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Review of David Charlton. French Opera 1730-1830: Meaning and Media. Aldershot, Hampshire (U.K.), and Brookfield, Vt.: Ashgate, 2000. xii, 374 pp.

Rushton, Julian

David Charlton's book is not a single-minded monograph but a collection of essays published in periodicals spread over the last quarter-century. This may explain its somewhat cryptic title; it must have been hard to think of anything more suitable-such as "Collected Essays on Aspects of French Opera"-that would not have been inappropriately bland. Those who have followed David Charlton's pioneering work will probably find the essays concerned with eighteenth-century opéra comique (which form the majority) to be the most far-reaching in their implications. And those whose research is mainly confined to English-language periodicals will benefit most from the appearance of two major articles for the first time in English. Following Charlton's definitive study of Grétry (1986), these deep probes into aspects of a genre often considered problematic, if not actually unsatisfactory-due to the use of spoken dialogue and the at times extreme contrast between this mode of dramatic exposition and elaborate musical structures-constitute a major challenge to preconceptions, and a positive contribution to its critical revaluation.

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Current Musicology

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Academic Units
Music
Publisher
Columbia University
Published Here
November 15, 2014