Ambroise Thomas (1811-1896) composed twenty operas during his lifetime. All but the final two were presented at the Opera-Comique. His last opera produced at the venue was probably his most famous work, Mignon, which was based on Goethe’s Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. His final two operas were staged at the Opera, now known as the Opera Garnier. The first of these was Hamlet, based on Shakespeare’s tragedy, and the second was Françoise de Rimini, based on verses from Dante’s Inferno.
Hamlet was first staged in 1868. In the original version, which is never performed today, Hamlet does not die. Instead, Hamlet’s father’s ghost crowns him king after he kills Claudius. The 1870 version staged in London’s Covent Garden is more faithful to Shakespeare, since the tragic hero dies at the end. After World War I, the once popular operas of Ambroise Thomas were rarely performed. It was only in the 1980s that revivals of Hamlet and Mignon slowly began to be staged in various opera houses around the world.
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