Comédie mêlée d'ariettes

The French term comédie mêlée d'ariettes ('comedy mixed with little songs') was frequently used during the late ancien régime for certain types of opéra comique (French opera with spoken dialogue).[1]

The term became popular in the mid 18th century following the Querelle des Bouffons, a dispute over the respective merits of French serious opera and Italian opera buffa.[2] At first it was applied to works which parodied Italian opera buffa, in the sense that the words were changed but not the music. One of the earliest examples is the librettist Charles-Simon Favart's Le caprice amoureux, ou Ninette à la cour (1755), which was a parody of Carlo Goldoni's Bertoldo, Bertoldino e Cacasenno (1748), a pasticcio with music by Vincenzo Ciampi and others (first performed in Paris in 1753 as Bertoldo in corte).[3] Another common term for such parodies was opéra bouffon.[4]

Soon, however, the term comédie mêlée d'ariettes came to be used for works with newly composed music, in contrast to the comédies en vaudevilles, which used tunes from popular songs with altered words.[4] (In the 18th century, the term opéra comique was conventionally applied to the latter.[4]) The first French opéra comique with original music, although not labeled as such, was Egidio Duni's Le peintre amoureux de son modèle (1757). The director of the Opéra-Comique company, Jean Monnet, feared that a work by an unknown foreign composer would not be successful, so he advertised it as a parody of an Italian intermezzo, Il pittore innamorato.[5] This new form of French comic opera is particularly associated with the work of its librettist Louis Anseaume.[6] The Oxford Dictionary of Music lists other examples of the form: Christoph Willibald Gluck's La rencontre imprévue (1764), François-André Danican Philidor's Tom Jones (1765), Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny's Le déserteur (1769), and André Ernest Modeste Grétry's Zémire et Azor (1771).[7]

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