Anacréon (Cherubini)

Anacréon, ou L'amour fugitif is an opera-ballet in two acts by Luigi Cherubini with a French libretto by C. R. Mendouze. It was premiered on 4 October 1803 by the Paris Opéra at the Salle Montansier. The choreography was by Pierre-Gabriel Gardel. The work proved to be a complete failure, ending its run on 1 January 1804 after only seven performances. The subject matter, a love affair of the Ancient Greek poet Anacreon, was completely alien to the spirit of the time. One critic complained that in his protagonist Cherubini had represented "un vieux debauché déguisé en héros d'opéra" ("an old debauchee disguised as an opera hero").

The overture was praised by Weber and Berlioz and has frequently been recorded. The complete opera was revived by the Italian radio company RAI in 1973 and on stage at La Scala in 1983 with Gianandrea Gavazzeni conducting.


Role Voice type Premiere cast,[1] 4 October 1803
(Conductor: – )
Anacréon tenor François Lays
Corine soprano Caroline Branchu
L'Amour (Cupid) soprano Augustine Hymm[2]
Vénus soprano Mme Jannard
Bathille tenor Casimir Eloy
Glycère soprano Mlle Lacombe
Athanaïs soprano Marie Gardel[3]
Two slaves sopranos Désirée Pelet, Mlle Chollet


Place: The Greek city of Teos in ancient Ionia

Act 1

The young hetaira Corine is in love with the poet Anacréon, unaware that he shares the same feelings for her. As she prepares for Anacréon's fiftieth birthday celebrations, she prays to Cupid to bring her and the poet together in spite of the difference in age between them. There is a storm outside and a tiny guest arrives at Anacréon's house, soaked to the skin. It is Cupid in disguise, on the run from his mother Venus. He uses his powers to charm all those present.

Act 2

Cupid moves Anacréon with the tale of his unhappy childhood. Then he plays a prank by making Glycère and Bathille renew their unhappy love affair. At this point a message arrives from Venus, who has just learned of her son's escape. She promises a prize to anyone who captures him: the fulfillment of every wish. The guests soon see through Cupid's disguise and tie him up, but his laments lead them to release him again. Once he begins to play more tricks, however, they capture him again and bind him to the statue of Wisdom. Venus is happy to fulfill Anacréon's two wishes: that the rest of his life should be devoted to the cult of beauty; and that Corine should return his love.



  1. According to the printed score (accessible online at IMSLP).
  2. Also spelled Himm. She was only 12 years old at the time of the Anacréon premiere. She made her formal debut at the Opéra in 1806 at the age of 15 and later married the dancer Albert (Pitou 1985, p. 17).
  3. The role was sung and danced by the versatile Marie Gardel, wife of the choreographer Pierre Gardel.


  • Printed score: Anacréon, ou L'Amour Fugitif, Opéra ballet en deux actes, Paris/Lyon, Magasin Cherubini, Méhul, Kreutzer, Rode, Isouard et Boildieu/Garnier, s.d. (accessible online at IMSLP)
  • "Del Teatro (in Italian)". Archived from the original on March 4, 2012. Retrieved December 3, 2009.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  • Lajarte, Théodore (1878). Bibliothèque musicale du Théâtre de l'Opéra, volume 2 [1793–1876]. Paris: Librairie des Bibliophiles. View at Google Books.
  • Pitou, Spire (1985). The Paris Opera: An Encyclopedia of Operas, Ballets, Composers, and Performers. Rococo and Romantic, 1715-1815. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-313-24394-3.
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