Review of Marian Smith. Ballet and Opera in the Age of "Giselle". Princeton: Princeton University Press, 20001. xx, 306 pp.
Since the publication of Jane Fulcher's The Nation's Image in 1987, there
has been growing interest in exploring the appeal of French grand opera.
This has generally taken the approach of grounding the works in their
political context (Fulcher) or, more recently, their social setting.! A more
tentative strand of interest in situating grand opera in its contemporary theatrical
context and in examining other lyric genres produced in Paris in
the 1820s and '30s in their own right (Sala 1995; Wild 1987; Hibberd 2001)
has encouraged a reevaluation of what has been perceived as the merely
"sensational" and a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between
the musical and visual dimensions of drama. Smith's book is at once a comparative study of ballet and opera and a long overdue history of ballet-pantomime that presents basic information, such as the sorts of plots, characters, dancing techniques, and musical styles common to the genre.
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- November 15, 2014