More info on Hamlet
About the opera Hamlet
Hamlet is an opéra in five acts by the French composer Ambroise Thomas, with a libretto by Michel Carré and Jules Barbier based on a French adaptation by Alexandre Dumas, père and Paul Meurice of Shakespeare's play Hamlet.Read more on Wikipedia
The Parisian public's fascination with Ophelia, prototype of the femme fragile, began in the fall of 1827, when an English company directed by William Abbot came to Paris to give a season of Shakespeare in English at the Odéon. On 11 September 1827 the Irish actress Harriet Smithson played the part of Ophelia in Hamlet. Her mad scene appeared to owe little to tradition and seemed almost like an improvisation, with several contemporary accounts remarking on her astonishing capacity for mime. Her performances produced an extraordinary reaction: men wept openly in the theater, and when they left were "convulsed by uncontrollable emotion." The twenty-five-year-old Alexandre Dumas, père, who was about to embark on a major career as a novelist and dramatist, was in the audience and found the performance revelatory, "far surpassing all my expectations". The French composer Hector Berlioz was also present at that opening night performance and later wrote: "The lightning flash of that sublime discovery opened before me at a stroke the whole heaven of art, illuminating it to its remotest depths. I recognized the meaning of dramatic grandeur, beauty, truth." Even the wife of the English ambassador, Lady Granville, felt compelled to report that the Parisians "roar over Miss Smithson's Ophelia, and strange to say so did I". (The actress's Irish accent and the lack of power in her voice had hindered her success in London.) It wasn't long before new clothing and hair styles, à la mode d'Ophélie and modeled on those of the actress, became all the rage in Paris.