The Comedians of the King: "Opera Comique" and the Bourbon Monarchy on the Eve of Revolution (Hardback)Julia Doe (author)
Lyric theater in ancien regime France was an eminently political art, tied to the demands of court spectacle. This was true not only of tragic opera (tragedie lyrique) but also its comic counterpart, opera comique, a form tracing its roots to the seasonal trade fairs of Paris. While historians have long privileged the genre's popular origins, opera comique was brought under the protection of the French crown in 1762, thus consolidating a new venue where national music might be debated and defined.
In The Comedians of the King, Julia Doe traces the impact of Bourbon patronage on the development of opera comique in the turbulent prerevolutionary years. Drawing on both musical and archival evidence, the book presents the history of this understudied genre and unpacks the material structures that supported its rapid evolution at the royally sponsored Comedie-Italienne. Doe demonstrates how comic theater was exploited in, and worked against, the monarchy's carefully cultivated public image-a negotiation that became especially fraught after the accession of the music-loving queen, Marie Antoinette. The Comedians of the King examines the aesthetic and political tensions that arose when a genre with popular foundations was folded into the Bourbon propaganda machine, and when a group of actors trained at the Parisian fairs became official representatives of the sovereign, or comediens ordinaires du roi.
Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
Number of pages: 296
Weight: 581 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 28 mm
"The richness of the book's vision is remarkable: its elegant syntheses offer a multiple picture of a key operatic genre from its modern formation to mature survival in the age of Wagner. Musical theater studies have needed something like this for a generation now, and Doe has written a persuasive and pleasurable account of the underlying tensions between a 'national genre' and the ebb and flow of national politics." -- David Charlton, Royal Holloway, University of London
"Skillfully combining detailed study of a wide range of works with institutional history and royal patronage, The Comedians of the King will transform our understanding of a key chapter in the history of lyric theater. A noteworthy feature of Doe's work is her ability to weave the political dimension of her narrative with institutional and stylistic developments in opera comique. Meticulously researched and persuasively argued, this major study is essential reading." -- Mark Darlow, University of Cambridge
"The Comedians of the King provides a fascinating and nuanced account of the process by which the opera comique, with its humble origins in the Parisian fairgrounds, became the cosmopolitan emblem of l'Europe francaise and an important vehicle for courtly propaganda. Clearly and compellingly, Doe tells the story of the opera comique alongside the story of a queen, Marie Antoinette, whose tastes and efforts lay behind its transformation. The result is a book that amplifies our understanding of not only the genre but also the social ambivalences and contradictions it reflected on the eve of the French Revolution." -- Georgia Cowart, Case Western Reserve University
"One of the most valuable contributions of The Comedians of the King is to have integrated a deep dive into the business side of opera-comique and the administrative machinery of culture, which made it possible for the genre to flourish, with an exploration of the artistic innovations and successes that it accomplished during the final decades of the eighteenth century. As a result of this capacious approach, Julia Doe captures in exemplary fashion the full complexity and paradoxes of the genre's expansion in late eighteenth-century France. . . . The Comedians of the King will have a lasting impact on the study of eighteenth-century French musical culture and on scholars who, following Doe, hope to ground their work in a robust interdisciplinary methodology." * Journal of the American Musicological Society *
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