Jean de Nivelle

Jean de Nivelle is an opera in three acts by Léo Delibes to a French libretto by Edmond Gondinet and Philippe Gille. It premiered on 6 March 1880 at the Opéra-Comique in Paris, with the French tenor, Jean-Alexandre Talazac in the title role. The story is based on the historical figure Jean de Nivelle, a member of the House of Montmorency who refused to join with his father, Jean II de Montmorency, in supporting Louis XI in his war against Charles the Bold.

Although originally described as an opéra comique, in many respects it is close to the grand opera tradition typified by Meyerbeer. The opera proved popular in its day, with 100 performances in the year following its premiere. Between 1881 and 1882, it was also performed at La Monnaie in Brussels, Saint Petersburg, Copenhagen, Budapest, Vienna, and Stockholm. Then, it disappeared from the repertoire and was only revived in Paris in 1908, at the Théâtre Lyrique Municipal de la Gaité.

Franz Liszt in 1881, in his late sparse style, began to compose a free fantasy on the orchestral introduction to the opera, followed by the introduction to the ballad itself. But the manuscript is incomplete and unfinished. It is numbered S698 in Liszt's catalogue of works, and is the only operatic fantasy Liszt contemplated on themes by Delibes.


Role Voice type Premiere cast, 9 March 1880
(Conductor: Jules Danbé)
Jean de Nivelle tenor Talazac
Le comte de Charolais baritone Taskin
Arlette soprano Bilbaut-Vauchelet
Simone mezzo-soprano Engally
Diane de Beautreillis dugazon Mirane
Le page Isolin dugazon Dalbret
Saladin d’Anglure bass Maris
Le sire de Malicorne tenor comique Grivot
Le baron de Beautreillis bass[1] Gourdon
Un vieillard bass Troy
Chorus: lords, pages, guards.


  1. Designated in the vocal score as 'Laruette', after the singer Jean-Louis Laruette (1731-1792), meaning a type of character bass voice.


  • Decé, H., Review: "Théâtre Lyrique Municipal de la Gaité: Jean de Nivelle", Le théâtre Vol. 1908/II, No. 239, 1908, pp. 18-22
  • Forbes, Elizabeth, "Talazac, Jean-Alexandre" in L. Macy (ed.), The Grove Book of Opera Singers, Oxford University Press US, 2008, p. 483. ISBN 0-19-533765-4
  • Pottinger, Mark A., Review: Léo Delibes, Jean de Nivelle: Dossier de presse parisienne (1880), Music and Letters Vol. 89, No. 3, 2008, pp. 434-435
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