Suleiman II, twenty years before the battle of Lepanto (1571) and when the Republic of Venice was governed by the mysterious Council of Ten, which was in power from 1310 to 1797. The principal characters are:
MARCELLO, president of the Council of Ten and of the Senate. Played by François Lais (1758-1831).

OCTAVIE, a rich Venetian noblewoman, widow. Played by Rose-Timoléone-Carolina Branchu (1780-1850).

FLORESTAN, Venetian admiral, French knight, lover of Octavie. Played by Henri-Étienne Dérivis (1780-1856).

PEZARI, inquisitor of the State, secret rival of Florestan. Played by M. Bonel.

NORADIN, Moorish prince, prisoner of Florestan. Played by Adolphe Nourrit (1802-1839).

ORSEO, messenger of the State. Played by Pierre Ferdinand Prevot (1800-1879).

Councilors of Ten, Senators, the entourages of the Doge, Octavie, Florestan; naval officers, soldiers, gondoliers and their wives, villagers, guards.
(Descriptions of sets and stage directions come from the original printed libretto.)
The action takes place on the Isle of Saint George, with a view of Venice and the grand canal in the distance. A festival is taking place to celebrate the victory of Florestan over Suleiman. Orseo enters and tells the crowd to stop and go away. The village women continue to sing the praises of Florestan. One of them, stopping in front of the palace of Octavie, remarks: "Widow of the doge whose arms made the Muslim tremble, Octavie has dried her tears upon seeing her husband avenged by Florestan!"

A trumpet sounds, announcing the return of Florestan. The gondolas on the canal separate as Florestan's boat approaches. Octavie and Florestan sing a duet. A march ensues, during which a triumphal chariot is brought forth for Florestan. He refuses the honor. Octavie tells Florestan that he must appear before the tribunal and he should fear Pezari, who is jealous of Florestan, hates him, pursues him and accuses him. Florestan acknowledges that, yes, Pezari hates him, even to his being French. Octavie and Florestan sing another duet. Octavie invites Florestan to join her celebration. A ballet and chorus ensue, in praise of Mars and Venus. At the climax of the dance, Orseo and guards of the Council appear. Orseo demands that the celebration stop immediately and orders the arrest of Florestan. The crowd is dumbfounded. Octavie is distraught. Florestan tells her to remain calm, but she flings herself among the guards who push her back and lead Florestan away.

Octavie remains alone. Soldiers run up, asking who is being punished. When Octavie tells them "It is your admiral!" they cry out at the injustice. Octavie urges them and the people to defend, with their lives, "the avenger of your country." Led by Octavie, they all rush off.

The action takes place in the chamber of the tribunal. There are statues of Doges and warriors, with murals representing past armed exploits of Venice. At the rear, a large curtain of black velvet with silver fringe hides the chamber of the Council of Ten. Next to the curtain is a secret door that, when open, reveals the Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs).

Noradin enters with four black slaves who place themselves before the curtain, where they remain on guard. Noradin wonders who the unfortunate warrior is who is being dragged before the tribunal. He sings an air, lamenting his loss: in his homeland he commanded a brave people; here he serves assassins. Unhappy man that he is, he suffers life while others die. He accuses Florestan of being the sole cause of his misery:
By you, on my ship, I saw my father perish!
You have your soldiers ready to cut my throat.
Death will end my sorrows!
You left me my life, and placed me in chains!
Ah! If I could only avenge myself!
Noradin hears the Inquisitor (Pezari) approaching and leaves by the secret door. Pezari enters and gloats over the arrest of Florestan: "The scaffold awaits you!" The Council assembles and Pezari presents his case against Florestan: the rebellious foreigner went into battle after Pezari had commanded him not to. What punishment does he deserve for this treason? The councilors shout: "Death!"

Marcello, the president, enters. In an aria he asks what Florestan has done? Marcello defends Florestan: "Can one condemn a hero who has given us peace? Suleiman and his savage hoards would have ravaged Venice even to these walls. It was Florestan alone who saved us." Pezari insists that Florestan is guilty but Marcello says he will interrogate Florestan himself.

Marcello asks Florestan if he obeyed Pezari's command. Florestan declares: "No, on the field of glory I saw nothing but honor, this is the law of a Frenchman!" As Marcello continues to interrogate Florestan, Pezari becomes increasingly outraged and hurls disparaging remarks. Marcello asks Florestan why, when he returned, did he not come immediately before the tribunal when he was summoned. Florestan said he wanted to see Octavie, after a five-year's absence. Pezari is beside himself with jealousy and tells the judges that now they can see the ambitious plans that Florestan was hiding from them (i.e. marrying the former doge's widow). Marcello asks Florestan what he has to say for himself. Florestan refuses to answer: "I will answer to you alone, for you are the one I revere. But not to an insolent and dishonorable judge." When Pezari asks who that judge is, Florestan responds: "You, yourself, barbarian. Yes, you hate me. You would hate me less if I had not been victorious." Florestan sings an aria telling that his glory offended Pezari, who now wishes to reward him with death: "But God will make you pay. All-powerful God, hear my voice. Send your thunder upon my perfidious accuser!" Pezari orders the slaves to take Florestan away.

Orseo rushes in and tells the tribunal that a furious crowd, led by Octavie, is approaching. The councilors are taken aback: "A woman? How strange. She dares to appear before us!"

Octavie enters, disheveled. To Marcello she pleads mercy for Florestan. They sing a duet:


Suleiman's conqueror

by you loses his life!

Florestan's assassin

must sacrifice Octavie!



Florestan's assassin?

I?... how wrong!... Octavie!

I wish to save the life

of Suleiman's conqueror!

Marcello tells Octavie to calm herself: he defended Florestan, "the most valiant of warriors". Marcello exits. Octavie goes to follow him, but is stopped by the guards. Pezari enters by the secret door. Octavie is horrified to see the "barbarian". Octavie, thinking that Florestan has been put to death, tells Pezari to kill her as well, so that she may be united with Florestan. But Pezari tells her: "One word from you, Octavie, and his chains will be broken." Pezari tells Octavie that he adores her: "It is up to you whether to absolve or condemn Florestan. Tell me, should I listen to Love or to Justice? His life is in your hands. It is you who order either his triumph or his death." Full of contempt, Octavie sings an aria. Her decision is made, she awaits nothing from Pezari but death. She tries to exit towards the rear, but Noradin appears at the head of the guards, who surround Octavie. Pezari orders them to guard her.

Pezari, apart, muses to himself. Florestan must die before the day is over. Octavie will remain in prison. Then he approaches Noradin and tells him that the Council requests an important service of him: "Wealth and liberty await you." Noradin tells him that liberty is enough and asks what he must do. Pezari says: "A rogue must be punished." When he says it is Florestan, Noradin furiously shouts that Florestan is the cause of his misery. Pezari gives Noradin a dagger. Secretly he will be let into the victim's dungeon cell. He must stab him (Noradin shudders): "Tonight! Obey, or you will die!"

Noradin, alone, with the dagger in his hand, asks if in order to avenge his father, he must become an assassin. (The libretto, translation, score and music for this entire scene are given below).
In an agitato aria he hears the cry for revenge from his father, remembers his homeland, swears to avenge his father. Noradin hears the tribunal. Pezari, the councilors, and finally Noradin, vow that Florestan must die.

Florestan is seen in the dungeon on a stone bench in chains. A high staircase leads to a door at the top; at the bottom of the stairs is the heavy bolted door of the dungeon. A sepulchral lamp barely shines. Various instruments of torture can be seen. Towards the rear there is a trap door that opens to the canal which passes under the prison and which can be seen through a long grilled window at ground level.

Florestan sings an aria: he is going to die; he prays for consolation for Octavie. After the aria he notices the profound silence: it is death; he will await it on this stone bench; the one who is innocent has no fear of death. He lies down and sleeps.

A mysterious march is played in the orchestra during which the prison clock strikes midnight. Noradin enters. At the foot of the stairs he sees Florestan sleeping calmly. He raises the dagger to stab Florestan, but his arm freezes in mid-air. He doesn't know "by what charm" he was stopped. He stirs himself to go through with it. Florestan awakes: "What do I see? My executioner?" Noradin says, "Yes, I am he. You know me: Noradin!" Florestan calmly tells him to strike: "What are you waiting for? Here is my breast." (He bares his chest.) "Strike, I tell you!"

Noradin is taken aback by Florestan's courage. Florestan tells him to kill his conqueror—he is unarmed: "Avenge your father!"

But Noradin reflects that his father was killed in combat. He cannot avenge him by an assassination. He throws down the dagger and loosens Florestan's chains. He tells Florestan: "You saved my life; I will save yours!" Noradin now fears only for Florestan: he will brave the tribunal's vengeance. He looks around for the trap door: "They told me it was here." He finds it: "Here it is! Florestan!" He tells him to follow him. They sing: "Into the infernal gulf! "Do you hear the roar of the canal?" "Yes, I hear the roar of the canal!" "We must swim to the bank!" "Far from the tribunal's spies."

But when Noradin urges Florestan towards the trap door, Florestan refuses. Noradin tells him: "If you refuse, I will be the first victim." Florestan says he trembles for Noradin. But Noradin says: "Tremble for Octavie! She has been abducted by your rival!" Florestan shouts: "My rival? Pezari!!!!" Noradin puts his hand over Florestan's mouth and tells him to be quiet: the slightest noise can be fatal. They both look towards the prison door, but it doesn't move. They kneel and sing a prayer:

O divine Providence!

Guide our steps!

In order to accomplish my/his vengeance,

strengthen my arm.

Together they jump into the waves.

There is a change of scene and the prison disappears. Immediately music of joy and hope can be heard.

The portico of the Council of Ten is seen. It is completely closed and in the most profound darkness. A chorus of soldiers and people outside sing:

Break his shackles, save the life

of Florestan!

He saved our country;

Death awaits him.

Octavie enters, escorted by the guards of the Council. The stage is dark. In an aria "agitatissimo" Octavie cries for Florestan: she wishes to follow him and die. She falls senseless, but joyous sounds are heard from the orchestra. Octavie awakens and, kneeling, continues her aria, praying for Hope to return to her heart, she asks God to save the innocent one, to protect virtue: "Return, O sweet Hope!"

Marcello rushes in. He tells Octavie: "Heaven has heard your pleas. Come, Octavie! You are free!" He assures her that Florestan is alive. They sing a duet, reprising her aria: "Return, O sweet Hope".

A chorus of people outside sing in honor of the "avenger of our country". The scene changes and, from the darkest night, there follows a brilliant illumination of the stage. In the middle can be seen the palace of Saint Mark. In the background can be seen the grand canal, filled with gondolas. In the midst appears Florestan's boat. On the right of the stage is a platform, decorated for the victor.

Florestan, in triumphant dress, is led upstage, mounted in a chariot drawn by young soldiers. Noradin, dressed as an "African prince", marches alongside the chariot, around which is performed a ballet.


Sketch of the sleeve of Noradin's costume, worn by Adolphe Nourrit.
Costume design by Auguste-Siméon Garneray (1785-1824).
Source: Gallica, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.

After the ballet Florestan tells Noradin that, without him, he would have perished in the dungeon. But he doesn't see Octavie. As he looks around he sings: "In this moment which belongs to Octavie! She is not next to me!"

Octavie rushes in: "Florestan!" And he cries: "Octavie!"

Florestan, Octavie, Marcello and Noradin sing a quartet:

O God! You return hope and peace to my heart.

After such suffering, I find happiness.


O God! You return hope and peace to their heart.

After such suffering, they find happiness.

Marcello sings the praises of Florestan and tells him that his odious rival has been punished. He gives a sword to Octavie who offers it to Florestan as a gift from the Republic of Venice: "May Florestan always be the hope of my country and Suleiman's fright." Then he says that to crown the feast, Florestan must lead Octavie to the altar! A ceremonial ballet ensues during which the chorus sings: "Venice, far from this shore, sees the frightened Turk flee!" A dancer presents Florestan with a laurel crown. Florestan rises and sings to Octavie:

Ah! from my hand receive this pledge

Of love and fidelity.

Allow the reward of courage

To adorn the head of beauty.

Florestan places the crown on Octavie's head. The chorus sings in praise of Octavie and Florestan while everyone dances and a march continues. Marcello leads Florestan and Octavie to the triumphal chariot. The two spouses mount the chariot together, cross the stage, surrounded by the choir dancing, and followed by Marcello, Noradin and the nobles. They stop at the rear of the stage for a tableau vivant.



Below the score and synthesized performance can be downloaded.

SCÈNE XI.                                                                          SCENE XI


NORADIN, seul, le poignard à la main.                              NORADIN, alone, a dagger in his hand.

Dieu!... pour venger un père,                                                Oh God!... to avenge my father,

Faut-il devenir assassin?                                                       must I become an assassin?

D'un poignard armer Noradin!...                                           Noradin armed with a dagger!...


(Après avoir regardé autour de lui.)                                      (After looking around him.)


Juge cruel!... je conçois sa colère.                                         Cruel judge!... I know his anger.

Il cache aux yeux du tribunal                                                He hides (under the eyes of) from the tribunal

Les transports de l'amour, les fureurs de l'envie!                  his transports of love, the fury of envy!    

J'ai surpris son secret... Il adore Octavie!                              I have come upon his secret... He adores Octavie!

Dans Florestan il poursuit son rival!...                                   In Florestan he pursues his rival!...


(Irrésolu et réfléchissant.)                                                    (Irresolute and reflective.)

Nature!... honneur!.... que faire en ce moment fatal?            Nature!... honor!... What to do at this fatal moment?


AIR agitato.                                                                           AIR agitato.


O ciel!... de ma juste furie                                                     Oh heaven!... from my just fury...

Comment... réprimer... le transport?...                                   how... to suppress... the punishment?

J'entends... mon père... qui me crie:                                       I hear... my father, who cries to me:

Brise tes fers!... venge ma mort!...                                         Break your chains!... Avenge my death!...


(Avec joie.)                                                                            (Joyfully.)

Ah! que je suis... heureux d'avance....                                   Ah, but I am happy to go forward...

De m'affranchir.... d'un joug fatal!....                                     to free myself... from a fatal yoke!....

Je vois d'ici... le toit natal...                                                    I see from here the home of my birth...

Et le berceau... de mon enfance!...                                          and the cradle of my childhood!...

Ah! Je le vois!                                                                         Ah! I see it!


(Avec fureur.)                                                                          (With fury.)

Allons!... j'obéis... à ta loi!...                                                  On with it!... I obey... your law!....

Je cède... au courroux.... qui t'anime!...                                  I give in... to the wrath... that stirs you!...

Je cours... immoler... la victime!...                                         I run.... to sacrifice... the victim!...

Ombre sacrée!... apaise toi!                                                    Sacred shadow!... Be appeased!

FIN DE L'AIR                                                                        END OF THE AIR


(Derrière le rideau, dans la chambre secrète,                        (Behind the curtain, in the secret chamber,

on entend une musique sombre et terrible.)                            can be heard a dark and terrible music.)

(LE THÉÂTRE S'OBSCURCIT PEU À PEU.)                       (THE STAGE GRADUALLY DARKENS.)                                                                            


SCÈNE XII.                                                                            SCENE XII.

NORADIN, sur l'avant-scène; PEZARI,                                 NORADIN, downstage; PEZARI,

ORSÉO, Conseillers, Gardes du Conseil,                              ORSEO, Councilors, Guards of the Council

derrière le rideau.                                                                   behind the curtain.


CHOEUR DES  CONSEILLERS.                                         CHORUS OF COUNCILORS.

(On ne les voit pas.)                                                               (Hidden from view.)


Il va périr!... la nuit s'avance!...                                              He will perish!... Night advances!...

(Fort mouvement d'orchestre.)                                               (A strong sound from the orchestra.)

(Le rideau du fond s'ouvre.)                                                   (The curtain upstage opens.)


NORADIN, frémissant et regardant le fond.                         NORADIN, trembling as he looks behind.

Le tribunal paraît!... silence!...                                               The tribunal appears!... silence!...


[Cut from final libretto:]

Écoutons!... Si j'étais surpris...                                 Listen!...   If I was overtaken...

de ma témerité...                                                      by my fear....

la mort serait le prix!...                                            death would be the cost!...


(Il reste immobile sur l'avant-scène.)                       (He remains motionless downstage.)



Vengeons-nous... Vengeons notre outrage!              Let us avenge...   avenge his affront against us.


NORADIN                                                                NORADIN

Ah!... quelle fureur!... quelle rage!                           Ah!... what fury!.... what rage!


(On voit Pezari et les conseillers assis autour                         (Pezari and the councilors can be seen

d'une table. Orséo est debout.  Les gardes sont en                  sitting around a table. Orseo is standing.

dehors. Marcello est seul absent. L'intérieur du                      The guards are around them. Only

tribunal est très-éclairé; et le reste du théâtre dans                Marcello is absent. The interior of the

la plus profonde obscurité.)                                                      tribunal is brightly lit; and the rest of

                                                                                                  the stage is in absolute darkness.)


PEZARI, se levant, seul.                                                          PEZARI, stands up, alone.

Juges! enfin, n'en dutez pas!                                                    Judges! at last have no doubt.

Florestan contre nous conspire!                                               Florestan conspires agains us!

Il veut renverser notre empire!                                                He wants to overthrow our empire!

Jurez, jurez tous son trépas!!...                                                Swear that he must die!...


(Noradin est égaré et hors de lui.)                                         (Noradin is distraught and beside himself.)


NORADIN                                                                             NORADIN

Mon père!...                                                                           My father!...


CHOEUR DES CONSEILLERS                                         CHORUS OF COUNCILORS

Nous le jurons!... n'en doutez pas!...                                    We swear!... there is no doubt!...


NORADIN                                                                           NORADIN

Mon père! viens! guide mon bras!...                                    My father! come! guide my arm!...

Il m'apparaît!...                                                                     He appears to me!...

Ciel!... il soupire!...                                                              Heavens!... he sighs!...

Ce cri plaintif... me doit suffire!                                           His plaintive cry should be enough for me.


PEZARI et CONSEILLERS                                                PEZARI and COUNCILORS

Florestan contre nous conspire!...                                        Florestan conspires against us!...

Nous le jurons!...                                                                  We swear!...

N'en doutez pas!...                                                               There is no doubt!...

Il veut renverser notre empire!                                             He wants to overthrow our empire!


PEZARI et CONSEILLERS                                                 PEZARI and COUNCILORS

Jurons, jurons tous...                                                             We swear, we all swear...

Jurons son trépas.                                                                  We swear that he must die.


NORADIN                                                                            NORADIN

Mon père, viens! guide mon bras!...                                     My father! come! guide my arm!...


PEZARI et CONSEILLERS                                                 PEZARI and COUNCILORS

Nous le jurons! n'en doutons pas!                                         We swear! there is no doubt!


Florestan contre nous conspire.                                           Florestan conspires agains us.

Jurons tous... son trépas.                                                     We all swear... that he must die.


NORADIN                                                                           NORADIN

Il m'apparaît!... Allons!                                                        He appears to me!... Come on!

Florestan... tu mourras!...                                                     Florestan... you will die!...

Mon père, guide mon bras!



Jurons tous.... Jurons son trépas!                                           We all swear... we swear that he must die!


(Les conseillers furieux se lèvent tous.                                  (The councilors rise in a fury.

Orséo et les gardes tirent leur[s] épée[s].)                           Orseo and the guards draw their swords.)


Click to download the orchestral score: Florestan, scenes XI-XII orchestra.
Click to down load the synthesized audio: Florestan, scenes XI-XII audio.
Click to download the vocal score. Florestan, scenes XI-XII vocal.

If you download the score to your desktop first, you can
listen to the audio while following the score.

This music is for personal use only. All copyright restrictions apply.

—James Radomski
(uploaded May 1, 2015)

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