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Edmond Rostand. Chromolithograph caricature by Jean Baptiste Guth, 1900. From Vanity Fair, London, 20 June 1901.

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Edmond ROSTAND (1868-1918)

December 2018

(b.Marseilles, 1 April 1868;d.Paris, 2 December 1918)

Edmond Rostand grew up in a musical family. His father Eugène and his uncle Alexis wrote oratorios together in their spare time. When the young Edmond wrote a playlet for himself and his friends to act in, Pierrot qui pleure et Pierrot qui rit, Alexis wrote a musical accompaniment. (This score is in the library of the Royal College of Music.)

Emmanuel Chabrier chose three poems by Rostand for his collection of salon songs (Six Mélodies, 1890). His wife Rosemonde Gérard, herself a poet, contributed two to this collection. (Several of her poems were later set to music by Cécile Chaminade.) Edmond’s  first commission as a poet was to write the  verse for Chabrier’s ‘Ode à la musique’ (1890).

Throughout his life, Rostand was aware of the role music could play in enhancing his plays, especially his idealistic plays, La Princesse lointaine (1895) and La Samaritaine (1897), for both of which Gabriel Pierné wrote scores.

Cyrano de Bergerac, Rostand’s most famous play, has inspired several operas. Franco Alfano’s Cyrano de Bergerac (1936), has been revived recently, with Placido Domingo singing the title role in New York, London and Paris. An opera by the American Walter Damrosch was performed at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1913.  Several musicals based on Cyrano de Bergerac have been performed in North America: from Victor Herbert’s operetta in 1899, to a 1973 musical, Cyrano de Bergerac, which did well on Broadway, unlike several other American attempts. David DiChiera wrote the music for another successful opera, performed in Detroit by Michigan Opera Theatre in 2007.

In 1959 Marius Constant composed music for a Roland Petit ballet, Cyrano de Bergerac, since revived. Petit also starred in a film, Les Collants noirs, incorporating four ballets including Cyrano with music by Terence Young (1962). Wilfred Josephs wrote the music for David Bintley’s full length ballet (Royal Ballet 1991) and Carl Davis for its second version (Birmingham Royal Ballet), 2007. Jean-Claude Petit supplied excellent music for the film score of Jean-Paul Rappenau’s Cyrano de Bergerac. Other composers inspired by this famous  play include J.B.Foerster (orchestral suite, 1903), Johan Wagenaar (overture, 1905), Albert Stoessel (symphonic portrait, 1922) and Franz Reizenstein (overture, 1951).

Rostand’s other plays have also inspired musicians of all nationalities. His first publicly performed play, Les Romanesques  (1894), was made into a musical by the Australian Fitz Hart in 1918. In the 60s, 70s and 80s, The Fantasticks, with music by  the American Harvey Schmidt,  based on the same play, was the world’s longest-running musical.

Max D’Ollone wrote an opera, La Samaritaine in the 1930s and Georges Witkowski wrote La Princesse lointaine, an opera in four acts, in 1934 for the Paris Opéra. Italo Montemezzi’s opera based on the latter play was never completed. Arthur Honegger and Jacques Ibert collaborated on the opera, L’Aiglon (Monte Carlo and Paris, 1937).

Other composers inspired by Rostand’s work include Vincenzo Davico and Nikolai Tcherepnin ( La Princesse lointaine) and Ruth Gipps (Chantecler). Reynaldo Hahn, a good friend of Rostand’s, wrote the incidental music to Le Bois sacré, performed in 1908. Among the numerous composers of incidental music one may mention Richard Addinsell, Georges Huë, Maurice Jacobson, Jaroslav Krička, Jean Nouguès and Alick Maclean.

These are the words of the first stanza:

Musique adorable, ô Déesse!
Toi qui berces l’enfance et charmes la vieillesse,
Et qui troubles, par tes accents,
Le coeur des blonds adolescents!
Toi, par qui nous voguons vers l’idéale grève,
Mère du souvenir et nourrice du rêve,
C’est toi pu’il nous plait, aujourd’hui, d’invoquer sous ce toit!


Cyrano de Bergerac

Alfano, Franco (Italian): opera, Cyrano de Bergerac (version of Henri Cain’s libretto, 1936) 1936

Constant, Marius (Romanian/French): ballet for Roland Petit, Cyrano de Bergerac , 1959

Damrosch, Walter (American): opera, Cyrano de Bergerac (1913)

Foerster, J.B. (Czech): orchestral suite, Cyrano de Bergerac, 1903

Felix Constantin Goldbach (Polish) : Cyrano de Bergerac

Nouguès, Jean (French): incidental music to Cyrano de Bergerac (1919 for Robert Lorraine’s production in London, etc.)

Petit, Jean-Claude: film music for Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s Cyrano de BergeracReizenstein, Franz (British): overture, Cyrano de Bergerac (1950)

Stoessel, Albert (American): symphonic portrait, Cyrano de Bergerac

Wagenaar, Johan (Dutch): overture to Cyrano de Bergerac, 1922

Also much incidental music by various composers for various productions.


Addinsell, Richard (British):incidental music for Clemence Dane’s production of L’Aiglon

Glinski, Matteo (Polish): incidental music to L’Aiglon 1918-1927

Honegger, Arthur (Swiss) & Ibert, Jacques (French) : opera, L’Aiglon (libretto by Henri Cain), Monte Carlo & Paris, 1937

La Samaritaine and La Princesse lointaine

Vincenzo Davico : orchestral suite, Principessa Lontana 1911

D’Ollone, Max : opera-oratorio, La Samaritaine (Paris Opéra, 1937)

Jacobson, Maurice (English) : incidental music to La Samaritaine, 1945 BBC radio production

Italo Montemezzi: opera, La Princess lointaine  ( unfinished)

Pierné, Gabriel: incidental music to La Samaritaine and La Princesse lointaine (1897,1895)

Tcherepnin, Nikolay (Russian) : overture to La Princesse lointaine (in Paris, 1921)

Witkowski, Georges (French):  opera in four acts: La Princesse lointaine, Paris,  Opéra, 1934

Les Romanesques

Hart, Fritz (Australian) : musical, Les Romanesques, 1918

Huë, Georges (French): incidental music to Les Romanesques, 1894

Jones, Tom and Schmidt, H (American): musical, The Fantasticks


Gipps, Ruth (English): overture to Chantecler, 1944

Krička, Jaroslav (Moravian): incidental music for Chantecler, 1927


Chabrier, Émile: salon songs, 1890; A la Musique (choral piece, 1890)

Hahn, Reynaldo: incidental music for Le Bois Sacré, 1910

‘Hubert, Jean’, alias Alexis Rostand: Pierrot qui pleure et Pierrot qui rit (Les deux Pierrots), 1895


© 2018 Sue Lloyd, M.Phil., is the author of The Man who was Cyrano, a Life of Edmond Rostand, Creator of “Cyrano de Bergerac” (Genge Press, UK)

Cyrano and Rostand Website