French opera

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The French opera developed in the 17th century within the French court from the prevailing Italian opera, which she enriched with pomp, a large orchestra and extensive ballet sequences. The large amount of dance and a special treatment of the text in the recitative are its most important features. The singspiel-like pieces that emerged from the Opéra-comique , on the other hand, are characterized by spoken dialogues in contrast to the Italian recitatives. As a metropolis in continental Europe, Paris remained a leader in operatic history until the end of the 19th century.

The young Louis XIV. In the leading role of Apollo in the “Ballet royal de la nuit” 1653

The Italian - born Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632–1687), who was court composer for Louis XIV for half his life and who danced with him as a guitarist and comedian at performances as early as 1650, played a decisive role in the creation of a specifically French opera . Two distinctly French operatic genres emerged at court: the tragédie lyrique and the comédie-ballet .

After the king's death in 1715, a non-courtly French opera developed at the Parisian funfair theaters , in which composers such as Egidio Duni , François-André Danican Philidor or Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny participated and which was called Opéra-comique. Jean-Philippe Rameau, on the other hand, continued Lully's style and tried to carefully integrate modern Italian style features. At that time, Italian opera sounds modern ("classic" to our ears) and French opera is still very baroque . In the years around the French Revolution , the Opéra-comique had established itself in its own opera house ( Opéra-Comique ), and new forms of sung tragedy or tragicomedy such as the rescue opera developed . The most important opera genre for the upper middle class of the 19th century was the grand opéra , which was produced by the Parisian Opera , which had become bourgeois . After its disintegration, drame lyrique had lasting success as a sensitive form of expression in French opera withdrawn into private feeling.

The lively competition between French and foreign composers such as Christoph Willibald Gluck and Niccolò Piccinni remained a fruitful engine for French opera well into the 19th century. The "foreigners" Gioachino Rossini , Giacomo Meyerbeer and Giuseppe Verdi wrote French operas that were among the most important in the repertoire. The period of protectionism after the Franco-Prussian War that began in 1871, however, led to the extensive restriction of French opera to French-speaking composers such as Ambroise Thomas , Charles Gounod or Jules Massenet .

Suppression of Italian opera

In 1660 Cardinal Mazarin , who was interim regent together with Ludwig's mother Anna of Austria , had the most famous Italian opera composer Francesco Cavalli come to Paris to write a festive opera Ercole amante ( Hercules in love ) for the royal wedding. The Italian opera had already become known in Paris through Luigi Rossi and his L'Orfeo , but the young Louis XIV hated the Italian style. He had Lully compose ballet interludes for the resulting grand opera, but the main purpose was to sabotage Cavalli's work and undermine the reputation of his patron Mazarin.

The plan succeeded, and Lully also composed the ballet music for the alternative opera Serse . When it was performed on November 21, 1660 in the Palais des Tuileries in Paris, Cavalli's opera was almost overgrown by Lully's French dance interludes and Cavalli snubbed. Mazarin died four months later, after which many Italians left France and Italian opera lost its importance. In the later performed Ercole amante , however, the ballet was named Hercule amoureux and danced by the king himself in the role of Apollo . During its dance, the court chanted “Long live the Sun King !”, Which Louis XIV's nickname was retained.

In May 1661 Louis XIV appointed Lully as surintendant de la musique du roi , who from then on cooperated with Molière . His decisive musical initial spark, however, came from an embarrassment: in August 1661, Molière had too few actors for the big festival at Vaux-le-Vicomte Castle . Ballets were built in between individual scenes to give the actors time to change clothes. The performance in front of the 6000 guests was an incredible success and the " Comédie-ballet " was born, for which Lully composed over the next few years.

Pageantry and ballet

In 1671 Robert Cambert , the former music director of the Queen Mother, brought the first purely French opera to the stage with “Pomone” and was a resounding success. However, the librettist Pierre Perrin was ruined by intrigue and Lully received all operatic rights from him. The king supported him in this, and between 1672 and 1684 about 15 operas by Lully were performed on the royal stages. In contrast to Cambert and Perrin, the ballet was given a large space, and all tragédies lyriques contained 5 acts, each with a divertissement - generous scenes with choir - and ballet interludes. A preceding prologue served to glorify the Sun King.

The fourth opera Alceste (1674) was premiered in the marble courtyard of the newly built Palace of Versailles and was the highlight of a great festival. Most of the operas, which follow at least once a year, were just as ostentatious, but some also had serious themes. Atys (1676) was also called "The King's Opera", which he is said to have co-composed. On the other hand, Isis (1677) was soon called “The Musicians' Opera” because it seemed brilliant to the experts, but was too intellectual to the court.

On the orders of the king, the court ballet Le Triomphe de l'Amour was created in 1681 as a revival of the earlier style. It was danced by the king's children and increased the fame of Lully, who composed Persée in 1682 for the move of the royal court to Versailles . With him the opera house at Versailles was inaugurated in 1770 and the wedding of the future Louis XVI. celebrated with Marie Antoinette . Lully's most successful work was Amadis in 1684 . It was performed every year as long as Louis XIV was alive. As a result, Lully and his librettist Philippe Quinault turned away from mythology and praised French knights and their ideal of faith - a result of the repeal of the Edict of Nantes .

Around 1685 Lully fell into royal disfavor and his operas have now premiered in Paris . His sons Jean and Louis, together with his best pupil Marin Marais , succeeded him in the office of Surin tender until the King Michel-Richard Delalande appointed him.

Important stylistic elements of the French National Opera

Jean-Baptiste Lully continued the French style with the large orchestra , but also shaped the music of Europe. The five-part orchestral composition and the "lead" are typical of the sound . In addition to the 24 (!) Violins - for which Lully loved floral decorations - there are 12 large oboes , which he had developed from the shawm . The large figured bass group (continuo) included harpsichord , guitars and lutes , as well as timpani and trumpets ; The latter were only left out in more serious operas. The new transverse flute and the “French Trio ” (two oboes with bassoon ) were exhibited as solo instruments . The trio also went into the German tradition, u. a. by Georg Philipp Telemann .

The typically French overture (dotted rhythm with subsequent fugue and recapitulation of the first part) goes back in part to Lully's predecessors and contemporaries: Pierre Beauchamp , Jean de Cambefort , Robert Cambert , Jacques Cordier , Guillaume Dumanoir and Michel Mazuel have already written "opening music " for the court ballets. These overtures have little to do with the Italian symphonias of Monteverdi , Cavalli or Luigi Rossi , because the French orchestral style with 24 violins was already used under the ballet masters Louis XIII. developed. Lully added a fugue to the solemn overtures and designed his dances and ballets in such a way that the dance was recognized by the music, it was more important than it, so to speak. Since 1660 (ballet “Xerxes”) the “new overtures” were placed at the beginning of almost every work and replaced the previous ritournell .

From the beginning, French opera was intended as a counterpoint to the established Italian opera. Louis XIV also promoted his own French form of expression in other areas of art. Lully and Lambert did not develop the French recitative from Italian models, but from the " Air de Cour" and sometimes let it merge into little song-like "Airs" - not to be confused with arias . French opera does not know the Italian da capo aria . In return, she satisfies the audience's expectations with comprehensibility and many ballets.

Each of the 5 acts (and the prologue) includes a divertissement (large choral scene and ballet). The meter of the operas suits the French recitative. The themes are borrowed from ancient mythology or knight epics. The standard scenes include those with dreams (Sommeil), storms (Vents), pompous battles (Combats) and finally a great Passacaglia and Chaconnas , often with soloists and choir.

The French style of music had been popular in Europe since the Plaisirs de l'Îsle de enchantée and attracted many young musicians to Paris to study. These European "Lullists" include Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer , Pelham Humfrey , Johann Sigismund Kusser and the very well-known Agostino Steffani and Georg Muffat . a. Marin Marais , Jean Marie Leclair and Jean Joseph Cassanea de Mondonville , as well as André Campra , Michel-Richard Delalande and Jean Philippe Rameau .

The orchestral pieces for the operas and ballets came as printed suites and a. to Germany and England and shaped the baroque orchestral suite and the music of the royal courts; also Bach , Handel and Purcell received Lully by partially and Fasch , Telemann or Fux . The courts from Hanover and Düsseldorf to Darmstadt and Munich not only collected music (and black copies) from France , but also hired its musicians.

In France, Lully's style remained predominant for almost a hundred years - in addition to opera and ballet, the form of sacred music , which was promoted at court after the death of Louis XIV.

It was only with the establishment of the “ Concert spirituel ” in Paris and more frequent Italian concerts that the aversion to Italy's music subsided. But when a troupe performed Pergolesi'sLa serva padrona ” in Paris, an open conflict broke out between supporters of traditional French opera and supporters of the new opera buffa . It went down in history as the Buffonist dispute and was only settled years later through Gluck's first operas . After that, the operas of the Ancien Régime by Lully, Campra or Rameau were rarely performed.

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