Pierre Perrin

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Pierre Perrin (* around 1620 in Lyon ; † April 26, 1675 in Paris ) was a French poet , librettist and founder of the Paris Opera .


Beginning with the Orléans house

His youth in Rome brought Pierre Perrin into contact with Italian opera. The plays were presented to a large audience in new theaters in Italy, while in France music remained a matter of the court - in Paris, to be precise, of the royal court and the court of Gaston d'Orléans , both in a rivalry for social prestige. Perrin was able to spend his first thirteen years in Paris at Gaston's court and gain insight into aristocratic customs. Carefree imagination characterized the plays in Gaston's house, slippery and funny dialogues, varied love life and unlimited amusements. There Perrin came to a humor with a vulgarly infantile touch, which he stayed with when, to the general relief, decency prevailed again. In 1647, when he had already been in Paris for two years, he received an offer to take on the position of "Introducteur des ambassadeurs" at the House of Gaston d'Orléans. Claude d'Urre , sieur de Chaudebonne had originally procured it to Vincent Voiture . His successor was Bénigne Bruno , who offered it to Perrin. Half of the money for buying the office came in Perrin's case from the 61-year-old widow Madame de La Barroire, who married him in 1653 and borrowed the money. The annulment of the marriage and the death of the lady brought him an ongoing debt burden and the charge of dowry fraud. Ultimately, the position acquired for 18,000 livres turned out to be worthless, as Gaston lived in Blois Castle after 1653, withdrawn from court life . Between 1659 and 1672 this misstep was the reason for Perrin's seven incarcerations, ranging from 2 days to over 14 months.

The attention of Abbé Perrin, as he was also called for no legitimate reason, was drawn through his translation of Virgil's Aeneid , poems in a naturalistic style and lyrics for the composers Moulinié , Cambefort , Lambert and Cambert . With Robert Cambert he created the first opera in French, La Pastorale d'Issy , whose preface “Lettre à Mgr l'archevêque de Turin” contains the theoretical basis for understanding the texts of French operas. As was customary in France at the time, Perrin considered language more important than the poetic function of music, not without giving the libretto the peculiarities of a special theater genre. His practical experience, however, gave rise to the insight into the necessity of using language to meet the composer's needs.

Under the care of Mazarin and Colbert

In Issy , the Pastorale was performed eight to ten times in April 1659 by the king's goldsmith René de La Haye and was well received by the public despite its modest furnishings. It was presented to the court in May at Vincennes Castle , and according to Cambert Mazarin then ordered a heavier work. The opera Ariane , if it had been performed on the occasion of the royal wedding, could have helped Perrin and Cambert, but Cavalli's opera Ercole amante , ordered by the cardinal , was preferred . The latter was not only an importer of Italian operas, but also a supporter of French attempts in the field - his demise initially brought Perrin and Cambert a crisis. In the 1660s Perrin shifted to pieces for the courtly band and wrote love and Bacchus songs, all in a light-hearted style without ever violating propriety. But he still had the plan for an opera academy. Finally, he put his idea of ​​an “Académie de Poésie et de Musique” on paper in a collection of song texts, tried to do this even with a Renaissance humanist like Antoine de Baïf and was the first to convince Colbert .

Successful opera without profit sharing

On June 28, 1669, Perrin received a privilege from King Louis XIV to found the "Académie d'Opéra" together with Cambert. In addition, there were business partners Alexandre de Rieux, Marquis de Sourdéac and Laurent Bersac, son of a simple non-commissioned officer who called himself "Fondant de Champeron". Rieux was of genuine, old Breton nobility, but had a reputation as a murderer and pirate on the local coast, as a usurer, counterfeiter and thief. What made him useful to Perrin was his ability to operate stage machinery and the means to set up a theater. Perrin, on the other hand, had a believer on his back at the beginning of the project, Parliamentary Councilor Gabriel Bizet de La Barroire, whose mother he had married in 1653.

The company in which Perrin and Cambert had the artistic direction and which was supposed to restore him financially lasted three months, then the balance of power was rearranged by Rieux and Bersac: Cambert became a simple employee and the not particularly enterprising Perrin hardly played any more Role - only his name mattered as the holder of the privilege. The fact that their opera Pomone was an incredible success and each of the 146 performances brought in 1,000 to 4,000 livres was of little use to them. Perrin filed a complaint against his business partners on May 9, 1671, but was imprisoned in the Conciergerie on June 15 at the instigation of de La Barroire . He then apparently misjudged the effect of his own complaint against Rieux and Bersac: He believed that he could now proceed with his privilege at his own discretion and sell it. The buyer was the composer Jean de Granouilhet, écuyer sieur de Sablières, "intendant de la musique de Monsieur ". In December 1671, Sablières teamed up with Henri Guichard to exploit the privilege , to whom he sold half of his rights.

The privilege granted by the king, which was supposed to enjoy a certain reputation, was now lost in the rights-dealing of people who were sometimes in prison or who had already had relevant experience. It so happened that the privilege granted by Louis XIV was withdrawn and, since Perrin “could not fully support our intention to bring the music to the point We promised”, it was given to “a person whose experience and ability We became known ”: Jean-Baptiste Lully . The composer had previously visited Perrin in the Conciergerie, bought the privilege from him and helped him to freedom.

Cambert sought his fortune in London with the help of his former student Louis Grabou. He had the score of the opera Ariane, ou le Mariage de Bacchus , which was performed after twelve years in 1674 at the Theater Royal on Bridges Street . Perrin died impoverished and forgotten in 1675.

From the point of view of posterity

When Cambert had his Airs à Boire printed in 1665 , he did not forget to point out in the foreword that the majority of the rhymes were by Perrin, who was recognized by everyone as outstanding and incomparable in the creation of song texts. Perrin was a poet , unlike Philippe Quinault , who came from spoken theater and together with Lully created a work that - often from the point of view of their biographers - overshadows the creators of Pomone . What is overlooked is that Perrin was quite taken with not being a playwright, not bringing poetry into the theater, but getting to the poetry of the theater. “Lyric verses and not Alexandrians ” he considered “much more suitable for singing and more convenient for the voice”. The fact that fougère (fern) should rhyme with bergère (shepherdess) was one of the reasons for Henry Prunières to count him among the simple-minded poets and to have nothing but contempt for him. But it was the form used by Perrin that was perfected by the librettists of the following century. The Pastorale (the piece was simply called that and had no other name) was created without courtly support or other subsidies, delighted the audience and, in Prunière's opinion, Perrin should not have been a reason for any pride. With more extensive knowledge of music in the middle of the 17th century, this is now seen in a more differentiated manner.


  • Claude Kurt Abraham: Gaston d'Orléans et sa Cour: Etude literaire , The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill ca.1962, pp. 122–128.
  • Louis E. Auld: The Lyric Art of Pierre Perrin, Founder of French Opera. Part 1. Birth of French Opera , Henryville – Ottawa – Binningen 1986, ISBN 0-931902-28-2 .
  • Jérôme de La Gorce: L'Opéra à Paris au temps de Louis XIV. Histoire d'un théâtre , Paris 1992, pp. 12-30.

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Benjamin Pintiaux: Perrin, Pierre, called Abbé . In: Ludwig Finscher (Hrsg.): The music in past and present. Person part 13 . Bärenreiter Verlag, second, revised edition, Kassel u. a. 2005, p. 350.
  2. Emmanuel Haymann: Lulli , Flammarion, Paris 1991, pp. 17-18.
  3. ^ Auld 1986: p. 21.
  4. ^ Auld 1986: p. 22 u. 24.
  5. ^ Auld 1986: p. 24.
  6. ^ Auld 1986: 63.
  7. Abraham 1962: p. 122.
  8. ^ Nicole Katharina Strohmann: Perrin, Pierre . In Elisabeth Schmierer (Ed.): Lexikon Oper , Volume 2, Laaber 2002, p. 366 f.
  9. ^ Auld 1986: p. 27.
  10. de La Gorce 1992: p. 12.
  11. Jean-Claude Brenac: Autour de la Pastorale d'Issy , website "operabaroque.fr", May 2011
  12. de La Gorce 1992: p. 13.
  13. a b Auld 1986: p. 44.
  14. de La Gorce 1992: p. 14.
  15. a b c Abraham 1962: p. 123.
  16. de La Gorce 1992: p. 15.
  17. Jean-Claude Brenac: Perrin et Cie: drôle d'associés! , Website “operabaroque.fr”, July 2005
  18. a b de La Gorce 1992: p. 18 f.
  19. de La Gorce 1992: p. 20.
  20. de La Gorce 1992: p. 21.
  21. de La Gorce 1992: p. 26.
  22. de La Gorce 1992: p. 30 f.
  23. ^ Auld 1986: p. 49.
  24. ^ Auld 1986: p. 43.
  25. ^ Auld 1986: 153.
  26. ^ Auld 1986: 155.
  27. ^ Auld 1986: p. 60.
  28. ^ Auld 1986: p. 149.
  29. ^ Auld 1986: p. 128.
  30. ^ Auld 1986: 89.