Bizet, Georges, French composer (1838-1875). "Ouverture de David Rizzio". Autograph musical manuscript signed ("Georges Bizet").

No place, [probably ca. 1866].

Folio (270 x 345 mm). Title and 24½ pp. (paginated 1-25), final blank leaf. Written in brown ink on 32-stave paper, with 2 systems of 15 staves per page (except for the last page, which only has one system). 431 bars. Bound in contemporary red half morocco with gilt red morocco title label to the upper cover. Marbled endpapers (somewhat chipped).


Exceptionally rare, unpublished musical manuscript: Bizet's autograph orchestration of the overture to Hippolyte Rodrigues's opera "David Rizzio", about the historical courtier who was the private secretary and rumoured lover of Mary, Queen of Scots. In 1566 he was assassinated by her husband, the jealous Lord Darnley, and a conspiracy of Protestant nobles.

A wealthy stockbroker and lawyer, Rodrigues (1812-98) was also a writer and composer. He retired early to devote himself to literature and music, notably composing melodies and piano pieces, but also more ambitious works such as this opera. Rodrigues was secretary of the "Société scientifique-littéraire israélite"; his sister Léonie was married to Fromental Halévy, Bizet's former teacher. Thus, Hippolyte Rodrigues was Geneviève Halévy's uncle and served as witness to her marriage to Bizet on 3 June 1869; he would lend the young couple his house in Saint-Gratien for their honeymoon.

In 1866 Hippolyte Rodrigues first published the textbook for "David Rizzio"; the piano and vocal score of the opera in four acts (first designated as a lyrical drama "en 3 actes, 4 tableaux", "paroles et musique de Hippolyte Rodrigues", would appear in 1873, privately printed by Eugène Heutte in Saint-Germain. Bizet listed this score in the catalogue of his music library. "Whether Bizet orchestrated any more of the opera than the overture is not known [...] The opera was not performed, except possibly as a play, and the music has not otherwise survived" (MacDonald).

The title-page of the manuscript first states, cryptically: "Ouverture / Jean-Jacques", followed by the correct title in Bizet's hand: "Overture de / David Rizzio / composée par / Hippolyte Rodrigues / orchestrée par / George Bizet". The orchestra includes 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in A, 2 bassoons, 2 horns in D, 2 horns in C, 2 pistons in A, 3 trombones, timpani, bass drum and cymbals, violins I and II, violas, cellos, basses. The Overture begins with an Allegretto moderato in B minor in 2/4 time (25 bars); then, after a rallentendo and a brief Andante (10 bars, the last two, skipped, are noted on p. 4), comes an Allegretto (16 bars), followed by a reprise of the Andante; an Allegro 2/2 (36 measures); an Andantino in D minor in 2/4 (72 bars), then a brief passage "Un peu animé" (14 bars), leading to an Allegretto in E major (79 bars), then briefly in C (11 bars); the work ends with an Allegro in C minor in 2/2 time (110 bars), then in D, changing after 4 bars into 2/4 time until the end (46 bars).

Binding rubbed and bumped; stitching loosened. Of great rarity. Provenance: Hotel Drouot, Paris, sale at an unknown date. Delorme & Collin du Bocage, 14 Nov. 2008, lot 10.


MacDonald, Bizet Catalogue, T56.

Stock Code: BN#59537 Tags: ,