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L’Opéra de Paris, la Comédie-Française et l’Opéra-Comique

 | 
Sabine Chaouche
, 
Denis Herlin
, 
Solveig Serre

Deuxième partie. Répertoires comparés

The Opéra and Opéra-Comique in the nineteenth century tracing the age of repertoire

William Weber

Résumé

« Le vieux répertoire » survived on a more stable basis at the Opéra-Comique compared with the Opéra during the nineteenth century. The premier hall, buffeted by political change and literary querelles, abandoned virtually all its older Works during the 1830’s, as had likewise happened there in the 1770’s. By contrast, the Opéra-Comique offered at least one work written prior to 1785 every season from 1830 through the 1890. The theater’s daily performance schedule contributed to this tendency, as did its less exposed position in public life. Canonic repertories and aesthetic notions defining them evolved in both theaters quite separate from the canons which arose around symphonies or string quartets. By 1880 the canonic repertories in the two theaters seemed to predominate over new Works in many observers’ eyes.

Texte intégral

1French opera was a leader in the formation of performing canons in the opera world during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. For a hundred years the continuing performance of operas by Jean-Baptiste Lully had only limited parallels in Europe. The disputes about his music and that of Jean-Philippe Rameau and Christoph Willibald Gluck laid the foundations for aesthetic discussions about opera as canon in Europe as a whole. The Opéra-Comique maintained an old repertoire throughout most of the 19th century and a parallel canon evolved at the Théâtre-Italien. A repertoire in grand opera evolved at the Académie royale de musique from 1828 which came to dominate European theaters for the rest of the century. And, in its brief tenure between 1850 and 1870, the Théâtre-Lyrique developed an imaginative canonic repertory which remained a model after its time. No other country experienced such wide-ranging leadership in developing operatic canon.

2In this paper we will trace how canonic repertories evolved at the Opéra and the Opéra-Comique between 1840 and 1880. The repertoire in both theaters went in similar directions in general: in the late 1820s through the 1840s a large number of old works were replaced by new ones, which remained in performance for most of the century. But a substantial old repertoire maintained itself at the Opéra-Comique — a dozen works written between 1764 and 1785 chiefly by Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny, André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry, and Nicholas-Marie Dalayrac. I do not have the space here to inquire into the political aspects of this history. Let me note however that the theater focused on a national genre kept music of the past on stage more fully than the theater linked with changing cosmopolitan taste. Indeed, the narrative of opera repertoires in the nineteenth century fits closely into the broad narrative of French politics.

  • 1 Georges Didi-Huberman, «Artistic survival: Panofsky vs. Warburg and the exorcism of impure time», i (...)

3Almost every opera repertoire goes through cycles by which new works replace old ones. Nonetheless, resistance to that process takes place when old works remain on stage and thereby obtain a status most appropriately called «canonic». I see this phenomenon through the concept of «survival» developed by the art historians Aby Warburg and Georges Didi-Huberman1. They argued that as an artifact becomes anachronistic and goes out of use it nonetheless can survive in latent form within memory and then return actively at a later stage. Artistic survival implies respect, a certain deference which can take many forms, not necessarily expressed in aesthetic form. A further principie I follow is to apply the terms «canon» and, even better, «canonic repertoire» rather than «classics» or «classical music», which are burdened with aesthetic implications particular to post-Romantic viewpoints. A canonic repertoire itself usually undergoes a cyclical process of renewal, interacting with changes in recent créations. The concept of survival helps explain how little printed commentary was made about canonic works performed for substantial periods of time, as it was the case with the operas of Lully in the early 18th century and arguably for either Grétry, Daniel Auber, or Giacomo Meyerbeer in the 19th century.

  • 2 Statistics given here are variously by year or season, according to the variant sources of referenc (...)
  • 3 He has developed charts showing age or repertory for the Opéra de Paris and the Opéra-Comique; the (...)

4It is vital to quantify how the age of a repertoire changed over time. One can best define the age of a repertoire by determining the average number of years since the premieres of the works performed, calculated in reference to the daily performances of each piece. I chose seven seasons which illustrate the shifts in age of repertoire performed at the two theaters. Table 1 shows that in the season 1802, a year after the troupes at the Théâtre Feydeau and the salle Favart were merged, the average age of repertory was ten years in both cases2. By 1824 the repertoire of the Opéra had become somewhat older, nineteen years as opposed to sixteen at the Opéra-Comique. A comprehensive renewal of repertoire began at both theaters in the late 1820s, which reduced the age figure drastically, reaching a low point in 1842 — five years at the Opéra and the more moderate ten years at the Opéra-Comique. From 1850 the average age of repertoire went back up: after being close in 1852 (fourteen at the former theater versus twelve years at the latter) the figure at the Opéra-Comique became higher, thirty years versus twenty-three at the Opéra in 1862, and thirty-five versus twenty-nine in 1879. There were of course shifts up and down between those seasons; the economist François Velde is developing a longer and more detailed chronology for both theaters3. But the main change was the development of a significantly older repertoire at the Opéra-Comique.

I. — RECYCLING OR RETAINING REPERTOIRE

  • 4 William Weber, «La musique ancienne in the waning of the Ancien Régime», in Journal of Modem Histor (...)
  • 5 Robert Isherwood, Farce and Fantasy: Popular Entertainment in Eighteenth-century Paris, New York, 1 (...)
  • 6 Raphaëlle Legrand and Patrick Taïeb, «L’Opéra-comique sous le Consulat et l’Empire», in Le Théâtre (...)
  • 7 David Charlton, Grétry and the Growth of Opéra-Comique, Cambridge, 1986, p. 3.
  • 8 Adolphe Adam, Derniers souvenirs d'un musicien, Paris, 1859, p. 197-198.

5Let us look into the progress of the canonic repertoires in detail. For a century the Opéra had produced «reprises» of old works by Lully and his successors, often called «la musique ancienne», and after the death of Rameau in 1764 extraordinarily few pieces by living composers appeared on its programs4. The institution then went through a reconstruction of repertory beginning in 1774. By 1785 all works composed prior to 1760 were no longer in use, save Le Devin du village by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Fontainebleau 1752; Opéra de Paris 1753). Pieces done on Italian models by W. C. Gluck, Nicolò Piccinni, and Antonio Sacchini took prominence, accompanied by operas by such French composers as Grétry and Etienne Méhul. But the bilingual Comédie-Italienne followed a different narrative since around 1750 its composers began to shift from «vaudeville» texts set to traditional «timbres» to composing songs for the genre called «comédie melée d’ariettes»5. Pieces by Grétry, Monsigny, and the Naplestrained Égidio Duni were stili performed under Napoleon even though the genres of new works were changing fast, as Raphaëlle Legrand and Patrick Taïeb analyzed in detail6 Remarkably enough, no month passed between 1768 and 1824 without a piece by Grétry being performed at the theater7. In some case works in «opera-comique» remain in latent form but returned in repertoire; for example, Grétry’s Richard Coeur de Lion (1784) was performed only once between 1848 and 1872 but was done in all but a few seasons through 1893. Adolphe Adam later discussed the diverse contexts — concerts, salons, and personal collections — in which pieces from old operas survived8.

  • 9 SASExworks, available at Francophone Music Criticism, 1789-1814, (http://music.sas.ac.uk/fmc/fmc-ho (...)

6Still, «l’ancien repertoire», as it was called in the early 19th century, loomed larger at the Opéra than at the Opéra-Comique in this period: in 1824, 31 of all performances predated 1800 at the former theater compared with 23 percent at the latter one9. Deceased composers represented that year included, in order of birth: Gluck (27), Piccinni (9), Antonio Sacchini (7), Grétry (27), and Antonio Salieri (6). Likewise, the average year of birth for all composers, relative to daily performances, was 1761 in 1825, ten years earlier than at the Opéra-Comique. Old works began disappearing in the mid-1820s, and by 1840 only Sacchini’s Œdipe à Colonne (1786) remained, to be given finally in 1844. Table 2 shows the last year of performance by major composers and any «reprises» of that work. Interestingly enough, the oldest work was Le Devin du Village, which supposedly was discontinued after someone threw a wig on stage in 1829. Moreover, ballets — which amounted to 41 percent of all works performed in 1802 and 23 percent in 1824 — also remained in use after the composers died. Those set by Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne and Ernest Louis Müller (a pole trained in Germany) were performed several decades after their deaths, until 1827 and 1829, respectively.

  • 10 Mark Everist, Music Drama at the Paris Odéon, 1824-1828, Berkeley, 2002, p. 250-261, 268-271.

7Works by Gluck, W. A. Mozart, Gasparo Spontini, and Carl Maria von Weber experienced limited though significant performance histories at the Opéra between 1830 and 1870. Weber’s Der Freischütz (1821) was unique in weathering the storm of the 1830s. First mounted at the Odéon in 1824 (as Robin des Bois), it appeared at the Théâtre-Italien in 1828 and at the Opéra in 1841 but was shown only twice between 1854 and 187610. Mozart’s Don Juan was not performed between 1839 and 1866 but was regularly done after that. Gluck’s Alceste returned for thirty-three performances in 1861, 1862, and 1866, and Spontini’s La Vestale went on stage only thirteen times in a «reprise» in 1854. All of these works were perceived through a complicated array of national and cosmopolitan identities which we will not try to sort out here.

  • 11 Castil-Blaze [François-Henri-Joseph Blaze], L'Histoire de l’Opéra-Comique, manuscript, BmO, Rés. 53 (...)
  • 12 N. Wild and R. Legrand, Regards sur l’opéra-comique, p. 103.

8Age of repertory declined less severely at the Opéra-Comique in the 1830s. Whereas no pieces composed before 1820 appeared at the Opéra between 1835 and 1860, at least one piece predating 1785 appeared in all but two years at the Opéra-Comique through the 1880s. In those two years (1839-1840) works written in 1789-1799 by Dalayrac and Domenico Della Maria were nonetheless performed. Table 3 shows the dozen works composed prior to 1785 which were done between 1840 and 1880, the earliest being Giovanni Pergolesi’s La Servante maîtresse and Monsigny’s Le Déserteur (1769) and Rose et Colas (1764). The theater ended up exploring Grétry’s oeuvre extensively, mostly works composed between 1771 and 1784 — Richard, Coeur de Lion, Tableau Parlant, Zémire et Azor, L’Amant Jaloux, and L’Épreuve Villageoise. It is striking that works by Duni reappeared in the 1860s, Les Sabots (1763) in 1865 and Les Deux Chasseurs et la Laitière (1763) in 1865-1868. Thus did the bi-national origins of «opéra-comique» remain in memory, as it was also true in the history of the genre written by Castil-Blaze11. Pieces written by Nicolas Isouard in the Napoleonic period also survived even though critics tended to disparage them; Rendez-vous bourgeois was still being done in 187612.

9Thus did a whole host of early works survive at the Opéra-Comique despite stylistic changes, institutional crisis, and political upheaval. It would seem that the directors of the theater felt an obligation to keep the Old Regime on stage to sonte extent during the cycles of change in the theater world. Compared with the Opéra, this theater was less entangled in national politics and existed at a greater distance from the cosmopolitan musical world, thereby developing strong internal stability. Looked at from a practical standpoint, the continuity in repertoire resulted from the practice of performing two or three pieces almost every day of the week, which made room for old works to survive. Yet it was unusual for two old works to appear on one night, since the directors of the Opéra-Comique always sought for contrast in their programming. That is the reason why it is problematic to apply the Anglo-American term «early music» to the old repertory, since in our day, music is usually performed separately from later works. Indeed, the dates of the old repertoire suggest a seamless progression of works, those by Dalayrac overlapping with those by Grétry, and pieces by Isouard and Adrien Boieldieu beginning where Grétry left off.

  • 13 On theater directors, see Christophe Charle, Théâtres en capitales: naissance de la société du spec (...)
  • 14 Ibid., p. 300-02; Denis Christophoul, L’Opéra-Comique, 1848-1862: aspects de la vie culturelle à Pa (...)
  • 15 «Établissements lyriques», in Le Monde artistique, 15 Oct. 1862, p. 3. On early «cafés-concerts», s (...)

10The old works took on increasing significance as the Opéra-Comique entered into financial crisis in the 1850s. Emile Perrin exerted imaginative leadership as director (1848-1857 and 1862), defining a place for the old repertoire self-consciously in canonic terms13. The «recettes» of all Paris theaters went steadily upwards from 1848 to 1868, despite occasional years of decline. But the «recettes» at the OpéraComique began slipping after the Exposition of 1855, entering into a serious crisis by 185814. The «cafés-concerts» and theaters featuring operettas were exerting increasing competition with the theaters, even the venerable Opéra-Comique. In 1862 a writer in Le Monde artistique declared that the time has come when one could not draw a ciear line of demarcation between a theater and a café-concert15.

11Perrin, like most Parisian theater directors, became increasingly reliant upon «le répertoire courant» to draw sufficient audiences and keep his finances stable. In his valuable analysis of performance data for the Opéra-Comique, Denis Christophoul showed how few «créations» drew big audiences in the 1850s and how strong the old repertoire became in quantitative terms. He calculated how many acts written prior to 1825 were performed, a criterion which reflects time on stage better than counting the pieces themselves. That number grew from 308 in 1852 to 437 in 1857 and 522 in 1858, showing how the theater was resisting the traditional pressure for cyclical change. Nestor Roqueplan and Alfred Beaumont, who followed Perrin as director (1857-1862), unwisely favored recent pieces over early ones — 101 acts of the old period in 1859, 166 in 1860, and a mere 54 in 1861. Beaumont was deemed incompetent in January 1862, and the office of the fine arts brought Perrin back to deal with the problems he had created. The theater’s «recettes» began to go up that year.

  • 16 Téry, «Théâtre impérial de l’Opéra-Comique: La Servante maîtresse», in L’Orchestre: programme spéci (...)

12A self-conscious sense of canon is apparent in Perrin’s subsequent productions. In May he brought back Monsigny’s Rose et Colas; in repertoire-friendly August he staged a new version of Giovanni Pergolesi’s La Servante maîtresse, forty-nine years after the last Parisian performance and 131 years since its composition. Whereas «reprises» of old works had rarely drawn much attention, the two made in 1862 were noticed in periodicals well outside the musical intelligentsia. The reprise was given a long review in L’Orchestre, the daily newspaper which gave reports on all theatres and «cafés-concerts». A critic named V. Téry linked La Servante maîtresse with three operatic genres: «la mélancholie amoureuse» of Domenico Cimarosa and Vincenzo Bellini; «les grands spectacles» by which Beethoven and Weber achieved «hauteurs inaccessibles»; and «les accents légers et brillants» delivered by Monsigny, Dalayrac, Auber, Nicholas Isouard and Adrien Boieldieu16.

  • 17 P. Scudo, La Musique en l’anéee 1862, Paris, 1863, p. 23.
  • 18 Gamma, L’Art musical, 14 Aug. 1862, p. 206.
  • 19 Albert Soubies and Charles Malherbe, Histoire de l’Opéra-Comique, p. 37-38. Mark Everist, «Jacques (...)

13Two leading music critics took extreme points of view. On the one hand, Paul Scudo declared in La Musique en l’année 1862 that «Monsigny et Sedaine ont créé un ouvrage qui a survécu à une révolution sociale et à deux grandes transformations de la musique dramatique»17. On the other hand, the staff reviewer for l’Art musical (which was Giovanni Verdis publisher) sneered that «M. Perrin se plait aux resurrections difficiles: il veut faire revivre tout un répertoire démodé, enseveli dans un profound oubli». Why indeed, he asked, did Perrin offer «une operette plus que centenaire?»18. The term «operette» was pertinent, since Jacques Offenbach had tried unsuccessfully to produce it in 1855, after Perrin had broached the idea a few years before19. All told, the age of repertory at the Opéra-Comique grew from nineteen years in the season 1860-1861 to twenty-three in 1862-1863. As the old repertoire took on a self-conscious canonic role, commentators began shifting its nomenclature from «l’ancien répertoire» to «le vieux répertoire», a term which remained standard for the rest of the century.

  • 20 D. Christophoul, L'Opéra-Comique..., p. 80-82, 235-254 et 279-286.
  • 21 Ibid., p. 238-246. The names cited could be identified by profession and arrondissement.

14The less affluent public at the Opéra-Comique seems to have become particularly attached to «le vieux répertoire». Working with archivai materials for tickets and «abonnements», Denis Christophoul found that the public in the less expensive parts of the house (parterre, amphitheater, 2e galerie, and 3e loges) tended to prefer evenings with two or three pieces, but the more affluent public tended to go most often on nights focused on a work with three or four acts20. Listeners from the most prestigious public included titled people, bankers, notaries, and men of high political office; «les milieux intermédiaires» were made up of lawyers, businessmen, and civil servants; and office employees were found among the «bourgeoisie populaire»21.

15By 1860 the old repertory had become particularly concentrated in the months between June and October, a time when premières were less common and the most affluent public tended to be out of town. For example, in the season 1862-1863 the average age of repertoire was thirty-three years in October and nineteen in March; the season as a whole was twenty-three. The parallel numbers contrasted less at the Opéra: in that season the months at the extremes differed by eleven as opposed to fourteen years (low in June, high in February). Perrin paid careful attention to both publics but in 1857 raised prices on most of the better seats and boxes in order to make up for the house’s declining income. Still, pieces of different age were carefully mixed together, and it was unusual to have a single work in an evening, usually just after a première.

  • 22 Mark Everist, «Grand Opéra — Petit Opéra: Parisian Opera and ballet from the Restoration to the Sec (...)

16Innovations in new Works interacted with experimentation with programming «le vieux répertoire». Meyerbeer’s L’Étoile du Nord (1854) and Le Pardon du Ploërmel (1859) built a bridge between the two principal theaters, and Ambroise Thomas’s Mignon (1866) quickly acquired an international public. Moreover, between 1858 and 1864, François-Auguste Gevaert produced five works at that theater which pushed the traditional genre into new directions, expanding the use of dance and «mélodrame»-like scenes, as Mark Everist has shown22.

II. — TWO NEW OPERATIC CANONS

  • 23 Christophe Charle has demonstrated that this tendency became internationally widespread among theat (...)

17The Opéra and the Opéra-Comique both had serious problems developing popular new works during the 1850s and 1860s23. The director of each theater faced the challenge of balancing «créations» — the first expectation for an opera house — with maintaining repertoire from a variety of periods popular enough to bring in audiences twelve months a year. Thus by 1860 a new canonic repertoire was apparent in each theater: chiefly works by Auber, Meyerbeer, Gioachino Rossini, and Fromental Halévy at the Opéra and pieces by Boieldieu, Auber, Adam, and Gaetano Donizetti at the Opéra-Comique. During the 1860s critics and the public began discovering the canonic nature of these works and composers; music and drama they had taken for granted began to take on a new status.

18The new canonic repertoire at the Opéra-Comique grew with no clear break with the earlier one. Table 4 shows the composers most often represented at the theater in the season 1862-1863, broken down into the older and newer sets of canonic composers. Isouard, though contemporaneous with Boieldieu before his death in 1818, is best seen in the earlier group. Auber experienced what might be called an «incipient» canonic status, being treated similarly to Boieldieu and Adam in the decade or so before his death in 1871. Donizetti’s La Favorite had become a mainstay of repertoire, reminding the audience of the Italian origins of the genre of «opéra-comique».

  • 24 BmO, Opéra-Comique, Registre, 16 December 1862.

19While the four composers were to play a central role in the theater’s repertoire for the rest of the century, Boieldieu took on a special canonic status. The 1000th performance of his La Dame Blanche (1825) on December 16, 1862 brought out the emperor, the empress, and other notables to hear the poem À Boieldieu! by the distinguished Joseph, read by the new star singer Léon Achard, along with chorus and orchestra24. That triumph came at a fortunate time, since pieces by living composers were finding few performances that season. The only living composer other than Auber whose performances came close to Boieldieu or Adam was Félicien David, thanks to the «succès» of Lalla-Rouck. Victor Massé nonetheless had a strong career at the theater through works such as Galathée, Les Noces de Jeannette, and Maître Pathelin.

  • 25 A few works introduced not long before (Rossini’s Sémiramide and Moïse most of all) remained on sta (...)
  • 26 The next Gluck revival did not arrive until Armide was done in 1905. Piccinni’s Roland had a simila (...)

20A new set of canonic works began at the Opéra in 1828 — with the premieres of La Muette de Portici and Rossini’s Le Comte Ory — which was to dominate the theater’s repertory for over two generations25. The works most often performed in the season 1862-1863, found in Table 5, included all but Le Comte Ory from the works with the highest performance records through the 1 880s. Three other pieces ended their runs in the early 1860s: Donizetti’s Lucie de Lammermoor, Marco Marliani’s La Xacarilla, and Adam’s ballet Diable à Quatre. Since the 18th century was represented that season only by five performances of Alceste, the season’s canonic repertoire basically came from a narrow time period of twenty-one years26. Verdi was the only living composer on the list who was actively working with the Opéra de Paris; Auber and Meyerbeer had unclear futures with the institution.

  • 27 S. [Charles-Louis de Sévelinges?], «Théâtre impérial de la musique: Microt dans La Favorite», 1860, (...)

21The paucity of popular «créations» was thus cause for alarm. A writer for La Presse théâtrale et musicale warned that the focus on a few «chefs-d’oeuvre» was preventing singers from creating a role in a major new work, as it was traditionally necessary for recognition among «les vedettes». The writer was alarmed by what was happening to the repertoire, which he described as cycles of «Les Hugenots, La Juive, La Favorite; La Favorite, La Juive, Les Hugenots... comme au college: abondante, mais peu saine et point varié»27.

  • 28 «La question du Théâtre-Lyrique et de l’Opéra populaire», in Revue du monde musical et dramatique, (...)
  • 29 See, for example, Ange-Henri Blaze, «Caractères et portraits du temps: Rossini», in Revue des deux (...)

22Musicologists need to inquire into how canonic discourse emerged in contrasting forms in different areas of musical lite. Awareness of canon evolved at the Opéra de Paris more slowly and with weaker aesthetic rationale than at the Opéra-Comique. The sense of musical greatness which grew up in classical-music concerts helped form a canon of national composers at the Opéra-Comique, even if the word «classique» was rarely applied to Works performed there. The suspicion of Rossini in the classical-music world and the highly commercial basis of grand opera held back linking the new canonic repertory with aesthetic thinking about Gluck, Jean-Philippe Rameau, or Ludwig vanBeethoven. Even though Wagnerians traced a canon encompassing the three composers, it remained a narrow, essentially partisan formulation28. For that matter, Mozart’s was often paired with Rossini in musical terms, and the extraordinary popularity of his Works reinforced that parallel29.

  • 30 Le Messager des théâtres, 1869, n°1, p. 1.
  • 31 Max, «Théâtre impérial de la musique: Guillaume Tell», in Théâtre illustré: album des théâtres: Aug (...)
  • 32 «Semaine théâtrale», in Théâtre illustré: programme des spectacles, 11 May 1861, p. 188. Katherine (...)

23Canonic valuing of grand opera grew up instead in close relationship with how singers treated their roles. By the end of the 1860s reviewers were treating «reprise» of old works with a new respect, finding novelty in the ways singers revivified wellknown roles. For example, in 1869 the writer for Le Messager des théâtres declared that the «reprise» of Robert le Diable exhibited «l’attrait d’une nouveauté» and indeed seemed like a new work: «C’était une vraie soirée de gala, tout comme pour la première representation d’un nouvel opera»30. Singers sometimes seemed to transform the framework of a drama. That same year a critic remarked that tenors had begun to change Guillaume Tell significantly by making Arnold a role equal in importance to that of his father Guillaume: «Chaque reprise de Guillaume Tell est un évenement, surtout lorsqu’il s’agit du debut d’un ténor31«. For that matter, singers brought a tenuous musical unity to the repertoire by singing a portfolio of roles. In 1861 a journalist suggested as much in writing about the arrivai of Mme Marie Damoreau-Cinti (daughter of the prima donna Laure Damoreau-Cinti), reporting that the admission committee had asked her to sing an air from La Muette de Portici, the «romance» from Guillaume Tell, and the «air de grâce» from Robert le Diable32.

  • 33 Jean Mongrédien, Le Théâtre-Italien de Paris 1801-1831, 9 t., Lyon, 2009.
  • 34 See Émile Cardon, «Théâtre-Italien: bilan de la saison», in Le Monde artiste, 27 Dec. 1862, p. 1.
  • 35 Octave Fouque, Histoire du Théâtre Ventadour, 1829-1879: Opéra-comique-Théâtre de la Renaissance — (...)

24We also need to inquire into the tendencies toward canon which emerged in the other two opera theaters in 19th-century Paris, the Théâtre-Italien and the Théâtre-Lyrique. Often thought a parallel of London’s King’s Theatre, the Théâtre-Italien offered a specialized Italian repertoire for a highly cosmopolitan public, focusing on premier singers more than dance or «mise en scene»33. It kept Parisians aware of the lyric tradition while the Opéra went through its giddying changes in repertoire in the early nineteenth century. Having offered Works by a wide variety of composers since Cimarosa, the repertoire kept the Italian school in French ears by occasionally bringing back pieces by Franceso Gnecco, Nicola Vaccai, Saverio Mercadante, and Luigi Ricci — as well as Beethoven’s Fidelio — from 1850 through 1875. Along the way the theater established a fuller canonic corpus of Works by Rossini, Bellini, and Donizetti than was done at the Opéra. Italianism threatened to predominate at the Opéra as well: the proportions of Works by French and Italian composers here rose from 41 percent French and 12 percent Italian in 1802-03 to 35 and 47 percent in 1862-186334. Arguably, the Opéra could not have built such successful block-busters in grand opera without the «savoir-faire» of what happened at the Théâtre-Italien. The crisis in the French nobility after 1870 contributed to the theater’s virtual collapse, and it was rescued by entrepreneurs also intent upon building an «opéra populaire»35.

  • 36 K. Ellis, «Systems failure in operatic Paris»..., p. 53.
  • 37 François Velde, chart showing age of repertory at the Opéra-Comique and Théâtre-Lyrique.
  • 38 F21 1122: Théâtre-Lyrique, 1870-1878 and F21 1041: Théâtre Populaire; from the latter, see Préfectu (...)

25The Théâtre-Lyrique had the opposite relationship with the two principal theaters: it borrowed popular old works to form a wildly diverse repertoire. The directors of the theater brought intellectuals, traditional listeners, and a growing new audience. Katherine Ellis concluded that this happened because the theater was «many things to many people and a slave to many masters» and because it was becoming clear that «old repertoire [...] could make money for the theater»36. The age of repertoire achieved in each season varied from 10 to 35 years in its first decade but ended up somewhere in the 20s after that, thus comparable with the figures at the Opéra-Comique37. The most popular canonic works taken from the other houses included Le Barbier de Séville and Robin des Bois from the Opéra; Richard, Coeur de Lion and Rendez-vous bourgeois from the Opéra-Comique; and La Sonnambula from the Théâtre-Italien. As the first theater to bring Gluck back on stage, and the most successful in exploiting Mozart, the Théâtre-Lyrique briefly brought together the canonic traditions competing with one another in Parisian opera life. Frantic efforts to reconstruct the theater in the 1870s started from the belief that its history pointed the way toward «opéra populaire». Those guiding this effort defined that term essentially with a repertoire which mixed grand opera (done a small scale) with popular «opéras-comiques» and a lot of Mozart38.

  • 39 Gustave Bertrand, «Théâtre-Lyrique», in Messager des théâtres, 22 Jan. 1862, p. 2.
  • 40 William Gibbons, «Music of the future, music of the past: Tannhäuser and Alceste at the Paris Opéra (...)

26Idiosyncratic canonic reputations developed around the Works of Gluck and Mozart. Gluck emerged as the intellectual pinnacle of the opera canon. His music related to a special extern with the historicization of opera begun in the 1750s and the desire to legitimize opera intellectually. As Gustave Bertrand put it in 1868, it was necessary that «notre première scène lyrique ait ses ancêtres comme le ThéâtreFrançais a les siens», a long-standing concern among musicians. He therefore valued Gluck, Rameau, and Sacchini because «ces exhibitions intermittentes d’un art noble et digne suffiraient pour relever le niveau du goût de cette génération39«. Wagnerians and anti-Wagnerians tried to manipulate the success of Gluck’s operas at the Opéra and the Théâtre-Lyrique to their own advantage40.

  • 41 «Théâtre-Lyrique: Iphigénie en Tauride», in Théâtre illustré: album des théâtres, 1868, t. 13, p. 1
  • 42 M. S., «Don Juan», ibid., 1868, n° 55, p. 1.

27Yet spokesmen for the general public sometimes begged to differ. A writer for Le Théâtre illustré — a magazine for the general public featuring full-page drawings of singers or «mise en scène» — made ciear that Gluck’s music seemed irrelevant to many of his readers: «Iphigénie en Tauride est un succès d’estime, mais pour la masse du public, nous craignons bien que malgré tout son talent, M. Pasdeloup ne soit point encore parvenu à la pénétrer d’un goût bien profond pour la musique classique»41. By contrast, Mozart emerged as a popular favorite within the expanding middle-class public. Another article in le Théâtre illustré expressed puzzlement why the Opéra didn’t offer Don Juan more often: «Le chef-d’œuvre de Mozart a enfin revu le jour sur notre première scène lyrique, pourquoi depuis si longtemps nous en privait-on? Nul ne le sait»42.

III. — EPILOGUE

  • 43 Frédérique Patureau, Le Palais Garnier dans la société parisienne, 1875-1914, Liège, 1991.

28Another recycling of new Works for old ones began in both theaters after the crises of 1870-1871. The process went slowly and failed to significantly reverse the shift toward canonic repertoire. Even though the new Palais Garnier brought a resolve to find successful new works, the age of repertoire rose from 23 years in 1863 to 29 in 1880, though it did fall back to 26 in 1893. Canonic pieces as Freischütz and Prophète were still at the core of the repertoire, amounting to 45 percent of the performances in 1880. The eighteenth century was only represented by Don Juan. As Frédérique Patureau has shown, directors of the Opéra made a concerted effort to renew the repertoire with new works despite the build-up of the new «vieux répertoire»43.

  • 44 «Semaine théâtrale», in Le Ménestrel 1 Feb. 1857, in N. Wild and R. Legrand, Regards sur l’opéra-co (...)
  • 45 Édouard Noël and Edmond Stoullig, Les Annales du théâtre et de la musique, 1875-1915, Paris, 1887, (...)
  • 46 A. Soubies and C. Malherbe, Histoire de l’Opéra-Comique..., p. 375.
  • 47 Albert Carré nonetheless brought in a flood of new productions after the turn of the new century; s (...)

29A more far-reaching set of changes occurred at the Opéra-Comique. The shift toward all-sung opera culminating at this time meant that a single work was performed half of the nights, leading a commentator to call the theater «une succursale» for the Opéra44. Indeed, Mozart now became as important at the Opéra-Comique as at the Opéra. La Flûte Enchantée — which was never done with another piece — set records with its receipts45. Yet some early French Works did survive: Le Déserteur and Richard Coeur de Lion remained standard repertory and L’Épreuve villageoise reappeared in 1888, as did Les Deux Avares in 1893. Early pieces by Boieldieu also resurfaced, Calife de Bagdad (1800) most of all. Albert Soubies and Charles Malherbe declared that the directors of the theater invested a significant part of its «capital artistique» in old works46. The age of the repertoire as a whole continued to rise, from 30 years in 1863 to 35 in 1880 and to 37 in 189347.

  • 48 A. Thurner, Les Transformations de l’Opéra-Comique, Paris, 1865.
  • 49 É. Noël and E. Stoullig, Les Annales du théâtre.1876, t. II, p. 213.
  • 50 «Les Théâtres», in Le Voltaire, 20 June 1879, p. 4. See also discussion of revival of revolutionary (...)

30We have seen that canonic repertoire played contrasting roles in the Opéra de Paris and the Opéra-Comique during the 19th century. The premier hall, buffeted by political change and literary «querelles», underwent a major discontinuity in repertoire in the 1840s, similar to the one it went through in the 1770s. But the Opéra-Comique maintained links with its eighteenth-century origins thanks to a less exposed position in public life. Allegiance to the canonic repertoire in the second-ranking theater began to be articulated in print increasingly during the 1860s. A systematic analysis of «le vieux répertoire» appeared in 1865 in a discerning book called Les Transformations de l’Opéra-Comique by A. Thurner48. When Camille Du Locle, the theater’s director, was forced to resign in 1876, two leading critics, Édouard Noël and Edmond Stoullig, accused him of making a bad mistake: «d’essayer de supprimer d’un trait de plume des compositeurs comme Boieldieu, Hérold, Auber pour les remplacer par des gloires plus fraîches»49. By the same token, the Opéra was increasingly given the title «musée de la musique», as happened, for example, in a report on the annual budget for the division des Beaux-Arts in 188050. By that time one senses that canonic repertoire had achieved a primacy similar to what we take for granted in opera life today.

Annexes

ANNEXES

I. — AVERAGE AGE OF REPERTOIRE: OPÉRA DE PARIS AND OPÉRA-COMIQUE

II. — LAST PERFORMANCE OF MAJOR COMPOSERS AT THE OPÉRA

1826 : Piccinni, Didon.

1826 : Méhul, Stratonice.

1827 : Berton, Virginie.

1828 : Salieri, Les Danaïdes.

1828 : Catel, Les Bayadères.

1829 : Rousseau, Le Devin du village.

1831 : Isouard, Aladin ou La Lampe merveilleuse (reprise 1899).

1835 : Spontini, La Vestale (reprise 1854).

1837 : Gluck, Alceste (reprises 1861-62, 1866-67, 1905).

1838 : Kreutzer and Persuis, Le Carnaval de Venise, ou La Constance à l’épreuve.

1839 : Mozart, Don Juan (reprise, 1866-77).

1840 : Mozart, La Révolte au sérail.

1843 : Rossini, Sémiramis.

1844 : Sacchini, Œdipe à Colonne.

III. — PERFORMANCE OF WORKS PRE-1800 AT THE OPÉRA-COMIQUE IN 1840-1880

Duni :

Les Sabots (1763-; 1866);

Les Deux Chasseurs et La Laitière (1763-; 1863-1868).

Monsigny:

Rose et Colas (1764-; 1862-1868);

Le Déserteur (1769- ; 1843-1849, 1852-1860, 1877-1885).

Grétry:

Le Tableau Parlant (1769- ; 1851-1852, 1855-1856) ;

Zémire et Azor (1771- ; 1846-1848) ;

La Fausse Magie (1775- ; 1863) ;

L’Amant Jaloux (1778- ; 1850-1851) ;

L’Épreuve Villageoise (1784- ; 1853-1861) ;

Richard, Cœur de Lion (1784- ; 1842-1848, 1856).

Dalayrac:

Nina (1786- ; 1852) ;

Adolphe et Clara (1799- ; 1820-1842, 1848, 1851, 1852).

IV. — COMPOSERS MOST PERFORMED AT THE OPÉRA-COMIQUE IN THE SEASON 1862-1863

Original Canon
Monsigny 64
Isouard 35
Pergolesi 24

Secondary Canon
Boieldieu 109
Adam 95
Donizetti 25
Hérold 14

Living Composers
David 101
Aubert 70
Bazin 27

V. — WORKS MOST OFTEN PERFORMED AT THE OPÉRA IN THE SEASON 1862-1863, WITH TOTAL PERFORMANCES THROUGH 1892

Auber, La Muette de Portici (1828) : 28/488.

Donizetti, La Favorite (1840) : 20/634

Halévy, La Juive (1835) : 19/541.

Meyerbeer, Les Huguenots (1836) : 19/889.

Rossini, Guillaume Tell (1829) : 15/786.

Marliani, La Xacarilla (1839) : 13/112.

Adam, Le Diable à quatre (1845) : 12/107.

Meyerbeer, Robert le Diable (1831) : 11/749.

Meyerbeer, Le Prophète (1849) : 9/472.

Verdi, Le Trouvère (1853) : 9/219.

Donizetti, Lucie de Lammermoor (1835) : 8/271.

Notes

1 Georges Didi-Huberman, «Artistic survival: Panofsky vs. Warburg and the exorcism of impure time», in Common Knowledge, t. 9, 2003, p. 273-285.

2 Statistics given here are variously by year or season, according to the variant sources of references available. Data for the Opéra-Comique have been developed either from daily records or the totals for the season available in some parts of the «registres».

3 He has developed charts showing age or repertory for the Opéra de Paris and the Opéra-Comique; the Opéra-Italien and the Théâtre-Lyrique; and the main theaters in Paris, London, Vienna, and Turin.

4 William Weber, «La musique ancienne in the waning of the Ancien Régime», in Journal of Modem History, t. 56, 1984, p. 58-88; Solveig Serre, «Mesurer la création, avec mesure: Chronopéra et le répertoire de l’Académie royale de musique (1749-1790)», in Acta Musicologica, t. 82, 2010, p. 1-15 and ead. L'Opéra de Paris, 1749-1790: politique culturelle au temps des Lumières, Paris, 2011; JeanClaire Vançon, «Le temple de la gloire: visages et usages de Jean-Philippe Rameau en France entre 1764 et 1895», PhD, musicology, university Paris-Sorbonne-Paris IV, 2010.

5 Robert Isherwood, Farce and Fantasy: Popular Entertainment in Eighteenth-century Paris, New York, 1986; Nicole Wild and Raphaëlle Legrand, Regards sur l’opéra-comique: trois siècles de vie théâtrale, Paris, 2002; Clarence D. Brenner, The Théâtre Italien: Its Repertoire, 1716-1793, Berkeley, 1961.

6 Raphaëlle Legrand and Patrick Taïeb, «L’Opéra-comique sous le Consulat et l’Empire», in Le Théâtre lyrique en France au XIXe siècle, ed. Paul Prévost, Metz, 1995, p. 1-61.

7 David Charlton, Grétry and the Growth of Opéra-Comique, Cambridge, 1986, p. 3.

8 Adolphe Adam, Derniers souvenirs d'un musicien, Paris, 1859, p. 197-198.

9 SASExworks, available at Francophone Music Criticism, 1789-1814, (http://music.sas.ac.uk/fmc/fmc-home.html). Note however that the chart for the Opéra does not include performances of works continuing from before 1826 other than those by Mozart.

10 Mark Everist, Music Drama at the Paris Odéon, 1824-1828, Berkeley, 2002, p. 250-261, 268-271.

11 Castil-Blaze [François-Henri-Joseph Blaze], L'Histoire de l’Opéra-Comique, manuscript, BmO, Rés. 538.

12 N. Wild and R. Legrand, Regards sur l’opéra-comique, p. 103.

13 On theater directors, see Christophe Charle, Théâtres en capitales: naissance de la société du spectacle â Paris, Berlin, Londres et Vienne, 1860-1914, Paris, 2008, p. 54-100.

14 Ibid., p. 300-02; Denis Christophoul, L’Opéra-Comique, 1848-1862: aspects de la vie culturelle à Paris au milieu du XIXe siècle, mémoire de maîtrise, university Nanterre-Paris X, 1982, p. 258-73.

15 «Établissements lyriques», in Le Monde artistique, 15 Oct. 1862, p. 3. On early «cafés-concerts», see W. Weber, Great Transformation of Musical Taste: Concert Programming from Haydn to Brahms, Cambridge, 2008, p. 293-299.

16 Téry, «Théâtre impérial de l’Opéra-Comique: La Servante maîtresse», in L’Orchestre: programme spécial des théâtres et concerts, 26 Feb. 1862, p. 2.

17 P. Scudo, La Musique en l’anéee 1862, Paris, 1863, p. 23.

18 Gamma, L’Art musical, 14 Aug. 1862, p. 206.

19 Albert Soubies and Charles Malherbe, Histoire de l’Opéra-Comique, p. 37-38. Mark Everist, «Jacques Offenbach: The music of the past and the image of the present», in Music, Theater, and Cultural Transfer: Paris, 1830-1914, ed. Annegret Fauser and Mark Everist, Chicago, 2009, p. 72-98.

20 D. Christophoul, L'Opéra-Comique..., p. 80-82, 235-254 et 279-286.

21 Ibid., p. 238-246. The names cited could be identified by profession and arrondissement.

22 Mark Everist, «Grand Opéra — Petit Opéra: Parisian Opera and ballet from the Restoration to the Second Empire,», in 19th-Century Music, t. 33, 2010, p. 195-231.

23 Christophe Charle has demonstrated that this tendency became internationally widespread among theaters in the late nineteenth century, in Théâtres en capitales... p. 94-97.

24 BmO, Opéra-Comique, Registre, 16 December 1862.

25 A few works introduced not long before (Rossini’s Sémiramide and Moïse most of all) remained on stage for a few seasons.

26 The next Gluck revival did not arrive until Armide was done in 1905. Piccinni’s Roland had a similar brief revival in 1866.

27 S. [Charles-Louis de Sévelinges?], «Théâtre impérial de la musique: Microt dans La Favorite», 1860, in Presse théâtrale et musicale, 4 Mar. 1860, p. 1.

28 «La question du Théâtre-Lyrique et de l’Opéra populaire», in Revue du monde musical et dramatique, 4 Jan. 1879, p. 23.

29 See, for example, Ange-Henri Blaze, «Caractères et portraits du temps: Rossini», in Revue des deux mondes, t. 79, 1869, p. 337-361, especially p. 344.

30 Le Messager des théâtres, 1869, n°1, p. 1.

31 Max, «Théâtre impérial de la musique: Guillaume Tell», in Théâtre illustré: album des théâtres: Aug. 1869, p. 2.

32 «Semaine théâtrale», in Théâtre illustré: programme des spectacles, 11 May 1861, p. 188. Katherine Ellis comments on this in «The structures of musical life», in Cambridge History of Nineteenth-Century Music, ed. Jim Samson, Cambridge, 2001, p. 332-353.

33 Jean Mongrédien, Le Théâtre-Italien de Paris 1801-1831, 9 t., Lyon, 2009.

34 See Émile Cardon, «Théâtre-Italien: bilan de la saison», in Le Monde artiste, 27 Dec. 1862, p. 1.

35 Octave Fouque, Histoire du Théâtre Ventadour, 1829-1879: Opéra-comique-Théâtre de la Renaissance — Théâtre-Italien, Paris, 1881; papers of the Théâtre-Italien, AN, AJ13 1169; Albert Soubies, Le Théâtre-Italien de 1801 à 1913, Paris, 1913.

36 K. Ellis, «Systems failure in operatic Paris»..., p. 53.

37 François Velde, chart showing age of repertory at the Opéra-Comique and Théâtre-Lyrique.

38 F21 1122: Théâtre-Lyrique, 1870-1878 and F21 1041: Théâtre Populaire; from the latter, see Préfecture de la Seine: commission administrative de l’Opéra populaire. Procès-verbaux des séances et résumé, 1881.

39 Gustave Bertrand, «Théâtre-Lyrique», in Messager des théâtres, 22 Jan. 1862, p. 2.

40 William Gibbons, «Music of the future, music of the past: Tannhäuser and Alceste at the Paris Opéra», in 19th Century Music, t. 33, 2010, p. 232-246. See also William Weber, «Richard Wagner, les concerts et les canons musicaux, 1860-1914», in Revue de musicologie, to appear.

41 «Théâtre-Lyrique: Iphigénie en Tauride», in Théâtre illustré: album des théâtres, 1868, t. 13, p. 1.

42 M. S., «Don Juan», ibid., 1868, n° 55, p. 1.

43 Frédérique Patureau, Le Palais Garnier dans la société parisienne, 1875-1914, Liège, 1991.

44 «Semaine théâtrale», in Le Ménestrel 1 Feb. 1857, in N. Wild and R. Legrand, Regards sur l’opéra-comique…, p. 146. On the new genres performed, see ibid. and Hervé Lacombe, Keys to French Opera in the Nineteenth century, trans. Edward Schneider, Berkeley, 2001, p. 226-252 and 273-275.

45 Édouard Noël and Edmond Stoullig, Les Annales du théâtre et de la musique, 1875-1915, Paris, 1887, t. V, p. 187-188.

46 A. Soubies and C. Malherbe, Histoire de l’Opéra-Comique..., p. 375.

47 Albert Carré nonetheless brought in a flood of new productions after the turn of the new century; see Claire Paolacci in this volume.

48 A. Thurner, Les Transformations de l’Opéra-Comique, Paris, 1865.

49 É. Noël and E. Stoullig, Les Annales du théâtre.1876, t. II, p. 213.

50 «Les Théâtres», in Le Voltaire, 20 June 1879, p. 4. See also discussion of revival of revolutionary «opéras-comiques», in Annegret Fauser, Musical Encounters at the 1889 Paris World’s Fair, 2005, p. 79-92.

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