[alternative title The Libyan
] ) is an unfinished opera-project in 4 acts by the Russian
composer Modest Mussorgsky
, to his own libretto
based on the novel of the same title
by Gustave Flaubert
), as well as poems by Alexander Polezhayev
, Apollon Maikov
and Vasily Zhukovsky
The vocal score of the fragments of the four intended acts and seven scenes of the opera have survived and have been published in Mussorgsky's Complete works, vol. V, Moscow - Leningrad, 1939.
The Russian translation of Flaubert's novel was published in Otechesvennye zapiski
in 1862 and made a great impression on Mussorgsky. He worked on the opera project from 1863
Mussorgsky lost interest in the project. However, several musical themes from this project were recycled and played important roles in the composer's subsequent opera Boris Godunov
Flaubert's novel Salammbô
(published in 1862) interweaves historical and fictional characters. The action takes place before and during the Mercenary Revolt, an uprising of mercenaries in the employ of Carthage
in the 3rd century BC.
Salammbô, a priestess and the daughter of Hamilcar Barca, an aristocratic Carthaginian general, is the object of the obsessive lust of Matho, leader of the mercenaries. With the help of the scheming freed slave, Spendius, Matho steals the sacred veil of Carthage, the Zaïmph, prompting Salammbo to enter the mercenaries' camp in an attempt to steal it back.
Listen to a fragment of the opera, the "Chorus of Priestesses", at the following links (conductor Claudio Abbado
- 1980, Zoltan Pesko (conductor), Orchestra Sinfonica E Coro Di Milano Della Radiotelevisione Italiana, Ludmilla Shemchuk (Salammbô), Georgiy Seleznev (Mathô), William Stone (Balearic Islander), Giorgio Surjan (Priest), Giorgio Tieppo (Pentarch 1), Eftimios Michalopoulos (Pentarch 2) [CBS Masterworks CB272]