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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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Choral Lament and the Mourning Public

Choral Lament and the Mourning Public

(p.53) Chapter Two Choral Lament and the Mourning Public
Opera and the Political Imaginary in Old Regime France

Olivia Bloechl

University of Chicago Press

This chapter focuses on the collective nature of ancien régime mourning as this was imagined in the choral laments and fictional onstage funerals in tragédies en musique. It begins by contextualizing public mourning practice in Paris under the Bourbons. State funerals were reserved for people of dynastic or political significance, and the process was highly formalized, down to the behavior of attendees at funerary events. Participation in public mourning was semi-compulsory, and display of appropriate feeling was understood as a public duty. Turning to public mourning scenes in opera, the author surveys lament choruses across the repertory, from Lully through Rameau and Dauvergne through Lemoyne. Analyses of earlier choruses focus on the hierarchical organization of onstage mourning but also illustrate affective divisions between subgroups of the lamenting chorus. Choruses in later operas respond to changing ideals of public participation, and their mourning collectives resemble the patriotic, active public of the last third of the eighteenth century. However, the publicness of later lamenting choruses remained fundamentally conservative, as choral groups assumed a melancholy attachment to monarchical authority even in the 1780s.

Keywords:   mourning, tragédie en musique, publicness, lament chorus, affect, funerals, Lully, Rameau, Dauvergne, Lemoyne

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