'L'art dramatico-musical': an Essay

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This Essay comprehensively examines the aesthetic foundations of French opera with spoken dialogue in its later eighteenth-century form. The sources discussed include writings by Voltaire, Sedaine, critics on the 'Mercure de France', Melchior Grimm, A. F. Quétant (a librettist), Marmontel and Contant d'Orville. Various operas are adduced in describing contemporary discussion of what kind of direction the new genre should take, especially regarding tone and subject-matter. Specific arias, duets and ensembles are referred to in order to illuminate Grétry's phrase 'L'Art dramatico-musical' (1794). The final section discusses language and music in the solo aria, or ariette, and takes in Diderot's 'animal cry of passion' section in 'Le Neveu de Rameau', which discusses word-setting, interpreting his words in the light of specific declamatory developments in opéra-comique, sometimes using texts with very few syllables per line. The significance of using sonata form in arias is also raised, especially relative to the problem of text-repetition, which went against French tradition. Grétry's creation of a personal melodic style is illustrated from 'Lucile'.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMusic and Theatre
Subtitle of host publicationEssays in honour of Winton Dean
EditorsNigel Fortune
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages34
ISBN (Print)0521323487
Publication statusPublished - 1987


  • France, opera, 18th century, opéra-comique, aesthetics, Grétry, Duni, Sedaine, Marmontel

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