Motif and Recollection in Four Operas of Dalayrac

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Nicolas Dalayrac was the most successful and prolific composer of opéra-comique in the 1790s, whose works were liberally exported, not least to Vienna. C. M. von Weber conducted two of them in Prague, and wrote about a third, 'Léhéman'. The article shows how Dalayrac evolved an increasingly sophisticated practice (together with his librettists) that made use of recurrent musical material: material that articulated detailed dramatic significances by being repeated in different parts of an opera, and was intended to be understood as a device by its audiences. The four works examined are 'Nina, ou la Folle par amour' (1786), 'Camille, ou le Souterrain' (1791), 'Léon, ou le Château de Monténéro' (1798) and 'Léhéman, ou le Tour de Neustadt' (1801). No fewer than eight recurrent motifs are found in this, some linked to individual characterisation and others linked to moral significances: 'hope', both individual and general, 'listening' and religious fulfilment. The variety of purpose intended by these procedures is as impressive as the willingness of Dalayrac to recall entire orchestral textures, and indeed his overall management of a key-scheme in 'Léon' (shown on pages 43-44).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-61
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 1978


  • Opera, thematic recollection, tonal management, eighteenth century, Paris, Dalayrac

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