Opera Scotland

Roi malgré lui Le roi malgré lui; The Reluctant King


Alexis-Emmanuel Chabrier (born 18 January 1841; died Paris, 13 September 1894)


Emile de Najac, Paul Burani, and the Composer


Play (1836) by F Ancelot



First Performance: Paris (Opéra-Comique), 18 May 1887.

First Performance in UK: London (Queen Elizabeth Hall), 7 November 1992 (concert).

First Staged Performance in UK: Edinburgh (King's Theatre), 1 September 1994.

First Performance in Scotland: As above.

Scottish Opera première: N/A.



Le roi malgré lui has been translated literally as The King in spite of himself, or more logically as The Reluctant King. The work has always been criticised because of a lame and hopelessly confusing libretto, concerning the election of Henri de Valois to the throne of Poland in 1574. It is believed to have hindered the popularity of a work by one of the most delightfully entertaining composers of the late nineteenth century. The staging by Opera North which appeared in Edinburgh featured a libretto which was not so much a translation as a wholesale rewriting of the libretto. It does not, however, so far appear to have increased the work's popularity.


Main Characters

Henri de Valois (baritone)

Comte De Nangis, his friend (tenor)

Minka, engaged to Henri (soprano)

Fritelli, a Venetian Duke (baritone)

Alexina, his wife (soprano)

Laski, a Polish Count (baritone)

Minka, his servant (soprano)


Plot Summary (original)

Henri and his friends are not enjoying his life in Poland, and when he discovers a Polish plot against him, he inveigles his way into the conspiracy, disguised as his friend De Nangis, and has him arrested in order to keep him out of the way. At a ball Henri meets up with the leading conspirator, Count Laski, and the Fritellis, and discovers that the Duchess was his mistress on an earlier visit to Venice. Henri introduces Nangis to the assembly as Henri. Nangis co-operates with this ruse. But Laski sees it as an opportunity to assassinate the 'king'. The conspirators draw lots for the privilege of being the murderer, and Henri is nominated. Nangis is saved from the plot by his lover Minka. Henri is reunited with Alexina, and Nangis with Minka, for a happy ending.

The Cast

 (Duchess of Fritelli) a committed revolutionary, in love with Henri
 a recent recruit to the cause
 a revolutionary
 a revolutionary
First Courtier
Fourth Courtier
 (a Venetian Duke) a revolutionary, quarter-master to Henri
 (Henri de Valois) leader of a revolutionary cell in Moldavia, secretly 'The Runaway Prince'
 (a Polish Count) Master of the Royal Household
 a revolutionary
 a revolutionary
 (Laski's servant) a spy working secretly for Laski
Minka's Fifth Nymph
Minka's First Nymph
Minka's Fourth Nymph
Minka's Second Nymph
Minka's Sixth Nymph
Minka's Third Nymph
 (Comte de Nangis) a dissolute nobleman with republican sympathies
Prince Albert
 variously Albert the GBlack, Albert the Bastard
Second Courier
Third Courtier
 a revolutionary

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