Sedaine's Prefaces: Pretexts for a New Musical Drama

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Michel-Jean Sedaine (1719-1797) definitively shaped the development of French opera with spoken dialogue after 1755. This article presents results of international searches for first editions of Sedaine's opera and opéra-comique librettos, in order to determine for the first time how many prefaces he published, what they contained, and to append their complete texts with appropriate editorial apparatus. Seventeen prefaces were discovered. A thirty-eight page introduction sets out the method and continues with sections entitled 'Making theatre' (Sedaine's activity as a director); 'Prefaces by other librettists', which discovers twenty texts, including one by the composer Duni; 'Bibliographical and other practicalities', which explains the procedures surrounding official publication of libretto texts, the concept of 'edition', censorship requirements, 'privilèges', and dating sequence (the timing of an issue relative to a first performance). In 'Prefaces and the public sphere' the public platform afforded by prefatory texts is itself examined, and also the uses Sedaine made of this medium. 'Categories of information obtained' comprises both practical and aesthetic issues. 'The Sedaine agenda' considers the prefaces as forming a substitute or alternative theory of opera.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMichel-Jean Sedaine (1719-1797)
Subtitle of host publicationTheatre, Opera and Art
EditorsDavid Charlton, Mark Ledbury
Place of PublicationAldershot
PublisherAshgate Publishing Ltd
Number of pages77
ISBN (Print)84014677
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • Opera, opéra-comique, eighteenth century, Sedaine, theory, dramaturgy

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