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Paris: Opera Reigns Supreme

  • James Harding
Part of the Man & Music book series (MAMU)

Abstract

The France that Napoleon created has been with us for nearly two centuries. His influence remains pervasive and inescapable throughout every aspect of French life. He modelled the legal system and divided the country into administrative units, each named after a local river and with its prefect whose duty was to keep an eye on the provinces and report to central government in Paris any unrest or conspiracy. Education was reformed and new institutions were created to ensure la carrière ouverte aux talents. The constitution of the Comédie-Française was dictated by the busy emperor at a spare moment during the Moscow campaign, and he found time, between plotting battle positions, to reorganize the Paris Conservatoire. The system of concierges in Paris houses gave him a useful network of spies who kept the police in touch with what was going on. He even laid down the method by which houses in the streets of the capital were to be numbered. As a young man he had written a sentimental novel in the best — or perhaps the worst — tradition of the emergent Romantic movement. He is now known to have composed an opera; it probably followed the model of Paisiello, a composer said to be his favourite musician.

Keywords

French Literature Paris House Opera House Favourite Musician Great Composer 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 4.
    S. Mallarmé, Oeuvres complètes, poésie-prose (Paris, 1961), 71, 541–6.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    A full discussion of Axël is in the standard biography, A. W. Raitt, Villiers de l’Isle-Adam (Oxford, 1981).Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    Meyerbeer’s contribution to French music and the nature of his influence and achievement have been admirably summed up by M. Cooper, ‘Giacomo Meyerbeer, 1791–1864’, PRMA, xc (1963–4), 97–129 [special issue].Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    Quoted in C. Malherbe, Auber (Paris, 1911), 23.Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    Quoted in R. Myers, Emmanuel Chabrier and his Circle (London, 1969), 3.Google Scholar
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    C. Saint-Saëns, Harmonie et mélodie (Paris, 1885), 224.Google Scholar
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    C. Saint-Saëns, ‘Le vieux Conservatoire’, in Ecole buissonnnière (Paris, 1913), 39.Google Scholar
  8. 14.
    C. Saint-Saëns: ‘La Société des Concerts’, in Harmonie et mélodie (Paris, 1885), 189.Google Scholar
  9. 16.
    Franck and his disciples are exhaustively discussed and assessed in L. Davies, César Franck and his Circle (London, 1970).Google Scholar

Bibliographical Note Historical and cultural background

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Music

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  14. Opera as an artistic and especially a commercial enterprise is well documented in T. Walsh’s Second Empire Opera: the Théâtre Lyrique, Paris, 1851–1870 (London, 1981),Google Scholar
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  27. as are Gounod’s posthumous Mémoires d’un artiste (Paris, 1896).Google Scholar
  28. Berlioz’s Mémoires (Paris, 1870) are a classic in their own right and furnish an often hilarious account of Parisian musical life and institutions;Google Scholar
  29. they have been translated into English, in a way that does justice to the wit and verve of the original, by D. Cairns (London, 1969, 2/1970), whose substantial biography of Berlioz is currently underway: vol.i (London, 1989). Saint-Saëns’ Harmonie et mélodie (Paris, 1885),Google Scholar
  30. Portraits et souvenirs (Paris, 1899, 1909) andGoogle Scholar
  31. Ecole buissonnière (Paris, 1913) paint a vivid picture of musical conditions in Paris during the first four decades of the period.Google Scholar
  32. Biographies and studies of individual composers abound. Meyerbeer is dispatched once and for all by M. Cooper’s indispensable ‘Giacomo Meyerbeer, 1791–1864’, PRMA, xc (1963–4); 97–129.Google Scholar
  33. The following full-length studies are available: C. Malherbe, Auber (Paris, 1911);Google Scholar
  34. G. Faure, Boieldieu, sa vie, son oeuvre, 2 vols. (Paris, 1944–5);Google Scholar
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  37. H. de Curzon, Ambroise Thomas (Paris, 1921);Google Scholar
  38. V. d’Indy, César Franck (Paris, 1924), is an exercise in hagiography.Google Scholar
  39. More balanced is L. Vallas, La véritable histoire de César Franck, 1822–1890 (Paris, 1955).Google Scholar
  40. L. Davies, César Franck and his Circle (London, 1970), is an enthusiastic collective study with lengthy sections on Chausson, Lekeu, Duparc and d’Indy.Google Scholar
  41. Bizet is best served in English by W. Dean, Bizet (London, 1948, rev. and enlarged 3/1975), andGoogle Scholar
  42. M. Curtiss, Bizet and his World (New York and London, 1958).Google Scholar
  43. J. Desaymard, E. Chabrier d’après ses lettres: l’homme et l’oeuvre (Paris, 1934), is rewarding reading,Google Scholar
  44. while F. Poulenc’s little book Emmanuel Chabrier (Paris, 1961) is worth its weight in gold since here we have one creative artist’s appreciation of another.Google Scholar
  45. Other background details to the period may be found in J. Harding, Saint-Saëns and his Circle (London, 1965),Google Scholar
  46. Massenet (London, 1970),Google Scholar
  47. Gounod (London, 1975),Google Scholar
  48. Folies de Paris: the Rise and Fall of French Operetta (London, 1979) andGoogle Scholar
  49. Offenbach (London, 1980).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Granada Group and The Macmillan Press Ltd 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • James Harding

There are no affiliations available

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