Eighteenth-century opera and the construction of national identity in France, 1875-1918 Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Gibbons, William James
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Music
  • In the wake of the disastrous Franco-Prussian war, French musicians and audiences sought ways to reaffirm the greatness of their nation. One strategy was to look to the glories of the past as evidence of continued French superiority. In this dissertation, I will examine the role of eighteenth-century opera in constructing a compelling musical past. In particular, I will focus on three composers with vastly differing reception histories in France: Mozart, Gluck, and Rameau, all of whose works received attention both on and off the operatic stages of Paris during the time period of this study. The Austrian Mozart was a favorite throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century, serving to present Paris as the cosmopolitan capital of civilization. By 1900, however, performances of his operas ground almost to a halt in favor of revivals of Gluck's works, a composer who could be adopted by the French and made into a source of national pride. Rameau, finally, represented the apex of the purely French tragdie lyrique--an important dramatic genre for establishing a nationalist rhetoric of music history, but one that also encountered difficulty in gaining popular success at the fin-de-sicle given its musical style. By tracing the critical and compositional reception surrounding these composers and the revivals of their works, I will offer a new look at how music of the past can be used to support narratives of national identity, as well as provide new insight into the French reception histories of three of the most influential composers of the eighteenth century.
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  • Fauser, Annegret
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