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Henry VIII is an opera in four acts by Camille Saint-Sa√ęns, from a libretto by L√©once D√©troyat and Armand Silvestre, based on El cisma en Inglaterra (The schism in England) by Pedro Calder√≥n de la Barca.

Background and performance history

The action covers the period in Henry VIII's life when the king was discarding Queen Catherine of Aragon in favour of Anne Boleyn, a move rejected by the Church.

In an effort to evoke the historical context, Saint-Sa√ęns researched English music from the period and incorporated several English, Scottish, and Irish folk melodies into his score, as well as an air by William Byrd, contained in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book.

Henry VIII received its first performance on 5 March 1883 at the Opéra de Paris, where it remained in the repertoire until 1919. It was seen at the Royal Opera Housemarker, Londonmarker in 1889 with Maurice-Arnold Renaud in the title role, Lina Pacary as Catherine d'Aragon, and Meyriane Héglon as Anne Boleyn. It was revived in 1991 at the Théatre Impérial de Compiègnemarker in a production by Pierre Jourdan, with Philippe Rouillon as Henry VIII, Michèle Command as Catherine of Aragon and Lucile Vignon as Anne Boleyn. The production was made into a film.

Its most recent (2002) performance was at the Liceumarker in Barcelonamarker where it was staged once again by Pierre Jourdan with Montserrat Caballé as Catherine, Simon Estes as Henry and Nomeda Kazlaus as Anne Boleyn, with José Collado conducting.


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 5 march, 1883
Henry VIII baritone Jean Lassalle
Catherine d'Aragon soprano Gabrielle Krauss
Anne Boleyn mezzo-soprano Alphonsine Richard
Lady Clarence soprano Mlle Nastorg
Don Gomez de Feria tenor √Čtienne Dereims
Cardinal Campeggio, legatus of the pope bass Auguste Boudouresque
Le duc de Norfolk bass Eugène Lorrain
Le comte de Surrey tenor √Čtienne Sapin
Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury bass M. Gaspard
Garter tenor M. Malvaut
Un huissier bass M. Boutens


  • Philippe Rouillon, Mich√®le Command, Lucile Vignon, conducted by Alain Guingal. Le Chant Du Monde. (also available as a DVD, Kultur Films)


  1. Piotr Kaminski, 1001 opéras, Fayard, 2003, p. 1383


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