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"There is no anachronism": Indian Dancing Girls in Ancient Carthage in Berlioz's Les Troyens

"There is no anachronism": Indian Dancing Girls in Ancient Carthage in Berlioz's Les Troyens Abstract Relatively early in the composition of Les Troyens Berlioz declared his intention to include a " pas d'almées with the music and dancing exactly like the Bayadères' ballet which I saw here sixteen or seventeen years ago." Despite Berlioz's claim that he had "gone into it" and "there is no anachronism," historical evidence would suggest that the presence of Indian dancing girls in Dido's Carthage is actually highly inauthentic and anachronistic. Indeed, Berlioz's immediate inspiration for the ballet in question was not ancient history but, rather, a group of Indian dancers and musicians who had visited Paris in 1838. An investigation of the context of the bayadères' performances and the reception of the dancers and their music reveals that issues of authenticity and anachronism were a constant preoccupation for their French audiences, most of whom had previously encountered bayadères only through the exoticizing lens of Western representations. Berlioz's own references to the bayadères are examined in relation to contemporary reviews and the text of a highly self-reflexive play that was performed as a prologue and that shaped audiences' responses to the bayadères' performances at the Théâtre des Variétés in Paris. Although Berlioz is generally thought to have abandoned his intention to embody the 1838 bayadères in Les Troyens, I argue that he actually retained aspects of his original Indian inspiration in the act IV ballet; moreover, an awareness of the impact of the bayadères' performances on Berlioz and his contemporaries greatly informs our appreciation of the contribution of the act IV ballet to the wider imperial subtext of Les Troyens . If, rather than simply dismissing anachronism, we are willing to embrace it as a concept fundamental to Berlioz's opera, the act IV ballet—often cut in recent productions—can be newly appreciated as occupying a significant role in the historical dialectic of Les Troyens as a whole. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png 19th-Century Music University of California Press

"There is no anachronism": Indian Dancing Girls in Ancient Carthage in Berlioz's Les Troyens

19th-Century Music , Volume 33 (1) – Jul 1, 2009

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Publisher
University of California Press
Copyright
Copyright © by the University of California Press
ISSN
0148-2076
eISSN
1533-8606
DOI
10.1525/ncm.2009.33.1.003
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Abstract Relatively early in the composition of Les Troyens Berlioz declared his intention to include a " pas d'almées with the music and dancing exactly like the Bayadères' ballet which I saw here sixteen or seventeen years ago." Despite Berlioz's claim that he had "gone into it" and "there is no anachronism," historical evidence would suggest that the presence of Indian dancing girls in Dido's Carthage is actually highly inauthentic and anachronistic. Indeed, Berlioz's immediate inspiration for the ballet in question was not ancient history but, rather, a group of Indian dancers and musicians who had visited Paris in 1838. An investigation of the context of the bayadères' performances and the reception of the dancers and their music reveals that issues of authenticity and anachronism were a constant preoccupation for their French audiences, most of whom had previously encountered bayadères only through the exoticizing lens of Western representations. Berlioz's own references to the bayadères are examined in relation to contemporary reviews and the text of a highly self-reflexive play that was performed as a prologue and that shaped audiences' responses to the bayadères' performances at the Théâtre des Variétés in Paris. Although Berlioz is generally thought to have abandoned his intention to embody the 1838 bayadères in Les Troyens, I argue that he actually retained aspects of his original Indian inspiration in the act IV ballet; moreover, an awareness of the impact of the bayadères' performances on Berlioz and his contemporaries greatly informs our appreciation of the contribution of the act IV ballet to the wider imperial subtext of Les Troyens . If, rather than simply dismissing anachronism, we are willing to embrace it as a concept fundamental to Berlioz's opera, the act IV ballet—often cut in recent productions—can be newly appreciated as occupying a significant role in the historical dialectic of Les Troyens as a whole.

Journal

19th-Century MusicUniversity of California Press

Published: Jul 1, 2009

Keywords: Key words Berlioz , Les Troyens , exoticism , bayadère , ballet

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