French Opera, Its Development to the Revolution

French Opera, Its Development to the Revolution

French Opera, Its Development to the Revolution

French Opera, Its Development to the Revolution

Excerpt

Some years ago I tried to find an English book dealing exclusively with French Opera and with Opera in France. I sought in vain. The subject seemed to warrant such a volume, and I decided to attempt the work.

I had no idea how far my enquiries would take me, or to what extent I should find French Opera bound up with the social history of France. The first step lay in the accumulation of a considerable library of French books, none of them devoted solely to Opera, followed by many fascinating hours spent in libraries and museums. The sociological study proceeded for some time before I touched the music, and when I eventually reached the point of examining innumerable scores of operas of all kinds, I had penetrated the mysteries of ancient Privileges, Laws and Regulations. All these not only stimulated my interest and enjoyment, but lured me into many barely relevant enquiries.

I have yielded to the temptation of introducing some of these matters, hoping that they will add general interest to the book without disrupting its continuity. Others I have been forced to omit. It would have been easy to drift into Ballet at the expense of the main subject. Similarly, certain authenticated facts that I chanced upon might have gone far to disprove the theory so vehemently expressed by my late friend Dr. Percy Scholes that, whoever may have written the tune for the English National Anthem, it certainly was not Lully. I now believe that there is every reason for regarding the great Florentine as the composer, but unfortunately the details do not belong in this book.

The French sociological writers are refreshingly unanimous over the facts. They differ, however, on the matter of precise dates, though not on the years. Where necessary, I have adopted the 'majority view', and consider it over-meticulous to quote divergences of days.

To maintain smooth reading, I have kept footnotes to a minimum, and not given sources and authorities for every statement, nor quoted gramophone records unobtainable in this country. I have, however, mentioned the sources of certain episodes and occurrences which might otherwise have been ascribed to my imagination (flattering though this would have been). The biblio-

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