“Robert le Diable” was produced at the Academie Royale in 1831, and inaugurated the brilliant reign of Dr. Veron as manager. The bold innovations, the powerful situations, the daring methods of the composer, astonished and delighted Paris, and the work was performed more than a hundred consecutive times. The history of “Robert le Diable” is in some respects curious. It was originally written for the Vontadour Theatre, devoted to comic opera; but the company were found unable to sing the difficult music. Meyerbeer was inspired by Weber’s “Der Freischtitz” to attempt a romantic, semi-fantastic legendary opera, and trod very closely in the footsteps of his model. It was determined to so alter the libretto and extend and elaborate the music as to fit it for the stage of the Grand Opera. MM. Scribe and Delavigne, the librettists, and Meyerbeer, devoted busy days and nights to hurrying on the work. The whole opera was remodeled, recitative substituted for dialogue, and one of the most important characters,—Rainibaud, cut out in the fourth and fifth acts—a suppression which is claimed to have befogged a very clear and intelligible plot. Highly suggestive in its present state of Weber’s opera, the opera of “Robert le Diable” is said to have been marvelously similar to “Der Freischtitz” in the original form, though inferior in dignity of motive.
Paris was all agog with interest at the first production. The critics had attended the rehearsals, and it was understood that the libretto, the music, and the ballet were full of striking interest. Nourrit played the part of Robert; Levasseur, Bertram; Mme. Cinti Damoreau, Isabelle; and Mile. Dorus, Alice. The greatest dancers of the age were in the ballet and the brilliant Taglioni led the band of resuscitated nuns. Ilabeneck was conductor, and everything had been done in the way of scenery and costumes. The success was a remarkable one, and Meyerbeer’s name became famous throughout Europe.