Ines is forced by her father, the Grand Amiral Don Diego, to marry Don Pedro instead of her true love, Vasco da Gama, who is thought to be dead in his last expedition. However Vasco suddenly reappears and announces that he has discovered new lands from where he brought Selinka and Nelusko with him. Being refused the means for a new expedition, Vasco insults the Grand Inquisitor who in return excommunicates him and put him in jail. Ines accepts to marry Don Pedro provided that Vasco is released. Don Pedro decides to explore the new lands, helped in his endeavour by Nelusko, who secretely designs to bring the expedition to its ruin. Trapped in a tempest, the fleet perishes. Only escape Vasco, Ines, Nelusko and Selinka, who appears eventually to be the queen of these far-reached lands. Besides, in love with Vasco, she saves him from a death penalty placed upon every foreigner reaching the shore. But Vasco runs to join Ines in her execution. Moved by this true gesture of love, Selinka set them free and allows them to go back to their homeland, Portugal.
Lying within the French Grand Opera tradition, L'Africaine recounts a heartbreaking love story in which faithfulness and devotion are rewarded at the expense of a tragic and deadly dénouement. Abandoned by Vasco, Selinka kills herself, bringing Nelusko in her last journey. Though the last opera of Meyerbeer is seldom produced nowadays, L'Africaine had a great success throughout the 19th century. In a historical production by Lotfi Mansouri, Plácido Domingo and Shirley Verrett embody Vasco de Gama and Ines in Meyerbeer's forgotten masterwork.
Paul McCreesh, Graham Vick – Plácido Domingo (Bajazet), Jennifer Holloway (Irene), Sara Mingardo (Andronico) – Teatro Real Madrid
Tiziano Severini, Francesca Zambello – Mirella Freni (Mimi), Luciano Pavarotti ténor (Rodolfo) – San Francisco Opera