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C. Rowden
Opera and Parody in Paris, 1860-1900

approx. 170 p., 21 b/w ill. + 4 colour ill. + 15 musical examples, 15 b/w tables, 216 x 280 mm, 2020
ISBN: 978-2-503-58362-4
Languages: English
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Opera and Parody in Paris, 1860-1900 interrogates press caricatures and cartoons, popular song, staged revue and opera parodies to discover the role they play within the theatrical, social, and wider cultural context and economy they inhabit. These intertextual and intermedial ‘texts’ are analysed as reception documents, as ‘autonomous’ artistic products, as cultural phenomena to discover the ways in which their parody works, and for whom.
This study interrogates press caricatures and cartoons, popular song, staged revue and opera parodies to discover the role they play within the Parisian theatrical, social, and wider cultural context and economy in the second half of the nineteenth century. From the beginnings of Wagner reception in Paris, through the heyday of opéra bouffe in the hands of that comic genius Hervé, to the international operatic repertoire played on Parisian stages in the 1890s – including works by Massenet and Saint-Saëns performed during an increasingly tense nationalist climate – this book examines the workings of parody which draw on opera for their subject material and the ways in which this satirical mode of critique works, and for whom. While at face value, much parodical treatment criticises the hypotext, in analysing a wide range of intertextual ‘texts’, parody is revealed as a process which bolsters cultural norms, neutralises alterity or innovation of all forms and invariably throws the satirical and critical commentary back onto internal and local cultural products and debates. Opera and Parody in Paris, 1860–1900 uncovers a huge amount of primary and hitherto unpublished sources – libretti, scores, caricatures – in an analysis of intermedial materials that may be read as reception documents, as ‘autonomous’ artistic products, and more broadly as highly appealing cultural phenomena.
Clair Rowden is Reader in Musicology in the School of Music, Cardiff University. Her research deals with opera, reception, stage production, singers, dance and iconography in nineteenth-century France.  Publications include the co-edited volume (with Michela Niccolai) Musical Theatre in Europe 1830-1945 (Brepols, 2017), and the edited collection Performing Salome, Revealing Stories (Ashgate Interdisciplinary Studies in Opera, 2013). She is co-editing with Richard Langham Smith a volume on Carmen in transnational contexts, Carmen Abroad (forthcoming 2020).
Table of Contents

The introduction will establish the two main areas of study:

·         the satirical press and periodical publications during the period, particularly after 1881 when the easing of press censorship laws meant that caricatural images and cartoon parodies of operas blossomed, spurred on by the increasingly easy and cheap reproduction of images.

·         the development of the revue de fin d’année spectacle from the 1830s onwards which contained a whole act dedicated to the parody of that year’s successes on Parisian stages, and from which developed the individual spectacles parodying a specific opera or operas.

The relationship between the two genres – the parodical stage show as ‘press in action’ – their shared aesthetics and modi operandi will be examined, as will conditions of ‘spectatorship’ for these various ‘texts’. Via the corpus of literature on parody, the notions of highbrow and lowbrow will be evoked.
Methodological questions will be posed with regard to the examination of ‘ephemera’ such as newspapers and non-published texts and scores. Furthermore, the introduction will establish the chronological parameters of the study, situating it within Wagnerism, the rise (and fall) of Second Empire operetta, and the internationalisation of the operatic repertoire in Paris in the 1890s.

Chapter One will address the many and varied staged parodies of Wagner’s opera Tannhäuser in the wake of its disastrous Parisian premiere in March 1861. At a time when Wagner reception dealt almost exclusively with Wagner’s early prose writings, the ‘musique de l’avenir’, and general xenophobic gibes against Wagner the teutonic ‘genius’, this chapter explores the nexus of ideas and moreover musics presented as Wagnerian. It will contextualise the parodic spectacles and individual caricatural images in wider anti-Wagnerian ‘texts’ in the general, satirical and musical presses to view them as sophisticated reception documents that, in the end, neutralise the aesthetic and moral dangers Wagner’s works presented by refashioning them through conventional French theatrical models and satirical modes of communication.

Chapter Two will focus on the period after the liberalisation of the theatres (1864), and after the promulgation of the law allowing cafés-concerts to use scenery, costumes and props (1867), which saw not only the apogée of  Offenbach and opérette but also of many different types of smaller, lighter spectacles in both theatres and music halls. Within this climate, the other ‘founding father’ of French opéra bouffe Hervé also enjoyed the greatest successes of his career, the crowning glory of which was the parody of Gounod’s opera Le Petit Faust (1869). When compared to the works of Offenbach, Hervé’s output works more stringently the mechanisms of parody, with comical procedures continuously derailing the story, taking it to the brink of implosion and chaos. And yet Hervé had more serious compositional pretentions which shine through in his parody of operatic procedures, not only in Le Petit Faust, but also the two works which preceded it: L’œil crevé (1867) and Chilpéric (1868). While analysing this repertoire, this chapter will also present a number of different parodies of Faust in a number of different genres, including the revue de fin d’année. The adaptation and popularity of Goethe’s German text, and Germanic musical idioms on French stages is once more viewed through the lens of anti-Germanic sentiment during the build up of Prussian militarism and the increasingly likely possibility of conflict between France and Prussia.

Chapter Three will explore the post-Wagnerian era of the 1890s when Wagnerism had been tinged with symbolism and revanchardiste antagonism after the French defeat of 1870. The Triple Alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy), which left the French feeling increasingly threatened and isolated within Europe (before striking an alliance with Russia, and later Great Britain), also looms large in a politically charged press which uses opera and musical metaphors to explore nationalist tensions, not only on the world’s political stage but also in Parisian theatres where the internationalisation of the operatic repertoire was causing concern for composers and critics. The 1890s saw the (often first) Parisian performances of Lohengrin (1891), La Valkyrie (1893), Le Vaisseau fantôme (1895), Les Maîtres Chanteurs de Nüremberg (1897), not forgetting Verdi’s Otello and Falstaff (both 1894), and these operas were treated parodically alongside those by Massenet, Saint-Saëns and Reyer. In this chapter the power of Wagner and his works to traverse political and artistic boundaries is examined through caricature, while the general acceptance of his musical language is analysed through the staged parodies which remain incisive and yet, in musical terms at least, present a rather wistful tribute to the master of Bayreuth. The emergence of actual cartoon strips of opera which tell the on- and off-stage stories of the operas is examined as part of an emerging trend of visual culture leading to the new media of the twentieth century.

The conclusion will review the range and breadth of parodical phenomena of opera in nineteenth-century France which tends to peter out just as the procedures of parody collide with those of modernism, whose historiographically accorded intellectual heft legitimised these cultural products as high art, thus outweighing and sidelining the ‘lighter’ products of the earlier period.     

Interest Classification:
Fine Arts & Performing Arts
Musicology

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