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Opera and the Political Imaginary in Old Regime France$
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Olivia Bloechl

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226522753

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226522890.001.0001

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The Politics of Glory: Angelic Citizenship and the Contemplative Chorus

The Politics of Glory: Angelic Citizenship and the Contemplative Chorus

Chapter:
(p.22) Chapter One The Politics of Glory: Angelic Citizenship and the Contemplative Chorus
Source:
Opera and the Political Imaginary in Old Regime France
Author(s):

Olivia Bloechl

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226522890.003.0002

This chapter examines glorification choruses in tragédie en musique prologues and divertissements, and asks why they were so ubiquitous in this semi-official opera genre. It builds on Giorgio Agamben’s “archaeology of glory” and adapts his question--“Why does power need glory?”--to this operatic convention. The author finds that contemplative choruses of praise, acclamation, and supplication presented an angelic model of citizenship that corresponded to the genre's theological model of sovereignty. The prologue to Jean-Baptiste Lully's Cadmus et Hermione (1673) is used to illustrate this interaction between a contemplative chorus and Apollo, a divinity who recurs in the genre as an icon of transcendent sovereign government. Contemplative choruses did provide ideological support for the Bourbon monarchy, but their performance also routinely suspended or exceeded this function. The author concludes that contemplative song in this tradition is at basis inoperative, or beyond utility, and that this inoperativity is key to its politics.

Keywords:   glorification chorus, tragédie en musique, Agamben, archaeology of glory, contemplative chorus, Lully, Cadmus et Hermione, inoperativity

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