To save content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about saving content to .
To save content items to your Kindle, first ensure firstname.lastname@example.org
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about saving to your Kindle.
Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
Chapter 8 assembles for the first time the available information about performance histories of earlier popular opera between 1714 and 1790, aiming to discover whether a ‘core’ or ‘canon’ of these works may legitimately be talked of. The introduction explains sources and methods, followed by tables showing for exactly how long the most-seen works held the stage. ‘The Crisis of 1745’ details the economic difficulties of the Comédie-Française, Comédie-Italienne and Fair theatres which lay behind anticompetitive strategies. Favart’s Acajou was one flashpoint, followed by Anne-Marie Du Boccage’s published attack on the Opéra Comique in 1745. ‘Theatre Politics and the Bouffon Legacy’ concerns the backstage history of rivalry between the Opéra Comique and Comédie-Italienne during the final decade of competition, centred on their responses to a revolution in public taste: enthusiasm for comic intermezzi at the Opéra during 1752–54. The Opéra is shown to have played an increasingly defensive game. ‘Creating a Repertory’ is based on close analysis of revivals of popular opera, seen together with Favart’s new role as programming manager at the Opéra Comique. A distinct core of repeatable works is finally identifiable, though revivals can be shown to have involved updating.
Chapter 4 proposes that popular opera had a ‘binary identity’ because it was understood as a domestic as well as a public entertainment. ‘Contexts’ begins by establishing the prevalence of singing and amateur acting in France. Privileged groups left behind the best record of activity, but Charles Perrault and Le Cerf de La Viéville stressed that opera melodies were sung throughout all social classes. An article by James Parakilas introduces the notion of private performance as a valid aspect of opera history. Arrangements of French opera are demonstrated through early artefacts from Amsterdam and mid-century periodicals from Paris. Solo versions, with texts, of opera overtures and chaconnes are illustrated and contextualised. Laurent Bordelon’s ‘opéra comique’, Arlequin Roland furieux, is identified as the first comedy to bear that designation, conceived for domestic use. The nature and sale of music for Comédie Française plays are described; Jean-Claude Gillier’s music was highly valued. In ‘Those Who Play Instruments’ arrangements of popular opera are studied in relation to the acquisition of musical skills: copying, arranging, figured bass playing. ‘Domestic Operas’ discusses contrasting works made and published for private performance in mid-century: Hautemer’s Le Troc and Marmontel and La Borde’s Annette et Lubin.
Chapter 12 explains how the French ‘musico-dramatic art’ functioned in practice and how it was theorised. The Introduction accounts for the 1762 merger of the Opéra Comique and Comédie-Italienne, describing the crossroads faced by popular opera. A case study of Le Roi et le fermier (1762) follows, Sedaine and Monsigny’s most ambitious work before Le Déserteur. ‘Politics and Kingship’ traces the origins of its libretto to English tradition: old ballads and Robert Dodsley’s The King and the Miller of Mansfield. Its figure of the monarch and its critique of courtiers are linked to Sedaine’s reworking. ‘The New Art in Action’ sets out Sedaine and Monsigny’s ambitious design, especially the ‘royal hunt and storm’ and overall approaches to musical planning. An analysis by Raphaëlle Legrand explains Sedaine’s techniques from a longer-term perspective. Musical absorption and transmission of political and human aspects is explained, taking in reference to France’s ‘new patriotism’ at the end of the Seven Years War. Theoretical aspects of ‘musico-dramatic art’ articulated by Laurent Garcin, Étienne Framery, Michel-Jean Sedaine and André Grétry are summarised. The importance of Philidor’s music is identified. The ‘Coda’ draws attention to the orchestral and symphonic nature of Philidor’s work and of subsequent popular opera.
Chapter 7 is a detailed critical study of comic and serious themes in popular operas. An Introduction establishes the philosophical basis of social critique in popular opera. A managerial shift in 1715 was made towards more intellectually engaging material, sometimes including social satire. This had been prominent in Gherardi’s theatre and was maintained in works by Alain-René Lesage, Philippe d’Orneval, Alexis Piron and Charles-Simon Favart. In ‘Recycling’ methods of reworking previous comedies are shown in two case studies involving Molière, Sedaine, Raymond Poisson and Louis Anseaume. A critical survey compares subjects and their treatment in fourteen works adapted from the Fables and Tales of La Fontaine. Evolving approaches to the poet’s material accompanied changing musical and moral approaches, for example in the depiction of poverty. In ‘Marriage as a Measure of Society’ a sample of eighteen popular operas discloses three areas of interest, though in very different comic modes: traditional resistance to impediments preventing marriage and happiness; resistance to the institution itself; and resistance to societal constraints which impede expectations of happiness. The influence of English drama is accounted for. A brief final section on ‘Abduction’ operas develops the wider implications of Jama Stilwell’s research on Letellier’s Arlequin Sultane favorite.
Chapter 5 offers an account of how vaudevilles were introduced on the Fair theatre stage, and how they were developed as an operatic medium. ‘Raw Materials’ provides contexts for understanding what vaudevilles were and how they were transmitted. ‘Vaudevilles on stage’ uses official reports to build a history of process: how musical dialogue in vaudevilles evolved from 1709. ‘Lyric pantomime’ formed an intermediate stage. Contemporary reactions to Italian recitative are used as a deductive basis for imagining vaudevilles in sound; the enquiry is extended in ‘Accompaniment’ and ‘Continuity’ by historical evidence and through scrutiny of Le Théâtre de la Foire, but also by the author’s report made of a 1991 performance. Historical evidence suggests that performance in Paris was regularly dialogic and spontaneous, not tied to fixed keys or accompaniment, but also sometimes lyrical. Highly expressive vaudevilles were sometimes grouped to form either narrative or sentimental scenes in operas by Lesage and d’Orneval, some works having affinity with common tropes in contemporary novels. ‘La Chercheuse d’esprit’ is an account of Favart’s famous vaudeville opera, here interpreted through unique performative information deduced from a manuscript in the Bibliothèque municipale, Versailles, hitherto unknown to scholarship.
Chapter 11 concerns the reform of opéra-comique. It reconstructs the inner logic of musical processes in comedies that were all written in reaction to Italian intermezzi. ‘Hybrid Popular Operas’ discusses the first French adaptations of intermezzi: in no case was there a simple process of translation. Pierre Baurans conceived a new genre, comédiemêléed’ariettes. These adaptations of Laservapadrona and Ilmaestrodimusica added new music, and spoken dialogue in verse. C.-S. Favart developed this approach in LaBohémienne and Ninetteàlacour, creating dialogued ensembles from solo-voice originals. Rousseau’s Le Devin du village, albeit a court work, innovated through its melodic style, its unconventional forms and its stage directions that were connected to popular practice. Les Troqueurs by Vadé and Dauvergne is then compared and contrasted with Le Devin du village. Egidio Duni’s final opera for Italy, Le Retour au village, is compared with his first for Paris, Le Peintre amoureux de son modèle: their melodic style demonstrably followed Rousseau’s example. Élie Fréron’s published review of Le Peintre amoureux proves that it was understood as a sophisticated exploration of comedic approaches. Using music, aspects of multivocality, orchestration, envoiced memory and stage co-ordination broke new ground.
Chapter 6 brings together evidence of all kinds from the whole period to create a vivid picture of popular opera and its audience in the theatre. ‘Theatre Size and Ambience’ correlates detailed historical information to produce a systematic overview of many theatre buildings, together with interior details and size of musical ensembles. Ticket admission prices at the Opéra, Comédie-Italienne and the Fair theatres are compared and assessed. Descriptions by a number of eyewitnesses (French, Italian, English, Irish and German observers) combine to give an impression of activity in popular theatre seen from the audience’s point of view. In a survey of staging, the evidence is both visual and textual: engraved and painted illustrations are analysed and ‘corrected’ so that the proportions of stage sets can be understood. Then a synopsis of stage directions suggests the material range of experience in popular opera. A survey of lighting effects is discussed in relation to stage context, showing how some comedies combined lighting effects with music.
Chapter 9 documents the varied dramatic roles given to newly written music in popular opera before the 1750s; it also illustrates exceptional and virtuosic vocal music that was increasingly brought in. An initial overview names fifteen Fair theatre composers, including Elisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre, then documents musical commissions made during the first period (1714 to 1718) such as cantatas and set pieces. Louis de Lacoste’s musical depiction of the Prince’s mental disturbance in La Princesse de Carizme is explained. ‘Corrette and Modern Dance’ turns to innovations in the 1730s, the era of enthusiasm for dance. Corrette’s ‘concertos comiques’, Italian in inspiration, were sometimes linked structurally with specific opéras-comiques, whether through dance sequences or musical connections with recurring vaudevilles. ‘Beyond vaudevilles’ focuses on the continually expanding range of borrowed music. ‘Showpiece’ vaudevilles requiring vocal dexterity are compared and quoted, their origins in recent dances by Mouret, Blamont, Rebel and Francœur; but Favart also made vocal pieces from keyboard music by Couperin and an instrumental menuet by Derochet, whose lengths exceeded 100 bars. In Les Nymphes de Diane Favart treated vaudevilles as a heterogeneous musical collage; this mock-pastoral incorporated quasi-operatic group scenes.
Chapter 3 is devoted to music and innovation within the commedia troupe of Louis XIV. Mixing traditional improvisation with scripted French scenes, the plays involved many forms and styles of music, made possible in part by the ability of Italian actors to sing and play instruments. An overview, ‘Repertory and Musical Resources’, includes evidence for the international reputation earned by the Italians, much enhanced by the 1700 publication of their texts and music in Le Théâtre Italien de Gherardi. These plays, revived in following decades, were notorious for their veiled social critiques. In ‘Social Themes’ eight specific topic areas are set out, all with continuing relevance for popular opera. ‘Music and Musical Roles’ considers (i) a dialogue duet sung in an early commedia play; (ii) musical variety and function in one-act comedies; (iii) the incorporation of Italian music, some taken from Venetian opera. ‘Vaudevilles and Vaudeville-finales’ takes forward the discoveries of Donald J. Grout in ‘The Origins of the Opéra-comique’ (1939). In ‘Towards Pasquin et Marforio’, ambitious musical elements in larger-scale plays are described, including parodies of Lully opera scenes. The integral musical planning of Pasquin et Marforio is seen as containing uniquely operatic features.