Unintended Consequences: Theatre Deregulation and Opera in France, 1864-1878

Katharine Ellis

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The French legislation of 6 January 1864 which deregulated spoken and lyric
theatre nationwide showed little sensitivity to the distinctive financial ecology of regional theatre. Its effects were precisely the opposite of those its architects intended, and caused most disruption to the very constituencies the legislation was intended to help. Comparative analysis of the immediate aftermath of this ‘liberté des théâtres’ reveals a state of near chaos across France. Town councils oscillated between abandoning to the market their traditions of theatre as artistic social service, and pouring in yet more taxpayers’ money just to maintain the status quo. Opera, as the most expensive art form, was the immediate casualty, ceding considerable ground to a vigorous entertainment sector based around the operetta repertory (including opéra-bouffe) and the café-concert chanson.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-352
JournalCambridge Opera Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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