Aesthetics of Opera in the Ancien Regime, 1647-1785

Aesthetics of Opera in the Ancien Regime, 1647-1785

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This study recognizes the broad impact of opera in early-modern French culture. Downing A. Thomas considers the use of operatic spectacle and music by Louis XIV 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, circumstantial writings and theoretical works on theatre 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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Product details

  • Paperback | 420 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 24mm | 610g
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Reissue
  • 13 Printed music items; 9 Halftones, unspecified
  • 0521100976
  • 9780521100977
  • 2,016,593

Table of contents

Introduction; Part I. French Opera in the Shadow of Tragedy: 1. Song as performance and the emergence of French opera; 2. The opera king; 3. The ascendance of music and the disintegration of the hero in Armide; 4. The disruption of poetics I: Medee's excessive voice; 5. The disruption of poetics II: Hippolyte et Aricie and the reinvention of tragedy; Part II: Opera and Enlightenment: From Private Sensation to Public Feeling: 6. Heart strings; 7. Music, sympathy, and identification at the Opera-Comique; 8. Architectural visions of lyric theater and spectatorship; 9. Opera and common sense: Lacepede's Poetique de la musique; Conclusions; Works Cited; Index.
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Review quote

Review of the hardback: '... the attraction and usefulness of this work is that Thomas specifically avoids falling back on hackneyed texts and does not slavishly retrace other's steps through reams of over-analysed material.' Eighteenth-Century Music
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About Downing A. Thomas

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 University Press, 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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