Grétry's Operas and the French Public: From the Old Regime to the Restoration, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Grétry's Operas and the French Public

From the Old Regime to the Restoration, 1st Edition

By R.J. Arnold


244 pages

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Hardback: 9781472438508
pub: 2015-12-07
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Why, in the dying days of the Napoleonic Empire, did half of Paris turn out for the funeral of a composer? The death of André Ernest Modeste Grétry in 1813 was one of the sensations of the age, setting off months of tear-stained commemorations, reminiscences and revivals of his work. To understand this singular event, this interdisciplinary study looks back to Grétry’s earliest encounters with the French public during the 1760s and 1770s, seeking the roots of his reputation in the reactions of his listeners. The result is not simply an exploration of the relationship between a musician and his audiences, but of developments in musical thought and discursive culture, and of the formation of public opinion over a period of intense social and political change. The core of Grétry’s appeal was his mastery of song. Distinctive, direct and memorable, his melodies were exported out of the opera house into every corner of French life, serving as folkloristic tokens of celebration and solidarity, longing and regret. Grétry’s attention to the subjectivity of his audiences had a profound effect on operatic culture, forging a new sense of democratic collaboration between composer and listener. This study provides a reassessment of Grétry’s work and musical thought, positioning him as a major figure who linked the culture of feeling and the culture of reason - and who paved the way for Romantic notions of spectatorial absorption and the power of music.

Table of Contents

Table of contents

List of Illustrations

List of Tables


Chapter 1 ‘In the bosom of one’s family’: Grétry’s earliest opéra comiques and their audiences

Chapter 2 ‘If only that heap of erudition could provide us with a melody’: Grétry’s conception of the role and powers of the composer

Chapter 3 ‘Those who listen with a sensitive soul and practised ears’: The formation of musical taste in the Ancien Régime

Chapter 4 ‘Always a friend of liberty’: The fortunes of Grétry’s career and reputation in the Revolution

Chapter 5 ‘The long-dispersed debris of French theatre is being reassembled’: Grétry and his public in post-Revolutionary France

Chapter 6 ‘We are nothing but a single distraught family’: Mourning and mythologising after Grétry’s death


About the Author

R.J. Arnold is an associate research fellow at Birkbeck, University of London. His research covers many aspects of the cultural history of France in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, most recently focusing on the formation of musical taste, and the significance of song as a social practice.

About the Series

Ashgate Interdisciplinary Studies in Opera

Ashgate Interdisciplinary Studies in Opera
The Ashgate Interdisciplinary Studies in Opera series provides a centralized and prominent forum for the presentation of cutting-edge scholarship that draws on numerous disciplinary approaches to a wide range of subjects associated with the creation, performance, and reception of opera (and related genres) in various historical and social contexts. There is great need for a broader approach to scholarship about opera. In recent years, the course of study has developed significantly, going beyond traditional musicological approaches to reflect new perspectives from literary criticism and comparative literature, cultural history, philosophy, art history, theatre history, gender studies, film studies, political science, philology, psycho-analysis, and medicine. The new brands of scholarship have allowed a more comprehensive interrogation of the complex nexus of means of artistic expression operative in opera, one that has meaningfully challenged prevalent historicist and formalist musical approaches. The Ashgate Interdisciplinary Studies in Opera series continues to move this important trend forward by including essay collections and monographs that reflect the ever-increasing interest in opera in non-musical contexts. Books in the series are linked by their emphasis on the study of a single genre - opera - yet are distinguished by their individualized and novel approaches by scholars from various disciplines/fields of inquiry. The remit of the series welcomes studies of seventeenth century to contemporary opera from all geographical locations, including non-Western topics.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / History & Criticism
MUSIC / Genres & Styles / Opera