- Musique et geste en France de Lully à la Révolution: études sur la musique, le théâtre et la danse
The study of dramatic works with music, in particular opera, has by and large focused on the relationship between text and music, far more than on the relationship between music and the ephemeral areas of staging, movement, and dance. The recent publication of Musique et geste en France de Lully à la Révolution seeks to redress that imbalance by presenting thirteen essays on various aspects of music and staging, primarily within the gestural arts of pantomime and dancing, as found in genres such as tragédie lyrique, opéra comique, and the lesser-known ballet pantomime and pantomime dialoguée. The volume is divided into three sections that group the essays into related themes, with some sections more cohesive than others. Without doubt, the chapters can be read selectively, out of order, but some are better appreciated after first reading others. For instance, in the first section, Jean-Noël Laurenti's opening chapter on the introduction of pantomime into the ballet d'action is a useful introduction to ideas brought up in the essays of other authors, particularly Laura Naudeix's discussion of the singing actor.
The first section, "Dramaturgies du geste," contains four neatly interrelated chapters, each of which discusses gesture and pantomime within different theatrical topics. Laurenti's essay "De l'entrée de ballet à la pantomime et au ballet d'action: une nouvelle représentation de l'homme et de la nature," sets the stage by preparing a context for pantomime through a discussion of its introduction into ballet d'action (an independent work of dance featuring sustained plot development). Laurenti demonstrates how the ballet d'action, through the addition of pantomime, was considered an imitation of nature. More over, pantomime was raised to a more elevated level, where it imitated specific personages in given situations, rather than representing defined character types, as was done in the theaters of the Fairs (théâtre de la Foire).
In her chapter "'Je vois un char brûlant descendre sur la terre': Médée, de la magie verbale à l'efficace scénique," Anne Piéjus demonstrates how text combined with gesture strengthens both. Her discussion turns on a scene in Joseph-François Salomon's opera Medée et Jason, in which Créüse relates her dream of Medea riding in a flaming chariot, descending to earth to exact revenge—only to have the actual event unfold before her eyes. This addition to the legend allows not only for brilliant spectacle, but highlights a dramatic device that comes up for discussion in Hedy Law's chapter: a visual rhetorical feature is preceded by a textual one, reinforcing both.
In the essay "Le jeu du chanteur dans l'esthétique spectaculaire de l'opéra lulliste," Laura Naudeix explores changes in the acting of singers of the Académie royale de musique from about 1680 through the eighteenth century. Through sources that include surviving stage directions, contemporary treatises, and articles from Diderot's Encyclopédie, Naudeix finds that the acting of singers in the age of Lully seems to have drawn primarily on gestures from rhetorical practices. Through the growing influence of pantomime and dance, more natural gestures found their way onto the opera stage, and by the second half of the eighteenth century, it was not enough to be an excellent singer: "[one] must be an excellent pantomime" (p. 48, quoted from Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Dictionnaire de Musique : "Il ne suffit pas à l'acteur d'opéra d'être un [End Page 298] excellent chanteur, s'il n'est encore un excellent pantomime"). Hedy Law explores a similar topic in her essay "From Garrick's Dagger to Gluck's Dagger: The Dual Concept of Pantomime...