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Opera in the Age of Rousseau
Music, Confrontation, Realism

$35.99 (C)

Part of Cambridge Studies in Opera

  • Date Published: March 2015
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107504349

$ 35.99 (C)

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About the Authors
  • Historians of French politics, art, philosophy and literature have long known the tensions and fascinations of Louis XV's reign, the 1750s in particular. David Charlton's study comprehensively re-examines this period, from Rameau to Gluck and elucidates the long-term issues surrounding opera. Taking Rousseau's Le Devin du Village as one narrative centrepiece, Charlton investigates this opera's origins and influences in the 1740s and goes on to use past and present research to create a new structural model that explains the elements of reform in Gluck's tragédies for Paris. Charlton's book opens many new perspectives on the musical practices and politics of the period, including the Querelle des Bouffons. It gives the first detailed account of intermezzi and opere buffe performed by Eustachio Bambini's troupe at the Paris Opéra from August 1752 to February 1754 and discusses Rameau's comedies Platée and Les Paladins and their origins.

    • Offers the first integrated account of opera in Paris in the mid-eighteenth century, showing how French and Italian operas were acted, staged and discussed
    • Rousseau's popular opera Le Devin du Village is discussed and contextualised, as is the effect on contemporaries of his polemical interventions
    • Offers an original explanation of the way opera developed and back-dates many aspects of the reforms of Gluck, giving special attention to literary sources
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "Opera in the Age of Rousseau shines not only in its insightful tour through familiar polemics but also in its awareness of generic and stylistic trends that figure all too infrequently in scholarship on French staged works from this period … [Charlton's] study highlights the vigour and realism with which Rousseau and his colleagues turned to opera; it also emphasizes the rewards awaiting any modern musicologist who confronts these repertories alongside their volatile reception histories."
    Gina Rivera, Eighteenth-Century Music

    "[This book] comes as close as possible to describing what French 'musical Enlightenment' might be … [It] traces the subtleties of musical innovation, the shifts of public opinion, and the institutional, financial and aesthetic pressures that pushed opera in new directions."
    Downing A. Thomas, French Studies

    "Charlton's book advances deeply into new territory … and reveals wholly new insights into French eighteenth-century opera, dealing with the numerous elements of its existence as well as its development … His book compels the greatest admiration."
    Herbert Schneider, Il Saggiatore musicale

    "… a major contribution to our understanding of musical life in late eighteenth-century France … will certainly stand as the new reference work in the field."
    Martin Wåhlberg, Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies

    "Opera in the Age of Rousseau, with its valuable descriptions, analyses, illustrations, and generous musical examples, will be an indispensable addition to any dix-huitièmiste's library."
    Georgia J. Cowart, Journal of the American Musicological Society

    "This is a panoramic presentation of the areas which matter for the evolution of the opera between 1750 and 1777, but a presentation which is made in splendid detail, one that greatly adds to our understanding of this art."
    Marian Hobson, translated from Recherches sur Diderot et sur l'Encyclopédie

    "Charlton appraises dramatic, linguistic and musical elements through close readings of scores and libretti … [He offers] major contributions to understanding music on the stage."
    Matthew Head, Cambridge Opera Journal

    "Opera in the Age of Rousseau is a substantial and much-needed reexamination of a period of history that Richard Taruskin identified as "until recently the most systematically neglected span of years in the whole history of European "fine-art" music" … The book will serve as an essential resource for scholars and graduate students interested in Rousseau, Bambini's bouffons troupe, and operatic practice during the Ancien Régime … a massive achievement."
    Jacek Blaszkiewicz, Notes: The Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association

    "Charlton's fluid and energetic style will make light work of this read. … Opera in the Age of Rousseau should occupy a prominent space on university and personal library shelves for many years."
    Erik Paffett, Music Research Forum

    "The tables given in the work are in themselves an outstanding resource, based on wide and deep archival research, statistical study and reconstruction of repertory. Overall, this is a breakthrough study …"
    Mark Darlow, 1650–1850: Ideas, Aesthetics, and Inquiries in the Early Modern Era

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2015
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107504349
    • length: 436 pages
    • dimensions: 244 x 170 x 23 mm
    • weight: 0.69kg
    • contains: 17 b/w illus. 55 tables 100 music examples
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Princely Theatre:
    1. Palaces and patronage: Le Devin and the 1754 Alceste
    2. Acting: from convention to discipline
    3. The Opéra: cycles versus changes
    4. The reality of pastoral, 1742–52
    5. Le Devin du Village: a contextual enquiry
    Part II. Opinion:
    6. Opera as a subject of debate
    7. The Querelle: 'two ridiculous theses'
    8. Visions of reform
    Part III. Italian Opera for Paris:
    9. Travelling opera
    10. 'A real kick in the backside': Bambini's performances and their effect
    11. Creative consequences
    Part IV. Towards European Integration:
    12. New generations, new tastes
    13. In three acts: from Zaïde to Les Paladins
    14. In three acts: the replacement of Rameau.

  • Author

    David Charlton, Royal Holloway, University of London
    David Charlton is Professor Emeritus, Music History, at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is a regular contributor to conferences and has sat on the Council of the Royal Musical Association and the Comité International Hector Berlioz. He has published widely on the history of opera and his books include Grétry and the Growth of Opéra-Comique (1986), E. T. A. Hoffmann's Musical Writings (1989), French Opera, 1730–1830 (2000) and The Cambridge Companion to Grand Opera (as editor, 2003).

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