Popular Theatres of Nineteenth-Century France

Popular Theatres of Nineteenth-Century France

Popular Theatres of Nineteenth-Century France

Popular Theatres of Nineteenth-Century France

Synopsis

This is the only book to provide an account of how popular theatre developed from the fairground booths of the eighteenth century to become a vehicle of mass entertainment in the following century. Whereas other studies offer a traditional approach to the theatres of high culture, John McCormick takes the role of impartial historian, uncovering the popular theatres of the boulevards, suburbs and fairgrounds. He focuses on the social and economic context in which vaudevilles, pantomimes and melodramas were performed, and explores the audiences who enjoyed them.

Excerpt

Napoleon’s decree of 1807 limited the number of theatres in Paris to four official (and subsidised) theatres and four secondary ones. in practice this was a re-introduction of the monopolies system of the ancien regime, though on a rather broader basis. Napoleon did not approve of the minor theatres. Culture, in his mind, was to be used to enhance the glory of France and to contribute to the moral improvement of its population. the minor theatres, which had recently discovered the melodrama and were catering to the tastes of the less educated classes, were clearly making no contribution to this notion of culture. With difficulty Napoleon was persuaded to leave some of the minor theatres in existence on the principle that they provided a distraction for the popular classes and diverted them from serious thoughts about politics, let alone revolution. the four theatres to be spared were the Gaîté, the Ambigu-Comique, the Vaudeville and the Variétés. Their repertoires were carefully defined and limited so as to avoid competition with the official theatres. This very definition gave a legal status to the minor genres, especially the vaudeville and the melodrama, and thus affected audiences’ expectations and the way in which they perceived the different theatres.

Theatres were classified under three main headings: official, secondary and ‘forain’ or ‘spectacle de curiosité’, and these classifications applied officially until 1864, becoming increasingly blurred after 1830, as existing theatres moved outside their allotted repertoire and new theatres came into being. the concern of this book is with the second and third categories, which were those frequented principally by the popular classes. Quality in these theatres lay in the skill of the performers and in the mise en scène, not in any notion of high culture, and success was

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.