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The Sociability of History in French Grand Opera

The Sociability of History in French Grand Opera Abstract French grand opera relied heavily on historical sources for its stories, settings, and characters. This article reexamines why representations of the past captivated Parisian audiences. For these spectators, history was not just a purely factual discourse about what happened centuries ago, it was also a social phenomenon. As such, grand opera's appropriation of historical subjects depended on new social spaces formed by new patterns in text production and consumption. When these spaces first emerged, historical grand opera became socially feasible, and as they were transformed, the genre began to wane. Focusing on Auber's La Muette de Portici, this article reconsiders the emergence of historical grand opera in terms of such material conditions of possibility. It then outlines how new material conditions in the middle decades of the nineteenth century reshaped attitudes toward operatic history, drawing on the historical materialist philosophy of Walter Benjamin to clarify the effects of these social and technological changes. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png 19th-Century Music University of California Press

The Sociability of History in French Grand Opera

19th-Century Music , Volume 37 (1) – Jul 1, 2013

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Publisher
University of California Press
Copyright
© 2013 by the Regents of the University of California
ISSN
0148-2076
eISSN
1533-8606
DOI
10.1525/ncm.2013.37.1.37
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Abstract French grand opera relied heavily on historical sources for its stories, settings, and characters. This article reexamines why representations of the past captivated Parisian audiences. For these spectators, history was not just a purely factual discourse about what happened centuries ago, it was also a social phenomenon. As such, grand opera's appropriation of historical subjects depended on new social spaces formed by new patterns in text production and consumption. When these spaces first emerged, historical grand opera became socially feasible, and as they were transformed, the genre began to wane. Focusing on Auber's La Muette de Portici, this article reconsiders the emergence of historical grand opera in terms of such material conditions of possibility. It then outlines how new material conditions in the middle decades of the nineteenth century reshaped attitudes toward operatic history, drawing on the historical materialist philosophy of Walter Benjamin to clarify the effects of these social and technological changes.

Journal

19th-Century MusicUniversity of California Press

Published: Jul 1, 2013

Keywords: Keywords French grand opera , Daniel Auber , historical materialism , sociability , Walter Benjamin

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