Aesthetics of Opera in the Ancien Regime, 1647-1785

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This is the first study to recognize the broad impact of opera in early-modern French culture. Downing A. Thomas considers the use of operatic spectacle and music by Louis XlV as a vehicle for absolutism, the resistance of music to the aesthetic and political agendas of the time, and the long-term development of opera in eighteenth-century humanist culture. He argues that French opera moved away from the politics of the absolute monarchy in which it originated to address Enlightenment concerns with sensibility and feeling. The book combines close readings of significant seventeenth-century and eighteenth-century operatic works, and circumstantial writings and theoretical works on theater and opera, together with a measure of reception history. Thomas examines key works by Lully, Rameau, and Charpentier, among others, and extends his reach from the late seventeenth century to the end of the eighteenth.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"It goes beyond strict musical analysis and examines these oeuvres and their contexts from a broad cultural perspective, drawing on the writings of contemporary philosophers and commentators." Opera Quarterly

"This book is not an easy read, but any time spent between its covers will be amply rewarded.... a fluently written study that moves smoothly across the decades to become a cultural history of French opera from its origins to the Revolution.... Highly recommended." Choice

"Like a handy toolbox for singers and teachers, Miller's book provides detailed, well-rounded discussions of vocal technique, pedagogical issues, and performance concerns in one place, a rare scenario. As wel, the appendices are excellent for quick reference about vocal repertoire and IPA symbols. A must-have for anyone involved in the vocal field." -- Opera Journal

"Thomas provides an excellent distillation of the conflict between seventeenth-century writers who championed staged tragedy and those who welcomed and defended trag├ędie en musique. Downing Thomas' book is an important addition to the study of the development of French opera, particularly for its blend of historical, philosophical, cultural, and critical studies." Opera Today, Deborah Kauffman, University of Northern Colorado

"Rather than answering all the questions raised closing off all possibilities, Thomas opens up new insights, draws together interesting primary sources, and engages in dialog with secondary literature from several disciplines." Notes

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521100977
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 2/5/2009
  • Series: Cambridge Studies in Opera Series
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 420
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Downing A. Thomas is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of French and Italian at the University of Iowa. He is the author of Music and the Origins of Language: Theories from the French Enlightenment (Cambridge, 1995), and co-editor of Empire and Occupation in France and the Francophone Worlds, a special issue of Studies in Twentieth-Century Literature (1999). He has also published numerous articles.
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Table of Contents

List of illustrations
Introduction 1
Pt. I French opera in the shadow of tragedy
1 Song as performance and the emergence of French opera 17
2 The Opera King 53
3 The ascendance of music and the disintegration of the hero in Armide 100
4 The disruption of poetics I: Medee's excessive voice 129
5 The disruption of poetics II: Hippolyte et Aricie and the reinvention of tragedy 154
Pt. II Opera and Enlightenment: from private sensation to public feeling
6 Heart strings 179
7 Music, sympathy, and identification at the Opera-Comique 201
8 Architectural visions of lyric theater and spectatorship 265
9 Opera and common sense: Lacepede's Poetique de la musique 293
Conclusions 321
Notes 325
Works cited 383
Index 405
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