From the outset, French opera generated an enormous diversity of literature, familiarity with which greatly enhances our understanding of this unique art form. Yet relatively little of that literature is available in English, despite an upsurge of interest in the Lully-Rameau period during the past two decades. This book presents a wide-ranging and informative picture of the organization and evolution of French Baroque opera, its aims and aspirations, its strengths and weaknesses. Drawing on official documents, theoretical writings, letters, diaries, dictionary entries, contemporary reviews and commentaries, it provides an often entertaining insight into Lully’s once-proud Royal Academy of Music and the colourful characters who surrounded it. The translated passages are set in context, and readers are directed to further scholarly and critical writings in English.
Readers will find this new, updated edition easier to use with its revised and expanded translations, supplementary explanatory content and new illustrations.
"These translations by Wood and Sadler have permanent value. A century of French opera is revealed in its own words, as it looked and worked and sounded at the time. With this expanded and illustrated edition we feel even closer to the achievements of Lully, Rameau and their contemporaries."
David Charlton, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK
Reviews of the first edition
‘A thoroughly useful and entertaining book…Anyone interested in the subject will find this valuable not only for the breadth of opinion that it encompasses but as a way into the contemporary source-material…’ Early Music Review
'French Baroque Opera is worth every penny of its asking price….this delightful, and genuinely educative, book.' The Musical Times, Spring 2001.
'While the editorial commentary is clearly designed for general readers and admirably addresses their needs, specialists too will enjoy mining this source for precious nuggets. … (The editors') translations are sensitive and accurate, successfully capturing the spirit of the original French and favouring smooth idiomatic English over literal rendition of every word….In short, the book is largely a pleasure to navigate.' Early Music
'Compulsive and compulsory reading!' Music & Letters
'Wood and Sadler have assembled a collection of clear and fresh translations of material that for the most part has never appeared before in English.' ECCB
Preface to the first edition
Preface to the revised edition
1 The Paris Opéra (1672–1770): management and mismanagement
2 The experience of opera-going
3 Dramatic and musical ingredients
4 Literary theory and aesthetics
5 Critical reaction and debate
6 Performances and personalities
List of sources