1 Biography 2 Works
2.1 Plays 2.2 Plays adapted into opera libretti 2.3 Principal libretti
3 Honours 4 Filmography 5 References 6 External links
Scribe was born in Paris and died there. His father was a silk
merchant, and he was well educated, being destined for the law.
However, he soon began to write for the stage. His first piece, Le
Prétendu sans le savoir, was produced anonymously at the Variétés
in 1810, and was a failure. Numerous other plays, written in
collaboration with various authors, followed; but Scribe achieved no
distinct success till 1815, when he wrote Une Nuit de la garde
nationale (Night of the National Guard, 1815), a collaboration with
Delestre Poirson. Much of his later work was also written in
collaboration with others. His debut in serious comedy was made at the
Théâtre Français in 1822 with Valérie the first of many successful
pieces of the same kind. Among the actors he wrote starring roles
Scribe's main subject matter was the contemporary bourgeoisie. He mastered his craft writing comédies vaudevilles, short middle-class entertainments, often with songs. Eventually he developed the formulaic "well-made play"; popular pieces with elaborate plots featuring clever twists and turns, and usually centering on a misunderstanding (quiproquo) which is revealed early on to the audience but not realised by the protagonists until the final scenes. Characters face a series of obstacles, the resolution of which may create in turn further problems. At the end a scène a faire, with startling revelations, leads to a sensational denouement. Whilst their ingenuity was recognised by contemporary and later critics, the plays lack fine language, depth of character, thought, or social analysis. They thus stand in sharp contrast, for example, to Romantic plays of the same period, such as those of Victor Hugo. Théophile Gautier questioned how it could be that, "an author without poetry, lyricism, style, philosophy, truth or naturalism could be the most successful writer of his epoch, despite the opposition of literature and the critics?" Scribe was prolific; he wrote various dramas — vaudevilles, comedies, tragedies and opera libretti. To the Gymnase theatre alone he is said to have furnished a hundred and fifty pieces before 1830. He had a number of co-workers, (Scribe's 'factory'), one of whom supplied the story, another the dialogue, a third the jokes and so on. He is said in some cases to have sent sums of money for "copyright in ideas" to men who were unaware that he had taken suggestions from their work. Among his collaborators were Jean Henri Dupin (1787–1887), Germain Delavigne, Delestre-Poirson, Mélesville, Marc-Antoine Madeleine Désaugiers, Xavier Saintine and Ernest Legouvé.
Scribe's grave at the Père-Lachaise Cemetery,(Paris)
The mechanical aspect of Scribe's constructions made his works
suitable for operatic adaptation, allowing for "effective contrasting
of musical treatment, whilst the confrontations provided excellent
opportunities for ensembles."
Scribe wrote libretti for operas for many major composers of his time,
often for productions destined for the Paris Opéra. Many of these
libretti constitute the basis of the Grand
They exist in a parallel universe, in which colourful historical or geographical milieu display a handful of stereotypes who, as a consequence of some secret manoeuvrings in their own pasts and coincidences in the present, are forced to face some implausible crisis of choice or conscience, preferably accompanied by a simultaneous natural disaster or violent death (or both).
Scribe's own hard-headed views on his libretti are summarised in his comments on a dispute over payment with Léon Pillet, the director of the Opéra, in 1841:
I want to be paid for them according to what they bring in, that is to say, a great deal. The...director only wants to pay for them according to what they are worth, that is to say, very little.
Scribe wrote a few novels, but none of any mark. His Œuvres
complètes appeared in seventy-six volumes between 1874 and 1885.
He has been assumed to be the father of the politician Georges
See also Category: Libretti by
Scribe at the time of writing La Bataille de Dames, 1851
1826: Bertrand et Suzette; ou Le Mariage de raison 1833: Bertrand et Raton, ou l'art de conspirer (The School for Politicians) 1842: Une Chaine 1842: Le Verre d'eau (The Glass of Water) 1849: Adrienne Lecouvreur, in conjunction with Legouvé 1851: La Bataille de Dames (The Ladies' Battle)
Plays adapted into opera libretti
1831: A ballet-pantomime became the basis of the Italian libretto for
Bellini's La sonnambula
1832: Le philtre was adapted by
La dame blanche
1847: Officer in the Order of Leopold.
The Dumb Girl of Portici (it), directed by
Fra Diavolo, directed by Mario Bonnard (Germany, 1931, based on the opera Fra Diavolo)
The Devil's Brother, directed by
^ a b c One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Scribe, Augustin Eugène". Encyclopædia Britannica. 24 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 482. ^ Stanton, Stephen S. (November 1957). "Scribe's 'Bertrand Et Raton': A Well-Made Play". The Tulane Drama Review. The MIT Press. 2 (1): 58–70. JSTOR 1124796. ^ Cardwell, Douglas (May 1983). "The Well-Made Play of Eugène Scribe". American Association of Teachers of French. 56 (6): 878–879. JSTOR 392365. ^ Gautier , Histoire de l'art dramatique en France (1859), cited in Cardwell (1983), p. 876 ^ a b Smith, p. ?? ^ Crosten, p. 89 ^ Conway, p. 217 ^ Cited in Roberts (2003), 211 ^ Article by Vincent Wright and Éric Anceau: "Georges Coulon, né le 11 mars 1838, était sans doute le fils naturel d’Eugène Scribe" / "Georges Coulon, born on 11 March 1838, was without doubt the natural (illegitimate) son of Eugène Scribe" Retrieved 2 March 2012 ^ Handelsblad (Het) 16-04-1847
Conway, David, Jewry in Music: Entry to the Profession from the
Enlightenment to Richard Wagner. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2012. ISBN 9781107015388
Crosten, William Loran, French Grand Opera: An Art and a Business, New
York: King's Crown Press, 1948.
Roberts, John H. 'Meyerbeer: Le Prophéte and
Charlton, David (ed), The Cambridge Companion to Grand Opera, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. ISBN 9780521646833.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Eugène Scribe.
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