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Jules Massenet

Le Cid

Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (c. 1043 – 1099) was a Castilian nobleman and military leader in medieval Spain. The Moors called him El Cid, which meant the Lord (probably from the original Arabic al-Sayyid, السیِّد), and the Christians, El Campeador, which stood for Outstanding Warrior or The one who stands out in the battlefield. He was born in Vivar, a town near the city of Burgos. After his death, he became Castile's celebrated national hero and the protagonist of the most significant medieval Spanish epic poem, El Cantar de Mio Cid.

Born a member of the minor nobility, El Cid was brought up at the court of King Ferdinand the Great and served Ferdinand's son, Sancho II of León and Castile. He rose to become the commander and royal standard-bearer (armiger regis) of Castile upon Sancho's ascension in 1065. Rodrigo went on to lead the Castilian military campaigns against Sancho's brothers, Alfonso VI of León and García II of Galicia, as well as in the Muslim kingdoms in Al-Andalus. He became renowned for his military prowess in these campaigns, which helped expand Castilian territory at the expense of the Muslims and Sancho's brothers' kingdoms. When conspirators murdered Sancho in 1072, Rodrigo found himself in a difficult situation. Since Sancho was childless, the throne passed to his brother Alfonso, the same whom El Cid had helped remove from power. Although Rodrigo continued to serve the Castilian sovereign, he lost his ranking in the new court which treated him at arm's length and suspiciously. Finally, in 1081, he was ordered into exile.

El Cid found work fighting for the Muslim rulers of Zaragoza, whom he defended from their traditional enemies, Aragon and Barcelona. While in exile, he regained his reputation as a strategist and formidable military leader. He repeatedly turned out victorious in battle against the Muslim rulers of Lérida and their Christian allies, as well as against a large Christian army under King Sancho Ramírez of Aragon. In 1086, an expeditionary army of North African Almoravids inflicted a severe defeat to Castile, compelling Alfonso to overcome the resentments he harbored against El Cid. The terms for the return to the Christian service must have been attractive enough since Rodrigo soon found himself fighting for his former Lord. Over the next several years, however, El Cid set his sights on the kingdom-city of Valencia, operating more or less independently of Alfonso while politically supporting the Banu Hud and other Muslim dynasties opposed to the Almoravids. He gradually increased his control over Valencia; the Islamic ruler, al-Qadir, became his tributary in 1092. When the Almoravids instigated an uprising that resulted in the death of al-Qadir, El Cid responded by laying siege to the city. Valencia finally fell in 1094, and El Cid established an independent principality on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. He ruled over a pluralistic society with the popular support of Christians and Muslims alike.

El Cid's final years were spent fighting the Almoravid Berbers. He inflicted upon them their first major defeat in 1094, on the plains of Caurte, outside Valencia, and continued resisting them until his death. Although Rodrigo remained undefeated in Valencia, his only son, and heir, Diego Rodríguez died fighting against the Almoravids in the service of Alfonso in 1097. After El Cid's death in 1099, his wife, Jimena Díaz, succeeded him as ruler of Valencia, but she was eventually forced to surrender the principality to the Almoravids in 1102.

Marcos Giráldez de Acosta painting (1864) depicting the "Santa Gadea Oath". In the middle of the scene, Alfonso VI (with red cape) is swearing with his right hand on the Bible that he did not take part in the murder of his brother Sancho II, while El Cid stands as a witness in front of him.

Massenet's  - Le Cid
with English Subtitles

Le Cid - Placido Domingo
Chimene - Elisabete Matos
The Infanta - Angela Turner Wilson
Don Diegue - Hao Jiang Tian
Le Comte de Gormas - William Parcher
The King of Spain - Kimm Julian

Le Cid is an opera in four acts and ten tableaux by Jules Massenet to a French libretto by Louis Gallet, Édouard Blau and Adolphe d'Ennery. It is based on the play of the same name by Pierre Corneille.

It was first performed by a star-studded cast at the Paris Opéra on 30 November 1885 in the presence of President Grévy, with Jean de Reszke as Rodrigue. The staging was directed by Pedro Gailhard, with costumes designed by Comte Lepic, and sets by Eugène Carpezat (act 1), Enrico Robecchi and his student Amable (act 2), Auguste-Alfred Rubé, Philippe Chaperon and their student Marcel Jambon (act 3), and Jean-Baptiste Lavastre (act 4).

The opera had been seen 150 times by 1919 but faded from the repertory and was not performed again in Paris until the 2015 revival at the Palais Garnier. While El Cid is not in the standard operatic repertory, the ballet suite is a popular concert and recording piece which includes dances from different regions of Spain. It was specially created by Massenet for the prima ballerina Rosita Mauri.


After the premiere, the Paris Opera continued to revive Le Cid until 1919, reaching over 150 performances at the theatre by that date. A new production was mounted at the Opéra in the 2014/15 season, conducted by Michel Plasson with Roberto Alagna in the title role.This production was first seen in June 2011 at the Opéra de Marseille in a production directed by Charles Roubaud, conducted by Jacques Lacombe, with Alagna singing Rodrigue. In March–April 2015 at the Paris Opera Alagna reprised the title role, alongside Sonia Ganassi and Annick Massis.

Local premieres took place in Frankfurt, Antwerp, and Vienna in 1887, followed by Rome, New Orleans Geneva and Milan in the years following. In New York, the premiere at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1897 was revived in 1901 and 1902, and a cut concert performance on 8 March 1976 at Carnegie Hall with Plácido Domingo and Grace Bumbry was later issued as a commercial recording.

In Saint-Etienne it was produced in 1979 then at the 1994 Massenet Festival under Patrick Fournillier with Michele Command and Chris Merritt.] Other modern productions include 1981 in San Francisco under Julius Rudel with Carol Neblett and William Lewis, 1984 and 1993 in Rouen, 1999 at Seville, and a 2001 production by the Washington Opera, starring Domingo, which was shown on PBS television, and was seen in Zurich in January 2008.

In September 2015, Odyssey Opera performed Le Cid for the first time in Boston. The performance was a semi-staged concert version conducted by Gil Rose, with tenor Paul Groves in the title role, and received a positive review from the Boston Globe.



Opera in four acts and ten tableaux by Jules Massenet to a French libretto by Louis Gallet, Édouard Blau and Adolphe d'Ennery. It is based on the play of the same name by Pierre Corneille.


Chimène    -soprano 
Rodrigue    -tenor 
Don Diègue   - bass  
Le Roi    -bass  
Le comte de Gormas    -bass
L'Infante    -soprano  
Saint Jacques    -baritone 
L'envoyé maure    -basse chantante
Don Arias    -tenor 
Don Alonzo    -bass  
Chorus: Noblemen, Ladies of the court, Bishops, Priests, Monks, Captains and Soldiers, People ; Dancers (for act 2 ballet)


Time: 11th century

Places:  Burgos

Premiere cast, 30 November 1885



Tableau 1
In Burgos, a hall in the Gormas palace.


To the sound of fanfares outside the friends of the Comte de Gormas recount how the King is to make Rodrigue a knight, despite his young age. Gormas desires to be named the governor of the Infant by the King. Gormas however approves the romantic attachment which his daughter Chimène has for Rodrigue. The Infanta has confessed to Chimène that she too loves Rodrigue, but as she is not allowed to love a mere knight Rodrigue could proceed to marry Chimène.

Tableau 2
A gallery in the royal palace leading to an entrance to Burgos cathedral


With bells sounding, the people give thanks for victory over the moors. The King now rewards Rodrigue by knighting him ("Ô noble lame étincelante"), and Rodrigue swears his faith to Saint Jacques de Compostelle. The King next names Don Diègue as governor of the Infant, and this is seen as an insult by the Comte de Gormas and his friends. Don Diègue holds out his hand and wishes the marriage of his son and Chimène, but the count insults, swipes and disarms him. Cursing his loss of strength and old age, Don Diègue demands that his son revenges his honour. Rodrigue bemoans his fate, and the loss of his happiness, when he learns that the challenger is the father of his beloved.


Tableau 3
A street in Burgos at night.


Rodrigue wonders if he should allow himself to be killed by the count rather than kill him, to avoid the anger and hatred of Chimène, but he concludes that he owes more to his father than his loved one and that he must go ahead and seek vengeance. In the following duel he swiftly kills the count. A crowd and a jubilant Don Diègue arrive on the scene, but when Chimène rushes out to find out about the murderer of her father she faints when she discovers his identity.

Tableau 4
The main square of Burgos. It is a lively spring day


The Infante distributes alms and dancing follows: a castillane, andalouse, aragonaise, aubade, catalane, madrilène, navarraise (Ballet). Chimène demands justice to the King against Rodrigue and will hear of no pity or pardon for him. Don Diègue says that his son has only revenged him and that he should bear the accusation. The Infante feels her lost hopes revive. A moorish envoy brings a declaration of war to the King on behalf of his leader Boabdil. The King reproaches Rodrigue for having lost his most courageous captain and Don Diègue calls for his son to take the place of the count in battle. Rodrigue asks the King for a day of grace – the time to return victorious. The King consents and the people acclaim Rodrigue while Chimène in despair continues to demand justice.



Tableau 5
Chimène's chamber, night.


Chimène gives way to grief ("Pleurez! pleurez mes yeux...") at her dilemma. Rodrigue appears to say farewell but sad at having to go into battle with her hate behind him. As he departs, she calls on him to cover himself in glory to diminish his sins and to forget the past. She flees, ashamed to have allowed some hope of pardon for her father's murderer.

Tableau 6
Rodrigue's camp.

At evening the officers and soldiers from Navarre and Castille drink and sing. Prisoners and Moorish musicians wait on one side. After a drinking song and a Moorish rhapsody some of the soldiers want to leave, confronted by such a large army of moors.

Tableau 7
Rodrigue's tent.

Rodrigue submits a fervent prayer ("Ô souverain, ô juge, ô père") which is answered by the image of Saint Jacques announcing that he will be victorious. In thunder and lightning the tent disappears.

Tableau 8
The camp ~ the battle.

At dawn soldiers run in groups, fanfares sound and all rush out, promised victory by Rodrigue.



Tableau 9
A room in the royal palace in Grenada.


Deserting soldiers tell Don Diègue that Rodrigue was killed in battle but he throws them out. He is more content with the noble and courageous end than the death of his son. The Infante and Chimène learn the news in despair and all three mourn Rodrigue. Chimène swears to them that she still loved him and that he believed himself loved of her as he died. Fanfares in the distance and cheers in the city warn her that Rodrigue still lives.

Tableau 10
Royal courtyard in Grenada.


The crowd acclaim Rodrigue, named Le Cid by the chiefs of the vanquished moors. The King offers him rewards, but Rodrigue replies that only Chimène can name his fate. As she cannot pardon him nor demand his punishment, he will himself pass justice, and he draws his sword to kill himself. Chimène hesitates and pardons him through her declaration of love and the opera ends in general rejoicing.


Manon has been sentenced to deportation to Louisiana, and Des Grieux, together with Lescaut, is waiting on the road to Le Havre to try to free her from the guards who are to take her to the ship. They overhear the guards singing in the distance. Then two of the soldiers come on, discussing one of their prisoners, who appears to be dying. It is Manon they are talking about. Lescaut manages to bribe these guards, and so Des Grieux and Manon are left discreetly alone to sing their final duet. Let them go together to a new country, says Des Grieux, and live a new and happy life. But Manon, who is half out of her mind with illness and repentance, can think only of the happy days they once had together. As night descends, Des Grieux urges her to flee with him, but it is too late. Slowly she becomes weaker and weaker.

As she is dying, cradled in her lover's arms, her last words are these: "Et c'est l'histoire de Manon Lescaut!" And that is the story or Manon Lescaut.

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