Ambroise Thomas

Le Caïd, opera in 2 acts

    Description by Blair Johnston

    Mid-nineteenth century French opera composer Ambroise Thomas is today remembered almost exclusively for his two major triumphs in serious dramatic opera -- Mignon (1866) and Hamlet (1868) -- but, before achieving success in the hallowed halls of Parisian dramatic theaters, Thomas was a champion composer for the city's just slightly less-exalted comic opera houses. In 1849, the Opéra-Comique at the Salle Favart (a venue then only recently rebuilt after succumbing to fire) was the location of the event that made Thomas' name and the first part of his considerable fortune: the premiere on January 3 of the comic opera Le caïd [The Boss]. Little remembered and infrequently performed though it is today, Le caïd was a smashing success, and the aftermath of its run at the Salle Favart was a very good time for Thomas. He had money, and within seven years he had a teaching post at the Paris Conservatoire -- which in many French musicians' views (then and now), is about as high as a French musician can aspire.

    Le caïd was composed to a two-act libretto written by Thomas Sauvage. Rossini's operas were all the rage during the first half of the nineteenth century, and what better way to make a cartload of money than to write a take-off on one of his operas? Le caïd is at heart a parody of Rossini's L'italiana in Algeri (1813), which is itself only half-serious (how serious can an opera whose second act begins with a number called "Uno stupido," as L'italiana in Algeri does, be?). Then, as now, one comedian could poke fun at another, with no disrespect intended -- and Rossini was alive and quite well in 1849, though he hadn't composed any operas in two decades. No doubt, having himself grown tired of Italian opera, Rossini could enjoy the silly antics of Le caïd's characters: Virginie, Fatma, Birotteau, Michel, and their not-so-European-sounding plotmates Ali-Bajou (to be sung by a "comic tenor") and Aboul-Y-Far (a "comic bass").

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Decca 4789679
    2014 Decca
    2014 Decca B002066402
    2012 Brilliant Classics 94321
    2009 Preiser Records 20053
    2008 EMI Classics / EMI Classics France 575422
    2008 Symposium 1369
    2007 Symposium 1360
    2006 Decca 000575302
    2004 Talent Records 38
    2004 EMI Music Distribution 585828-2
    2001 RCA Victor Red Seal 09026 63860-2
    2000 Symposium 1264
    2000 Symposium SYMPCD1252
    1999 Pearl 0061
    1999 Vocal Archives 2113
    1999 Minerva Records 45
    1997 Preiser Records 89990
    1996 Nimbus 7875
    1995 Preiser Records 89050
    1994 Pearl GEMMCD9122
    1994 Nimbus 7860
    1994 Symposium 1100
    1993 Pearl 9497
    1992 Pearl 9306
    Memories 4411
    Phonographe 5061
    Opera 54519
    Eklipse 13
    RCA Victor 61245
    Philips Classics 432080
    Analekta 28602
    Phonographe 5061/62
    Vocal Archives 1134
    Disky 793
    Minerva Records 59
    Vocal Archives 1104