The 'romance' and its cognates: Narrative, irony and 'vraisemblance' in early opéra-comique

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Offers an analytical survey of the musical Romance in France, starting with a stylistic seach for musical points of definition in the pre-operatic field, stretching back to the 1730s. Gradually, two main types emerged: the 'archaic' minor-mode Romance in triple metre, associated with narrative strophic texts; and the 'ode' type in major mode, duple metre, sometimes given answering configurations of major and minor modes. The following section takes forward the pioneering work of Daniel Heartz in 'The Beginnings of the Operatic Romance' (Eighteenth-Century Studies, 1981-2). Close analysis shows the popularity of Rousseau's quasi-archaic Romance, 'Dans ma cabane obscure', put to narrative uses in early opéras-comiques, but also a rapid broadening of the stylistic and dramaturgical elements allotted to Romances, not infrequently linked with special lighting effects. Favart's 'Annette et Lubin' is marked out for attention, a key moment in the establishment of operatic Romances as setting out a 'tale within a tale', a mise-en-abyme of the principal plot. Lastly there was seeming plurality in strophic forms' from 1763 on: opéras-comiques abandoned the strict adherence formerly given to dramatic 'vraisemblance', wherein any strophic Romance had been heard as pre-composed within the fiction. Texts might refer to a character's personal history, and composers might use the style for situations that were simply comoedic and dramaturgically illogical, even employing differential orchestration for successive strophes.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDie Opéra Comique und ihr Einfluss auf das europäische Musiktheater im 19. Jahrhundert
EditorsHerbert Schneider, Nicole Wild
Place of PublicationHildesheim etc.
PublisherGeorg Olms Verlag
Number of pages50
ISBN (Print)348710250
Publication statusPublished - 1997

Publication series

NameMusikwissenschaftliche Publikationen
PublisherGeorg Olms Verlag
ISSN (Print)0944-8608


  • Opera, narrative, Romance, Paris, Rousseau, dramaturgy, Monsigny, Philidor, Gaviniès, Duni

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