On 29 November 1863 Giacomo Meyerbeer noted in his journal, »Worked seven hours: the last scene with Selica is instrumented and revised, and with it the score of Vasco completed. May God bless the work and grant it a dazzling and enduring success.« Meyerbeer called the opera completed by him four months prior to his death Vasco de Gama, but it came to be known to
posterity as L’Africaine (The African Woman). Now how did this happen?
Meyerbeer had been working on the opera since 1837, and L’Africaine was its original title. Eugène Scribe’s libretto told the story of an African princess who unhappily falls in love with a Portuguese naval officer. After some initial enthusiasm Meyerbeer soon had his doubts about the subject.
Years of revision and rejection followed. It was not until 1849, following Le Prophète, that he resumed his work on it. The Portuguese seafarer now became the historical explorer Vasco da Gama. Since he had discovered the sea route to India, the setting had to be transferred from Africa to India. As a result, Meyerbeer changed the opera’s title: Vasco de Gama. The composer died prior to the rehearsals. The musicologist Joseph de Fétis subsequently examined the existing material, introducing some unfortunate changes and greatly abridging it. He was of the opinion that the work had to be presented to the music world with the title as promised: L’Africaine.
And this meant that scenes featuring Indian worship of Brahma were set in Africa! The critical edition by Jürgen Schläder formed the basis of our studio production (here no live recording!) of the acclaimed Chemnitz production and now for the first time enables us to catch a glimpse of