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The 'keys' provided by Herve Lacombe in this richly informed book open the door to understanding the essence of nineteenth-century French lyric theater. Lacombe illuminates the diverse elements that constitute opera by focusing his investigation around three main categories: composition and production; words, music, and drama; and the interaction of society, genre, and aesthetics. Lacombe chooses Bizet's "Pearl Fishers" (1863) as the exemplar of French opera that combines tradition and innovation. He uses "Pearl Fishers" as a paradigmatic point of reference for exploring questions of genesis, style, and aesthetic in other nineteenth-century French operatic works. French opera was a social art, he writes, and looping between past and future, between tradition and innovation, it achieved the seemingly impossible union of two antithetical aspects of Romanticism: the taste for theatricality and the desire for intimacy. The voices of contemporary witnesses are heard throughout Lacombe's book. He makes abundant use of the writings of such musician-critics as Berlioz, Reyer, and Saint-Saens and also draws on the works of many French writers, including Stendhal, Balzac, Baudelaire, and Zola. Illustrations showing costume sketches, scenery, posters, paintings, photographs, and magazine articles are attractive complements to discussions of particular operas. Together with Edward Schneider's accessible translation, the illustrations make this well-rounded and original study a trove of information for both music scholars and French historians.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780520217195
ISBN-10: 0520217195
Format: Hardback
(229mm x 152mm x 38mm)
Pages: 442
Imprint: University of California Press
Publisher: University of California Press
Publish Date: 12-Jan-2001
Country of Publication: United States

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Author Biography - Herve Lacombe

Herve Lacombe teaches at the University of Metz. He is working on another book about Bizet. Edward Schneider lives in New York and is a translator specializing in works about music and food.