Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Bartlet, Mary Elizabeth Caroline. "A Musician's view of the French Baroque after the Advent of Gluck: Grétry's Les trois âges de l'opéra and its Context." In Jean-Baptiste Lully and the Music of the French Baroque: Essays in Honor of James R. Anthony, ed. John Hajdu Heyer, 291-318. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Toward the end of the 1770s, partially as a consequence of the controversy between the Ramistes and Gluckistes (the supporters of Rameau and Gluck respectively), the Académie Royale de Musique was in a state of crisis, which led to the appointment of a new director, Anne Pierre Jacques Devismes du Valgay. To mediate between the two parties, he not only scheduled pieces that would appeal to all tastes, but, to promote this program, also commissioned a new opera from André Ernest Modeste Grétry, a composer not directly involved in the controversy. The result was Les trois âges de l'opéra (libretto by Saint-Alphonse Devismes), a prologue opéra including extensive borrowings from Lully, Rameau and Gluck. In this opera, each of these composers is praised for his operatic contributions, Lully's "mastery of lyric declamation," Rameau's dances, and Gluck's recitative style and wide range of passions, and Grétry carefully underlines their strengths with appropriate quotations. The borrowed passages are basically unchanged; Grétry only changed the instrumentation in some places or interpolated a few extra measures to meet the requirements of the text. To correct the ahistorical view of the Ramistes and Gluckistes, Grétry related the borrowings to each other, showing the indebtedness of Rameau and Gluck to their predecessor, for example by quoting a "dramatically static chorus" from Gluck's Ifigénie, a chorus that according to some critics owed much to the French model. The libretto does much to give the impression that Gluck continued the Lully-Rameau lyric tradition.

Index Classifications: 1700s

Contributed by: Andreas Giger

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