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Music Drama at the Paris Odéon, 1824–1828

Music Drama at the Paris Odéon, 1824–1828

Mark Everist
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: 1
Pages: 348
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  • Book Info
    Music Drama at the Paris Odéon, 1824–1828
    Book Description:

    Parisian theatrical, artistic, social, and political life comes alive in Mark Everist's impressive institutional history of the Paris Odéon, an opera house that flourished during the Bourbon Restoration. Everist traces the complete arc of the Odéon's short but highly successful life from ascent to triumph, decline, and closure. He outlines the role it played in expanding operatic repertoire and in changing the face of musical life in Paris. Everist reconstructs the political power structures that controlled the world of Parisian music drama, the internal administration of the theater, and its relationship with composers and librettists, and with the city of Paris itself. His rich depiction of French cultural life and the artistic contexts that allowed the Odéon to flourish highlights the benefit of close and innovative examination of society's institutions.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92890-9
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    In the years after the battle of Waterloo, music drama was very unlike what it is today. As much entertainment as art, it was a central element in court and civic recreation across Europe and the New World. National styles of composition and performance—far more diverse in the nineteenth century than in the twenty-first—characterized much stage music in an age where the locomotive and the telegraph were yet to accelerate communication across continents. Balances of power in music drama were also different: librettists were considered at least as important as composers, and the producer was only just beginning...


    • Chapter 1 Un délassement honnête et instructif—Music Drama in Restoration Paris
      (pp. 13-43)

      The context for Parisian music drama in the nineteenth century was the city of Paris itself. The dimensions of the city had changed little between the end of theancien régimeand the beginning of the Restoration in April 1814.¹ The city was still walled, and the distinction between landintra murosandextra muroswas acute; all parts of the city’s populace, except the municipal administrators (who dealt with the city’s more modern twelve arrondissements), still thought of its topography in terms ofquartiers(neighborhoods) and faubourgs.² Although differences in fortune were immense, the neighborhood in which sections of...

    • Chapter 2 L’obligation de jouer le répertoire du premier ordre—Repertory and Management at the Odéon
      (pp. 44-72)

      Thedirecteur privilégié—the manager—of the Théâtre-Royal de l’Odéon guided the work of itsrégisseurs(directors). During the 1820s, when the theater was mounting productions of music drama, comedy, and tragedy, the theater boasted up to three directors. In 1825, two were responsible for the two branches of spoken theater and one for music drama. By the following year, this had been changed to one director for music drama and one for plays, while a third held the position of assistant director. In 1827 there were two directors for music drama and only one for plays. As the Odéon’s...

    • Chapter 3 Cet ensemble si harmonieux et si parfait—The Odéon’s Personnel
      (pp. 73-111)

      Establishing a team of soloists capable of performing such a demanding and fast-changing repertory as the one in place at the Odéon posed problems for Bernard and his successors. Their solution was to recruit successful artists from provincial theaters—Lyon, Marseille,Nantes, and Bordeaux, for example—and to look hard at artists at the secondary theaters in Paris who might be suitable for work in an opera house. The opening cast was heavily dependent on artists with backgrounds in the provinces. The two tenors, Campenaut and Lecomte, had recently arrived from Bordeaux and Lille respectively (figures 10 and 11). Of the...

    • Chapter 4 La férule sévère et souvent capricieuse—Control and Consumption
      (pp. 112-140)

      The libretti of music drama produced at the Odéon were subject to the scrutiny of the theater’sjury de lecture(reading committee) and the censor. In the eighteenth century, reading committees would summarily reach a decision on the quality of a play after they had listened to an author reading it aloud.¹ Such structures lasted well into the nineteenth century, and even experienced authors found themselves in front of the reading committee (sociétaires: the actors themselves) at theComédie-Française.² Théophile Gautier’s description of the reading committee at the Odéon in hisHistoire de l’art dramatique—which included the manager running...


    • Chapter 5 Une heure à l’opéra-comique—Occasional Works
      (pp. 143-170)

      Some music drama mounted at the Odéon was a response to particular events in Restoration Paris. The name days of the monarch and the coronation of Charles X generated new works that at once benefited the theater’s repertory of music drama and the French royal family (which used, and was used by, the theater). The management seized the opportunity for mounting occasional works to smuggle in opéras comiques by young Parisian composers that infringed its license. The official nature of royal name days and the coronation limited competing theaters in their scope for criticism of the Odéon for these breaches...

    • Chapter 6 Rendre service à notre scène lyrique—The Pasticcio
      (pp. 171-198)

      The pasticcio today occupies a precarious position. A work formed out of compositions by a range of composers, out of different works by the same composer, or even out of extraneous interpolations in one single-composer work offends against modern prejudices in favor of unified works by single composers; the genre is marginalized if not ridiculed as a result. Yet in the eighteenth century, the pasticcio was an important part of operatic culture, “the prevailing form of Italian music drama in London from 1704 until the beginning of the nineteenth century”;¹ and “without the pasticcio, Italian opera could never have gained...

    • Chapter 7 Le fruit défendu—Opéra Comique and the French Tradition
      (pp. 199-226)

      The clearest and most succinct definition of the types of music drama permitted at the Odéon lies in the contract agreed between La Rochefoucauld and Bernard, which stipulated that Bernard had the right to mount productions of the Odéon’s traditional repertory—tragedy and comedy—and “if he wishes, opéra comique, but for this last genre works taken solely from the public domain, and works taken from the Italian and French repertory [translations], andcomédie mêlée de chant.”¹ The clause “opéra comique … taken solely from the public domain” pointed to a crucial element of the Odéon’s profile during the 1820s,...

    • Chapter 8 Les heureux étrangers—Italian Music Drama
      (pp. 227-249)

      Gioachino Rossini’s music featured at the Odéon either as part of a pasticcio or as a complete work in French translation, of which five were presented during the period 1824–28:Le barbier de Séville (Il barbiere di Siviglia),La pie voleuse (La gazza ladra),Othello (Otello),La dame du lac (La donna del lago), andTancrède (Tancredi).¹ In addition, there were rumors that Rossini had written choruses for Alexandre Soumet’s tragedySaül(figure 26).² These translations of Rossini dramatize the difference between the contribution of Castil-Blaze and that of other arrangers, and they also point up the differences between...

    • Chapter 9 Une leçon de morale—German Music Drama
      (pp. 250-282)

      German music drama never had the same impact as Italian stage music on Parisian theatrical culture. Apart from performances before 1800 ofDie Entführung aus dem Serail(one of them in German), French audiences knew German music drama mostly through the arrangement ofDie ZauberflöteasLes mystères d’Isis.¹ Premiered in 1801 at the Opéra (then the Théâtre des arts), it received over a hundred performances up to 1827. It was a familiar work during the 1820s and appeared three or four times a year until it finally disappeared after a performance on 2 May 1827. Its arranger, Ludwig Wenzel...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 283-288)

    For a little over four years in the middle of the 1820s, the Théâtre-Royal de l’Odéon commanded a position in Parisian operatic culture that was second to none. The vogue for Rossini was beginning to diminish at the Théâtre italien, the Académie royale de musique had yet to receive a musical and aesthetic injection fromLa muette de Portici,Guillaume Tell, andRobert le diable, and the Opéra-Comique was suffering from severe financial and administrative problems that would result in intermittent closure at the end of the decade. Capitalizing on difficulties elsewhere in the city, the Théâtre-Royal de l’Odéon managed...

    (pp. 291-298)
    (pp. 301-302)
    (pp. 303-316)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 317-331)