1st Edition

French Opera 1730–1830: Meaning and Media

By David Charlton Copyright 2000
    390 Pages
    by Routledge

    The majority of these collected essays date from 1992 onwards, three of them having been specially expanded for this volume. Drawing on recent archival research and new musicological theory, they investigate distinctive qualities in French opera from early opéra comique to early grand opera. ’Media’ is interpreted in terms of both narrative systems and practical theatre resources. One group of essays identifies narrative systems in ’minuet-scenes’, in the diegetic romance, and in special uses of musical motives. Another group concerns the theory and æsthetics of opera, in which uses of metaphor help us interpret audience reception. A third group focuses on orchestral and staging practices, brought together in a new theory of the 'melodrama model’ linking various genres from the 1780s with the world of the 1820s. French opera’s relation with literature and politics is a continuing theme, explored in writings on prison scenes, Ossian, and public-private dramaturgy in grand opera. David Charlton has written widely on French music and opera topics for over 25 years. The selection of his articles presented here focuses on the period 1730-1830 when Paris was a hotbed of influential ideas in music and music theatre, with many of these ideas taken up by foreign composers. This volume assesses the French contribution to the development of Classical and Romantic styles and genres which has hitherto not received the attention it deserves.

    Contents: The romance and its cognates: narrative, irony and vraisemblance in early opéra-comique; Continuing polarities: Opera theory and opéra-comique; Orchestra and chorus at the Comédie-Italienne (Opéra-Comique), 1755-1799; The overture to Philidor’s Le Bûcheron (1763); ’Envoicing’ the orchestra: Enlightenment metaphors in theory and practice; ’Minuet-scenes’ in early opéra-comique; Motive and motif: Méhul before 1791; Motif and recollection in four operas of Dalayrac; The French theatrical origins of Fidelio; Storms, sacrifices: the ’Melodrama Model’ in Opera; Ossian, Le Sueur and opera; The dramaturgy of ’Grand Opéra’: some origins; On the nature of ’Grand Opera’; ’A maître d’orchestre... conducts’: new and old evidence on French practice; Index.


    David Charlton

    'Ashgate should be commended for their commitment to scholarship of distinction...' Music and Letters '... a volume of which no-one involved in opera of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries should remain unaware.' Current Musicology