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Mademoiselle Duval :The Geniuses


Opera in concert version
  • Tuesday March 7th 2023
  • Crusades Room
  • 8pm – 1h45 with intermission
Accueil Mademoiselle Duval :The Geniuses 2023


Marie Perbost Lucile, Zaïre, Isménide, Florise

Florie Valiquette Love, Zamide, a Sylph

Anna Reinhold The Principal Nymph, Pircaride

Etienne de Bénazé Léandre

Paco Garcia An Indian, a Sylph

Guilhem Worms Zoroastre, Numapire

Matthieu Walendzik Zerbin, Adolphe

Cécile AchilleThe African woman

Virginie Lefebvre A Nymph

Le Chœur de l’Opéra Royal

Ensemble Il Caravaggio

Camille Delaforge Conductor



Celebration of Louis XV


And what if glory also smiled upon young unknowns? Here is the second French opera composed by a woman, finally by a young girl: Mademoiselle Duval, a harpsichordist by profession, of whom we know almost nothing! Composer and dancer, born in 1718, she had her only opera performed on the prestigious stage of the Royal Academy of Music in 1736, herself playing the harpsichord for the nine performances, at the age of eighteen! The success was very significant, and even unexpected, for this opera whose libretto was published under the patronage of Prince Victor-Amédée I of Savoy-Carignan: but we will know nothing more about Mademoiselle Duval, not even her first name… She likely (well) got married, leaving no further trace in the archives.

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Entitled “The Geniuses or the Characters of Love,” this heroic ballet is presented in the traditional form of a prologue and four acts, illustrating the general theme of love. Following the structure of French tragedy, this work features emblematic characters from opera librettos: Zoroastre, Love, Léandre, Lucile, Zaïde, Zamire, but also fairy-like characters such as geniuses, an Indian, sylphs, silfs, and nymphs, and it incorporates various tropes of baroque opera: invocation scenes, sleep scenes, magical characters, lovers, and love quarrels. Naturally, one thinks of Rameau, who had just presented “Hippolyte et Aricie” in 1733 (his first opera, but he was fifty years old!), then triumphed with “Les Indes galantes” (1735), but it is also the twilight time for Campra and Monteclair…


Never recreated, this opera-ballet defends an original repertoire carried by a female composer, Mademoiselle Duval, who succeeded after four decades the first French opera written by a woman: “Céphale et Procris” (1694). The Geniuses are mentioned in Le Mercure galant, which gave a flattering account of the work: “The Geniuses, Ballet performed on Thursday, October 18, 1736. The poem is by Mr. Fleury, and the music by Mademoiselle Duval, a young person of many talents, as one can easily see from this work, which is very varied and extremely well crafted in many respects. The recitative in general was highly applauded, well-treated scenes, well-made and lively violin airs…” Then Mademoiselle Duval disappeared forever, perhaps entering the marvelous bottle of one of her geniuses…


This heroic ballet will come back to life under the auspices of another female harpsichordist: Camille Delaforge, at the helm of her Ensemble Il Caravaggio. A musical rendezvous with an unknown!


This concert is supported by the Fonds Françoise Kahn-Hamm

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Opéra-ballet in a prologue and four acts to a libretto by Jacques Fleury, first performed at the Académie royale de musique in Paris in 1736.

The Crusades Room of the Château de Versailles

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And also…

Mademoiselle Duval :The Geniuses

Mademoiselle Duval, a singer and composer, created the opera “Les Génies” in 1736, enjoying considerable success with nine performances at the Parisian Académie Royale de Musique, thus becoming the second woman, after Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, to compose an opera for this institution.
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