An interdisciplinary symposium exploring representations of the monstrous in opera, drama, theatre and dance on the late C17th and early C18th French and English stage.
Programme and Abstracts
MONDAY 2 APRIL 2001
10.30am : Registration
Session I - Hell, Satyrs, and non-dancing Gods
1.30 - Paper 1
Desmond Hosford (Music Department, City University of New York Graduate School, USA)
Visions of hell: the Scène Infernale in the Tragédies-Lyriques of Lully
One of the most dramatic and effective types of scene found in Lullys tragédies-lyriques is the scène infernale, which depicts Hell and its monstrous inhabitants. This discussion addresses three main questions: 1) what were the origins of the scène infernale in French musical theatre; 2) what are the functions of the various types of infernal character employed by Lully and his poets; and 3) how do Lullys representations of Hell reflect the precepts of 17th-century French absolutism. This discussion first examines the origins of the scène infernale in the fête de cour of the 16th century, the ballet de cour and French theatre of the 17th century, and Italian opera. Next, the characters found in Lullys scènes infernales are divided into four categories, each of which is examined in context. Finally, Lullys depictions of Hell itself are examined and the Underworld is revealed to be a well-regulated kingdom of peace and contentment ruled over by a just sovereign.
2.00 - Paper 2
Amy Wygant (Department of French, The University of Glasgow, UK)
The monsters of the Abbé Daubignac
It is a curious fact that the foremost theoretician of the 17th-century French stage, François Hédelin, abbé dAubignac, was the grandson of the foremost French teratologist of the 16th century, Ambroise Paré. This paper reads dAubignacs first known published work, Des satyres brutes, monstres et demons, from 1627. DAubignacs satyr book argues that the satyr is not a para-normal man-like being capable of salvation as Paracelsus and others had claimed, but rather a monkey, a monster, or a demon. The treatise accordingly participates in a long history of fascination with the ape, inherited from Pliny, Solinus, and the medieval bestiaries and continuing through Darwin, in an early modern problematic of the satyr which was surprisingly long-lived and wide-spread, and in the very specific belief system of the monstrous, literally inherited by dAubignac. His satyr treatise has been practically erased from scholarly considerations of his later work, including the tremendously influential Pratique du théâtre (1657; written ca.1642). This paper will seek to show that the link between these two heterogeneous treatises moves through the literally and figuratively monstrous. That is, the version of theatrical history given in the Pratique requires a villain, and, for dAubignac, this villain is Alexandre Hardy, author of ouvrages monstrueux. The modernity of the Pratique, then, is not established against the antiquity of the first revivals of ancient theatre in the French Renaissance. Rather, it is established against a closer target, Hardy and his monstrosities. For the Pratique, which speaks of combien il faut être religieux en la vraisemblance du théâtre, Hardy sins against vraisemblance with the monstrousness of his theatre, for Des satyres brutes, the monster, produced by coupling between human and non-human, is precisely that which semble non seulement hors de vray-semblance, mais un sacrilege à imaginer. Both the literal monster and the monstrous theatre are that which is to be excluded from the religion of vraisemblance.
2.30 - Paper 3
Rose Pruiksma (Department of Music, Bates College, USA)
From ballet de cour to divertissement: changing conventions in representing gods on the French stage
Deities, winds, furies, allegorical figures, and pastoral mortals (nymphs, shepherds, shepherdesses, etc.) appeared frequently in the court ballet, animated by dance music appropriate to their characters and contexts. Apollo graced the stage with his elegant carriage and noble steps - whether danced by Louis XIV, a nobleman, or a professional dancer. Among the most frequently represented of the Greco-Roman deities (after Apollo), Jupiter, Mars, Neptune, Pluto, and Bacchus all appeared in a variety of situations in dance roles in the court ballet. With the advent of the tragédie en musique, the gods and goddesses became removed from the physical exertion of the dance, appearing on-stage as singing actors rather than as dancers. Instead of dancing themselves, they provided the scene with troupes of singing and dancing followers who performed in the service of the deities, expressing delight, seeking to entertain, serving their masters and mistresses in a manner similar to the way the performers of the kings operas served their employer. Although the highest level of divinities ceased to be danced roles, furies, demons, and winds maintained their colourful physical presence, flitting with even greater speed and violence than their court ballet predecessors, judging from their music. This paper examines connections between representations of gods, furies, demons, and winds in Louis XIVs court ballets and the tragédie en musique from the perspective of music, role-type, and dramatic context in order to shed light on the curious shift from dancing gods to singing gods - a shift which roughly coincides with Louis XIVs withdrawal from the court ballet stages and the assignment of dance roles in the operas solely to professional dancers - and the relative consistency of representation of furies, winds and demons in Lullys tragédies.
3.00 - Paper 4
Georgia Cowart (School of Music, University of South Carolina, USA)
Operatic satires of Louis XIV as Pluto
It has escaped scholarly notice that a number of works produced at the Paris Opéra, especially after the death of Jean-Baptiste Lully in 1687, exhibit a covert, yet often unmistakable, critique of Louis XIV and his absolutionist, militarist policies. This critique may be seen as a strand in the larger web of satire and subversion in all the arts, which intensified as public opinion turned against the king in his late years. In this paper I will trace the satire of Louis XIV as Pluto as it develops in the ballet de cour, the tragédie en musique, and the opéra-ballet. The connection of Louis XIV and Pluto begins in the Ballet de Psyché of 1657, in which Louis XIV danced the role of this dark god of the underworld. According to the verses provided for the occasion, by Isaac Benserade, the role was an appropriate one, highlighting the Machiavellian power needed by the king to control the rebellious nobles of his court. In 1690, Lullys son Louis composed an opera entitled Orphée which directly reversed the plot of the Ballet de Psyché in order to satirise Louis XIV as a villainous monster, and to oppose to this tyrannical villain, the character of Orpheus, the life-giving, pacifist, artist. In 1699, an opera-ballet composed by André Campra to a libretto by Jean-François Regnard presents a scene directly quoting and then transforming the confrontation of Orpheus and Pluto from Louis Lullys Orphée. In this work, Pluto becomes a ridiculous buffoon, whose monstrous powers are comically subverted by the powers of music, art, and dance. The self-referential nature of the work, enhanced by a stage audience representing the audience of the Paris Opéra contributes to an interpretation in which the arts and artists of a new public sphere may be seen as a new breed of hero, championing freedom, equality, and art as the antidote to monstrous absolutism.
Session II - Sources for Stage Monsters
4.00 - Paper 5
Carol G. Marsh (School of Music, University of North Carolina, USA)
Dance and music in Lambranzis Theatralische Tantz-Schul
Giorgio Lambranzis 1716 publication is a favourite source for todays choreographers and reconstructors seeking some guidance for the recreation of non-noble style Baroque dances. Its 100 plates illustrate a wide variety of personages, ranging from noble dancers to rustic tradesmen - fishermen and farmers, for example - to commedia dellarte characters such as Harlequin and Scaramouch. Of particular interest are the pantomime scenes, in which the performers are instructed to hold a pose, moving to a second pose at a certain point in the music. With a few exceptions, no notated choreographies exist for such personages, yet their choreographic presence in 18th-century theatrical works is well documented. Unfortunately, Lambranzi provides no dance notation, although he does mention a number of baroque dance steps in his brief descriptions appended to each plate. He also provides music (melody line only) for each plate. While some of these tunes have been identified, many are apparently unique to the treatise and have not been studied in any detail. In this paper I will provide a systematic study of Lambranzis tunes, relating their musical characteristics to the characters portrayed in the illustrations and to the step vocabulary, and I will suggest ways in which Lambranzis treatise can inform theatrical staging in the early 18th century.
4.30 - Paper 6
Frans Muller (Freelance designer, Holland)
Julie Muller (Free University of Amsterdam, Holland(
Monsters and grotesque figures on the London stage
We will concentrate on late 17th-century London and the spectaculars in the Dorset Garden theatre. There were plenty of devils and furies around, and domesticated dragons pulling chariots but the number of real monsters is limited. The second act of Dioclesian has one that is definitely alive, as the stage directions tell us that it comes down the stage and splits up into a dance of furies. We will try to reconstruct how this worked, looking at monsters that Betterton must have known from the productions that he had seen, and from his books. We will also look at stage directions for other operas and at how monsters were usually pictured. Well have a look at what the conventions were. We will also discuss the grotesque figures in Dioclesian, that according to the stage directions come out of the hangings and dance. Grotesques belonged to an iconographic tradition, dating from the discovery of a Roman villa in the late 15th century and later also popular outside Italy. Betterton may have seen the French version of these grotesques both on stage, during his visits to Paris, and in his books. Perhaps there was a English version also, which he may have incorporated.
Session III - Monstrous Italian Opera in London
5.00 - Paper 7
Suzanne Aspden (Robinson College, Cambridge, UK)
Monsters on the mind: opera stars in 18th-century London
The transformation of Henry Fieldings Tom Thumb into The Opera of Operas in 1733 cemented both Thumbs popularity and the aura of oddity surrounding contemporary Italian opera singers. It has not been noticed, however, that Fielding's original Tom Thumb (1730) was already a parody of an opera of sorts, namely Samuel Johnson's bizarre - and bizarrely popular - Hurlothrumbo (1729). Like another unnoticed Johnson parody, Henry Carey's Chrononhotonthologos produced in 1734, Fieldings burlesque highlights Londoners view of Johnsons opera as an (unwitting) articulation of all that was wrong with the operatic establishment. Ive discussed elsewhere what Hurlothrumbo said to contemporaries about Italian opera; but what did Tom Thumb say? In this paper I will argue that Fieldings choice of the tiny Tom Thumb as his leading man not only literally burlesques Johnsons hero-on-stilts Lord Flame (by bringing a high story low), it also comments on the way Italian operas primo uomo, Senesino, was perceived at that time.
5.30 - Paper 8
Xavier Cervantes (Department of English, University of Toulouse, France)
A monster, nay the monster of monsters: Italian singing and Italian singers on the 18th-century London stage
This paper focuses on the antagonistic ways in which 18th-century Britons perceived the importation of Italian opera on English soil as well as the musical and aesthetic principles governing that art form. Whereas the public was largely enthusiastic about that type of entertainment and its singers, the critics were adamant that they were completely at odds with the moral and artistic standards of the nation. The beautiful embodied by the Italian singers and their art was often subverted by their enemies and changed into the monstrous in their satirical writings. The critics inverted the commonplace images of the siren or Orpheus, which were used again and again in the panegyric verses dedicated to the divas and the castratos. Another device consisted in dehumanising the singers and reducing their voices to animal sounds. More generally, Italian songs were charged with enthralling, corrupting and ruining those who were too fond of hearing them. The Italian bel canto was even assimilated to diabolical witchcraft, as is the case in a little known pamphlet of 1777, from which the title of the paper is borrowed.
TUESDAY 3 APRIL 2001
Session IV - Andromeda, Perseus, and Pantomime
9.00 - Paper 9
John S. Powell (Department of Music, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA)
Music and the scenic portrayal of gods, men, and monsters in Pierre Corneilles Andromède
Written during the time of the Fronde, Pierre Corneilles machine play Andromède presented a parable in the tale of a Perseus, who delivers the Ethiopian people from a monster threatening their land. This myth, however, allowed for divergent political interpretations, for, in view of the prevailing anti-Italian sentiments of these troubled times, the rebellious Paris Parlement no doubt associated Andromeda with the regent Queen-Mother, and the monster with her Italian prime minister, Cardinal Giulio Mazarini. Andromède established many of the musical conventions of the French machine play, where music and scenic effects delineate the worlds of gods, mortals, and monsters. The gods, who sing in the lofty realms of the Prologue, speak in irregular verse when they address mortals on earth. Music also accompanies the miraculous appearance of the deus ex machina, while it serves the practical function of masking the noise of the machines. Mortal beings are shown making music in realistic situations, where music enters everyday life (serenades, sung prayers, victory chants, and wedding songs). Monsters, on the other hand, not only seem to be singularly unmusical, but appear to be repelled by musics supernatural power. The 1650 court première of Andromède became legendary, and set a new standard for French lyric theater. Thirty-two years later, the Comédie-Française mounted a full-scale revival with new music by Marc-Antoine Charpentier. This was a sumptuous production that aimed to re-establish the pre-eminence of Andromède and to rival Lullys and Quinaults tragédie-lyrique on the same myth. Following Corneilles directive, Charpentiers music is introduced only to entertain the ears of the spectators while their eyes are engaged in watching the descent or ascent of a machine, or are focused on something, like the fight between Perseus and the monster, which would prevent their paying attention to what the actors might be saying.
9.30 - Paper 10
Wes Williams (Fellow in French, New College, Oxford, UK)
Cette pièce nest que pour les yeux: Corneilles view of Andromède
My title is taken from one of Corneilles prefaces to the printed version of the play. There were several prefaces and examens published over several years and they give some sense of Corneilles rethinking of the puzzling success of this play. The thematics and the vocabulary of the monstrous run as a kind of complement to those of the vraisemblable throughout his work; but this is his only play with a literal monster (and, in later productions, a real live flying horse) on stage. In explaining his changes to the standard versions of the legend - in poetry, history and, increasingly, painting - Corneille drew his readers attention to the fact that the plays success had little to do with what the audience could hear: neither the music, nor the words he had written mattered very much. What struck people most about Andromède was what they could - and could not - see: the privileged terms of Corneilles poetics - noeud, dénouement, nécessaire, merveilleux - are all reserved, in his discussion of the piece, for the machines and the visual effect of the story, both on himself and on the spectators. In this paper I shall take a closer look at looking in Andromède other words at the vocabulary, the staging, the erotics and the mechanics of what is and is not revealed in the play, its production, and its reception. What may emerge is a neo-classical sense of how, while the monster proper is there in the water on stage for all to see, the power of the play - and of the Andromeda legend, as told here, and retold in Racines Phèdre - lies in its ability to focus attention on that which cannot, must not, be revealed: be it Andromedas nakedness, the authors care with rhyme, the cables which drive Torellis machines, or the head of the Medusa kept carefully hidden from view.
10.00 - Paper 11
Moira Goff (Independent dance historian, London, UK)
Tthe flying lovers outwitted? Londons rival productions of Perseus and Andromeda compared
On 15 November 1728, the first performance of Perseus and Andromeda: With the Rape of Colombine; or, The Flying Lovers, by Monsieur Roger and John Weaver, was given at Drury Lane. The pantomime was danced throughout, with Michael Lally and Hester Booth in the title roles. More than a year later, on 2 January 1730, the first performance of Perseus and Andromeda; or, The Spaniard Outwitted, with a libretto by Lewis Theobald, was given at Lincolns-Inn-Fields. The title roles were taken by the singers Mrs Barbier and Mrs Chambers, and the pantomime included at least two danced divertissements. During the 1720s, Drury Lane and Lincolns-Inn-Fields several times produced rival versions of the same pantomime, and although at both houses the comic part invariably drew on commedia dellarte style mime, at Drury Lane the serious part was usually danced, whereas at Lincolns-Inn-Fields it was usually sung. This paper will compare the use of dancing in the serious parts of the rival productions of Perseus and Andromeda, with particular reference to the representation of the title roles and the spectacular scenic effects in each pantomime.
10.30 - Paper 12
Bruce Alan Brown (Department of Music History, Flora L. Thornton School of Music, University of Southern California, USA)
...Pietra per il vostro scarpello: metastasio and 18th-century pantomime ballet
In December 1766 the imperial poet Pietro Metastasio wrote his former colleague Gasparo Angiolini, then engaged at the Russian court, congratulating him on the success of his ballet Didon abandonnée, based on Metastasios libretto of four decades earlier; he even recommended his Achille in Sciro as a subject for treatment in dance, a pietra per il vostro scarpello (stone for your chisel). In fact, Angiolini had already choreographed an Achille ballet, and would go on to make Metastasian-themed ballets something of a specialty. This paper takes Angiolini as the focus of a wider investigation of Metastasian ballets - an essentially unrecognised sub-genre of pantomime ballet through which choreographers of various aesthetic orientations honed their dramaturgical skills, and which notably prolonged Metastasios influence on European stages. Drawing principally on ballet scenarios in the Albert Schatz Collection, this study will show Metastasian texts functioning as a sort of alternative mythology, with which spectators were comparably familiar, and featuring copious didascalie that considerably lightened the ballet-masters task. Metastasios librettos were subject to widely differing treatments when reworked as ballets, particularly as regards their scenarios degrees of reliance on the printed word (for the sake of audience comprehension), and their uses of spectacle. Angiolini was particularly insightful on the differing expressive languages of opera and ballet, and on the changes required by the change of medium. Here his writings are analysed in light of the orchestral part-books for his Dido ballet, published in 1773 along with a detailed description of the action.
Session V - Classical Monsters in the 18th Century
11.30 - Paper 13
Rowena Harrison (Independent scholar, UK)
Repressing the mythic and letting it go again: reinterpreting Aristotle in 18th-Century France
When opera was first produced in France it drew unfavourable reactions for, among other things, its wholly unrealistic gods and monsters. In contemporary tragic criticism similar demands applied: certain events and types of subject matter were to be avoided for plausibilitys sake. In asking for rationalism and repressing the mythic critics believed they were following the highest classical standards; closer inspection reveals that Aristotle, for one, was not the rigid lawgiver his 17th-century interpreters deemed him to be. By the beginning of the 18th century, a more flexible attitude, particularly towards opera, emerged, sometimes in the same writers who elsewhere had taken a more severe stance. What this suggests, however, is not the demise of classicism but a move away from neo-classical rigour towards a reading of Aristotle that is closer to his original intentions.
12.00 - Paper 14
Charles T. Wolfe (Philosophy Department, Boston University, USA)
Behold the monster Polypheme: Handels incorporation of the monstrous
This paper will present a fairly close reading of Handels first dramatic work in English, his masque Acis and Galatea, (with its libretto by Gay/Pope/Hughes), focusing especially on the announcement by the Chorus, and subsequent entrance, of the Cyclops Polyphemus. The musical and dramatic elements surrounding the Cyclopss entrance will be contextualised in order to draw out certain pivotal cultural themes relating to monstrousness and excess, and explore their representation and assimilation. In order to do this, this investigation will consider Handels masque as a stage in the morphology of the carnivalesque from its early-modern role to its more contradistinctive position within the Enlightenment. To assist this investigation into the dynamics of monstrousness, we move to another, related work to see these themes within a visual medium, the engraver Joseph Goupys satire of Handel entitled THE true Representation and Caracter etc. Having considered Handels own relation to monstrousness, this paper then returns to Acis and Galatea and examines in detail the musical and dramatic strategies of assimilation employed by Handel and his librettists.
Session VI - Sex, Sexuality and Cross-dressing
2.00 - Paper 16
Stephanie Hodgson-Wright (School of English, Cheltenham & Gloucester CHE, UK)
Man-made monsters, men made monstrous: conformity and deformity in Aphra Behns The Second Part of the Rover
The Second Part of the Rover was performed in late 1680 or early 1681. Like its more successful predecessor, Behns The Rover (1677), it draws upon Thomas Killigrews ten act Thomaso, but adapts and changes this source material in significant ways. The main plot revolves around the rake hero Willmore, his friend Beaumond, and their relationships with La Nuche (a courtesan) and Ariadne (a woman of quality). The sub-plot grotesquely mirrors the main plot, as two monstrous female characters, a dwarf and giantess, are pursued by competing male characters. Behn awards the traditional comedic ending to the sub-plot, whilst the main plot ends with a non-marriage between Willmore and La Nuche, and a compromise marriage between Beaumond and Ariadne. This paper will explore the ways in which the play challenges the notion of the female body as territory to be delineated, defined and ultimately competed for by the male subject.
2.30 - Paper 17
Joe Harris (Department of French, Trinity Hall, Cambridge, UK)
Déesse ex Machina: sex changes in Benserades Iphis et Iante (1634)
Benserade's play features both a literal god(dess), Isis, and a metaphorical monster, in the heroine Iphiss transgressive, contre-nature love for another woman. In my paper, I explore how forces within and outside Benserades work operate to neutralise the sexual transgression of the heroine. Although Iphiss upbringing, disguised as a male, might be expected at least to have influenced her sexuality, her love for Iante is throughout the play figured as unexpected and prodigious. Indeed, it takes a second transgression of nature, in the arrival of the (supernatural) goddess Isis, to reinscribe the heroine into the natural order; in the final scene of the play, Iphis is magically transformed into a man on stage. I situate the play briefly within a number of 17th-century discourses, including medical writings on sex change, and moralised translations of Ovids Metamorphoses (from which Benserades plot is drawn). Such discourses tend to displace the taboo of homosexuality which gender subversion often infringes. Arguing that the stock marriage conclusion to comedies serves a heterosexual imperative, I argue that even Benserades sympathetic stance towards female homosexuality is paradoxically necessitated by theatrical convention. Iphiss unwitting bride Iante is obliged to remain in love with her husband - even after discovering him to be a woman - so that their marriage can be retroactively validated in the final scene to provide closure. Finally, figuring the prodigy as an excess that defies and disrupts both the natural and the divine orders, I explore how Benserades play pits different conceptions of this prodigy against each other. The play stages a number of different responses to Iphiss love for Iante, ranging from blindness to uncomprehending laughter, from condemnation to tolerance. The variety of stances adopted, I shall argue, demonstrates how the unnatural, whether cultural, contre-nature, or supernatural, was a fraught concept in the early modern French mind.
3.00 - Paper 18
Thomas McGeary (Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, USA)
Sexually subversive singers: policing sex at the London Opera, 1724-36
The London Haymarket Theatre in the 1720s and 1730s was the physical site of performance of Italian opera, but it was also a cultural site where issues of British nationalism, class, and politics were articulated. The role of the castrato singer in eliciting and arousing British anxieties about male gender, masculinity, and sexuality has recently been well examined. Overlooked has been how discourse about the sexuality of female opera singers also exposed long-standing male anxieties about female sexuality, and the role of women in patriarchy. This paper examines a group of misogynistic verse epistles written to or about opera singers (Mrs. Robinson, Faustina, Cuzzoni, Mrs. Barbier, Farinelli). In these epistles, the singers are accused of a variety of deviant, sexually suspect practices (ranging from same-sex activities to sexual liaisons with castratos). The epistles draw on the literary background of Restoration satires on actresses, and Restoration misogynistic satires on women. The epistles are essentially expressions of male fear about the stability and maintenance of traditional patriarchy and womens traditional role in the sexual economy. The epistles do "cultural work" in attempting (by satire) to suppress deviant sexuality and simultaneously to re-assert male sexual prerogatives in a traditional patriarchy.
3.30 - Paper 19
Julia Prest (Jesus College, Oxford, UK)
Cross-casting in French court ballet, 1650-1670: monstrous aberration or theatrical convention?
Anti-theatrical tracts in Renaissance England are riddled with the complaint that actors who perform female roles are monsters. This notion of monstrosity stems not only from a belief that cross-dressing will lead to effeminization on the part of both cross-dresser and viewer, but moreover from the way cross-casting highlights disturbing insights into the notion of personal identity. Two apparently contradictory views co-existed in anti-theatrical writings of the period: the first, whereby personal identity is mutable, as perceived in the tension between the sex of the actors body and the gender associated with his adopted clothing; the second view implies that personal identity is inherently monstrous and immutable. Anti-theatrical writings are scarce in France, however, and by the mid-17th century, mixed acting troupes were the norm. Apart from school productions, cross-casting in France persisted most notably in court ballet which, in 1650, was still (with the exception of the Queens ballets) the exclusive domain of male dancers. Even as female dancers were introduced, female roles in mascarade ballets continued to be performed by men, as did a number of female roles in more serious ballets. In this paper, cross-cast dancing roles from a number of ballets will be examined in the light of any implied or perceived monstrosity. Frequently, they were exploited for their comic, even monstrous, potential and, similarly, the grotesque potential of male-to-female cross-casting was exploited as men performed monstrous (i.e. unfeminine) female parts. That roles such as furies and hags were played by men testifies not so much to the monstrous nature of man lurking beneath the surface, but rather to the requirement that women should conform to gender stereotypes of beauty and sexual attractiveness. In French ballet, then, the monstrosity of a man appearing in female attire was subordinate to the need for women to conform to the roles assigned to them under patriarchy.
Session VII - Dancing Gods and Monstrous Creatures
4.30 - Paper 20
Jennifer Thorp (Regents Park College, Oxford, UK)
Ken Pierce (Longy School of Music, Cambridge, USA)
Dances for deities in Lullys Persée 1682-1710
The 1682 score and livret of Persée indicate three instances of dance performed in honour of, by, or in the presence of, deities: the Jeux Junoniens, choreographic games held to appease Juno in Act I; the unusual (at least in Lullys tragédies en musique) occurrence of gods themselves dancing, in the Entrée for gods of the underworld who present Perseus with Plutos helmet in Act II; and the celebratory dances in the presence of Venus in Act V of the opera. This paper looks at the nature of these instances of dance, with particular reference to extant choreographies for the Jeux Junoniens, Divinités Infernales and Act V Passacaille which Louis Pecour created for revivals of the opera in 1703 and 1710. It considers the extent to which Pecours surviving dances (all apparently duets) represent genuine duets or reduced versions of dances by the larger groups of dancers named in the livrets. It also examines the extent to which belle danse (the noble as opposed to grotesque style of dance of the late 17th century) may have been obligatory when deities were present on stage. The paper will include demonstration of relevant dances.
5.15 - Paper 21
Airs and Graces, UK
Dancers: Moira Goff, Ken Pierce, Jennifer Thorp
Musicians: David Gordon, Evelyn Nallen
Apollo commands amazement and respect with an entrée full of complex jumps, beats, and turns. Venus charms and seduces in an intensely expressive passacaille. Dryades mark out precise rhythms in a danced canary, while Bacchantes subvert the same dance type with apparently wild steps and attitudes. These are some of the tours de force, monstrous performances in terms of virtuosity and expressiveness beyond the ordinary, which were demanded of leading dancers by audiences in Paris and London by the early eighteenth-century, and which were recorded by the notators of the day. The use of gesture appropriate to monstrous characters can also provide clues to the likely visual impact of stage movement and dances for which no choreographies survive. This presentation explores the surprising effects which early eighteenth-century dancers were able to achieve, and looks at ways in which these theatrical choreographies can be restored to, or inform what might happen on, the modern stage.
WEDNESDAY 4 APRIL 2001
Session VIII - Amphitryon
9.00 - Paper 22
Burkhard Niederhoff (Englisches Seminar, Universität Bonn, Germany)
Paradoxes of sexuality in Drydens Amphitryon
While Renaissance poems use paradoxes such as pleasing pain to describe unrequited love, Restoration comedies represent requited love in terms of paradox: possession results in loss, and marriage, the fulfilment of love, is tantamount to its annihilation. But the comedies also present strategies of sustaining love in marriage. These are just as paradoxical as the problem they respond to: one strategy is to renew a marital relationship through an extramarital one. The night that Jupiter spends with Alcmena in Drydens Amphitryon is a case in point. Alcmena experiences this act of adultery as a celebration of her marriage with Amphitryon. This fusion of opposites is connected to paradoxes of identity (the man in Alcmenas bed is and is not her husband) and to legal paradoxes (like Hobbes sovereign, Jupiter claims the right to break a law he himself has given). In my analysis of sexual and related paradoxes in Amphitryon, I shall explore areas of this play that been neglected in recent readings, which have focused on its political allusions. I shall also challenge the view that paradox is a characteristic feature of Renaissance literature that became obsolete with the new stylistic principles of the Restoration.
9.30 - Paper 23
Elizabeth Woodrough (Department of French, University of Exeter, UK)
Gods behaving badly and men behaving monstrously in Molières classical comedies
This paper examines the theme of gods and monsters in Amphitryon and LAvare, first produced at the Palais-Royal theatre in January and September 1668 respectively. In a bid to boost the flagging audiences of LAvare which seems initially to have been considered too prosaic, the short verse comedy Amphitryon was quickly added to the programme. Yet these two classically inspired comedies, which represent quite different orders of humour, have always been, like gods and monsters, an odd coupling. Written on either side of the triumphant performance of Georges Dandin as a comédie-ballet in the July Grand Divertissement, arguably the grandest moment in Molières career at court, Amphitryon and LAvare may each be taken as a cas limite of Molières most familiar comic techniques: disguise, impersonation and imposture. This paper will examine the comic clash that would have resulted from a joint performance of their separate Plautan settings, which offered the dramatist yet another, more spectacular excuse for unprincipled behaviour of the kind that has become very popular in comedy of late, and has never failed to delight.
Session IX - Dazzling Displays: Enchantment and Spectacle on Stage
10.00 - Paper 24
Catherine Cessac (Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles, France)
Les nuits enchantées de Sceaux
Alors que la cour de Louis XIV à Versailles brille de ses derniers feux en ce début de XVIIIe si&232cle, un autre lieu proche de Paris va porter lexpression de la fête à son plus haut niveau. Il sagit du château de Sceaux, résidence de Colbert, puis de son fils le marquis de Seignelay, enfin propriété du duc du Maine et de son épouse, la fine et fière Louise-Bénédicte de Bourbon, petite-fille du Grand Condé. Dans les années 1714-1715, la duchesse du Maine offre des divertissements nocturnes appelés Grandes Nuits. Petites pièces de poésie et de théâtre, intermèdes chantés et dansés, pantomimes, impromptus forment lessentiel de ces soirées. Les auteurs littéraires se nomment labbé Genest, Nicolas de Malézieu, Pierre-Charles Roy, Philippe Néricault-Destouches, Antoine Houdar de La Motte... et les compositeurs Nicolas Bernier, Jean-Joseph Mouret, Pierre-Nicolas Marchand, François Collin de Blamont... Les thèmes développés dans les Nuits de Sceaux sont nombreux ; les plus récurrents sont ceux de la Nuit et du Sommeil, ce dernier étant toujours présenté comme un ennemi puisque la duchesse du Maine était connue pour ses insomnies et son goût pour les fêtes de nuit. Ces allégories nocturnes sont souvent en lutte avec celles du jour (LAurore, Le Soleil). Les autres personnages présents dans ces divertissements appartiennent à la mythologie, au roman de chevalerie, à la comédie italienne, à la pastorale, à lunivers du fantastique et des enchantements, de lésotérisme, de lexotisme et à limagerie populaire villageoise. Cette étude analysera les sources dinspiration des Nuits de Sceaux en les mettant en relation avec le milieu social et intellectuel de cette cour, les divers systèmes de représentation sur le plan littéraire que aussi bien musical, enfin de quelle façon sexerce lapologie permanente de lhôtesse des lieux.
10.30 - Paper 25
Rebecca Harris-Warrick (Department of Music, Cornell University, USA)
Fflying phantoms and tumbling faunes: acrobats on the French baroque musical stage
Late 17th-century French musical theatre, from the low-brow fair theatres to the august stage of the Académie Royale de Musique, not only incorporated dancing into virtually every performance, but also enhanced some spectacles with another kind of movement - acrobatics. Whereas the popular theatres might build entire shows around acrobatic feats (e.g., Circé en postures, performed at the Foire St-Germain in 1678), even Jean-Baptiste Lully integrated judicious doses of tumbling or flying into his ballets, comédie-ballets and operas. Les Plaisirs de lîle enchantée (1664), for example, has an entrée for jumping demons, and the flying phantom in Thésée (1675) was performed by the leading acrobat of the day, Charles Allard. This presentation will explore the evidence for acrobatic practices, the works that incorporated them, the types of scenes that could make the participation of sauteurs or voltigeurs dramatically plausible, the types of movement involved, and the music that accompanied such movement. Charpentiers music for Thomas Corneilles machine play Circé (performed at the Comédie Française in 1675) is particularly revealing in this regard, in that it cues the movements of the acrobats - faunes and other woodland deities, in this instance - to specific musical phrases. This model then makes it possible to examine works that only hint at their acrobatic features, with a sharpened eye.
Session X - Putting Monsters in the tragédies lyriques
11.30 - Paper 26
Antonia L. Banducci (Lamont School of Music, University of Denver, USA)
Directorial license and the staging of French baroque opera
Because of such scant evidence, the actual staging of men, women, monsters and machines remains one of the more elusive aspects of tragédies en musique. Although scores and libretti provide some information via scene rubrics and the sung text itself, nonetheless such sources still raise many questions. What functions did entractes, preludes and ritornelli play relative to staging? At what point in the music and/or action did entrances occur and from where? What sorts of decisions did those in charge of the staging make and for what reasons? Two sets of prompt notes - one for a 1748 production of André Campras Tancrède by Mme de Pompadours troupe in the petits appartements at Versailles and the other apparently for a projected 1778 production of Lullys Armide as part of an historical retrospective of operas from Lully to Piccini - provide us with some of the answers to the questions posed above. For example, the author of the Tancrède prompt notes often called for an entrance during a prelude. In contrast, the Armide prompt notes, whose author Lois Rosow has identified as Louis-Joseph Francoeur, more often indicate an entrance at the end of a prelude. At one point in Tancrède, when no prelude provides for a soldier/messengers entrance, the prompt note logically indicates his entrance over the last two measures of Tancrèdes monologue air. Although written thirty years apart and even more years after each works premiere (Armide in 1686 and Tancrède in 1702), a detailed examination and comparison of the two sets of notes reveals the not insignificant degree of directorial license that must have also been part of what we heretofore have regarded as a genre bound by tradition.
12.00 - Paper 27
Laura Naudeix (Centre de Recherche sur lHistoire du Théâtre, Université Paris IV Paris-Sorbonne, France)
Between the earth and the heavens: the monsters of French tragédies lyriques
The presence of monsters in French operas comes out in a dialectic of what is spectacular and symbolic. First and foremost, the stage role of opera monsters is ornamental, for they are a vivid image of the horrible underworld. However, monsters can also intervene as a key element to the plot. In order to respect rules of the vraisemblable merveilleux, monsters in tragédies lyriques are always sent by angry divinities, as instruments of their vengeance. Fighting the monster means therefore for human characters to come into conflict with divine power. A monster is first created in order to contrast with a hero in ordeal, thus enthroning the hero in his status. But rather than wrapping up the ending with the monsters death, the confrontation heightens the conflicts complexity and sophistication. In order to interpret this innovative approach, we must embrace a broad definition of monstrosity, thus breaking the rules of nature. To do this, we shall study the meaning of parricides provoked by divine curse, based on the works that place side-by-side traditional monsters and other characters metamorphosed into furious creatures. Lastly, we shall witness the new orientation of 18th-century tragedy, where monsters leave the stage.
12.30 - Paper 28
Benoît Bolduc (Department of French, University of Toronto)
Among gods and monsters : poetry, music and the marvellous in French tragédie lyrique
In the earlier works of Lully and Quinault, servants like Arbas in Cadmus and Phérès in Alceste provided comical relief during the play but compromised the unity of the tone. In later works, however, I would like to suggest that these low human characters were replaced by supernatural figures, somehow monstrous in nature, in order to better serve the classical in French opera. Following Catherine Kintzlers analysis of the poetics of the tragédie lyrique and the role of the marvellous in its aesthetics, this paper will discuss the poetical and musical treatments of three characters: Charon in Alceste, Méduse in Persée and Urgande in Amadis. Linked to the tradition of the comic in Venetian and Roman opera and the grotesque in the ballets de cour, these characters have a distinctive way of presenting themselves directly to the public and they receive a distinctive musical treatment that sets them outside the narrative. The main function of their presence in the intrigue is linked to the necessity of the divertissement, an important poetical feature of the tragédie lyrique. Finally, a discussion of recent productions of Alceste and Persée will put into question our own understanding of the functions of the monstrous and the marvellous in baroque opera.
For details please go to:
Dr Wes Williams
Fellow and Tutor in French
Oxford OX1 3BN
tel: 01865 279546