Opera Scotland

Roi d'Ys Le roi d'Ys; The King of Ys

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Edouard Lalo (born Lille, 27 January 1823; died Paris, 22 April 1892).


Edouard Blau


Ancient Breton legend.



First Performance: Paris (Opéra-Comique), 7 May 1888.

First Performance in UK: London (Covent Garden), 17 July 1901.

First Performance in Scotland: Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 14 April 1953.

Scottish Opera première: N/A.



Lalo trained as a string player, and concentrated in his early years on the production of chamber and orchestral works. His first opera, Fiesque, was not produced in his lifetime, and he had to wait over a decade after its composition before his second piece, Le roi d'Ys was staged. His third opera, begun as a response to the great success of Le roi d'Ys, was never completed. He is remembered nowadays for a few orchestral works, especially a lovely cello concerto, and a violin concerto known as the Symphonie Espagnole. The only professional staging in the British Isles in recent years of Le roi d'Ys was at the Wexford Festival, where it was well received.


Main Characters

The King of Ys (bass)

Margared, his elder daughter (mezzo-soprano)

Rozenn, his younger daughter (soprano)

Mylio, a knight (tenor)

Karnac, a rival prince (baritone)


Plot Summary

The old Breton legend of Ys concerns the disappearance under the sea of a major settlement during the dark ages (the 8th century).

As the opera opens a peace treaty is being agreed between two rival states, to be solemnized by the marriage of the king's daughter, Margared, to his erstwhile enemy Karnac. However Margared admits to her sister that she loves another. Rozenn herself loves Mylio, who is believed to have been shipwrecked. As the wedding is about to proceed, Mylio arrives, having been a captive. Margared now repudiates this arrangement, and the treaty falls apart, as Karnac prepares again for war. The forces of Ys will now be led by Mylio.

Battle is imminent. Margared also loves Mylio, and she is jealous of her sister's situation. She overhears a discussion between the king, Rozenn and Mylio, in which it is agreen that the couple can marry after the battle is won. As Mylio leaves to join his tropps, braced by the belief that the local saint has assured him of victory, Margared reveals her insane jealousy to Rozenn and runs off.

Mylio is victorious and acclaimed by the citizens, and urges them to pray to the saint. Margared meets Karnac, who has survived the battle, and promises him revenge - the city is below sea level and protected by a dam. She will help Karnac to open the flood gates. They are terrified by a voice from the saint's tomb that urges them to repent.

As the populace enter the church for the wedding of Mylio and Rozenn, Margared and Karnac appear. While she is beginning to suffer a sense of remorse, Karnac is able to get from her the location of the flood-gates. As the people leave the church Margared is welcomed by her family when they are interrupted by the roar of the approaching floodwaters. Mylio returns, having killed Karnac, but too late to prevent the flooding. The royal family and a few other survivors head for high ground, but the water continues to gain. Margared realizes that only her own death can appease the saint. She hurls herself into the sea, and as the sun comes out the waters begin to recede.

The Cast

 a Prince, recently at war with Ys
King of Ys
 the King's elder daughter
 a Knight
 the King's younger daughter
Saint Corentin
 Patron Saint of Ys

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