In 2011, the King Baudouin Foundation’s Heritage Fund acquired for the Belgian Royal Library, an exceptional collection of 32 scores written by the Belgian violinist and composer Henry Vieuxtemps (1820-1881). Among them were 22 handwritten scores, 12 of which were unpublished. Barely a month ago, in September 2012, the handwritten score for the totally unknown manuscript of the composer, his only opera, La fiancée de Messine, came to complete this body of work, thanks to the involvement of the Abbé Manoël de la Serna Fund of the King Baudouin Foundation.
The collection of manuscripts for the La Fiancée de Messine provides musicologists and musicians with the opportunity to study an unknown side of the composer. The three-act opera was composed between 1865 and 1881. The libretto, penned by Achille de Lauzières, is in fact a French translation of the tragedy Die Braut von Messina, written by the German playwright Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805). The opera was first performed in May 1868, in a version for voice and piano. Vieuxtemps then re-worked the opera and during the last years of his life, worked on the orchestration, although he only finished that of the first act. In October 1898, a new performance of the work took place in Brussels, although at present it is unknown in what form this was. After that, La fiancée de Messine fell into oblivion, the scores were returned to the family archives and, to date, the opera is unlisted in any publication about Vieuxtemps. Thanks to the King Baudouin Foundation, the study of this missing link can at last begin!