Review of John S. Powell. 2000. Music and Theatre in France, 1600-1680. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Heyer, John Hajdu

The seventeenth century in France, an era in which French dramatic arts reached a pinnacle of development, has inspired tomes of writing, both in French and in English, on the literature and theater of the period. But despite the importance of music and dance in this time, and particularly despite their prominence in the theater, there remain relatively few books available to the English reader on the subject. Major English monographs on the music are few and can be listed easily: James R. Anthony’S comprehensive French Barqoue Music (1978), Robert Isherwood’s Music in the Service of the King (1973), Louis Auld’s The Lyric Art of Pierre Perrin (1986), Norman Demuth’s French Opera (1963), and Caroline Wood’s Music and Drama in the Tragedie en musique, 1673-1715 (1996). Scholars have recently contributed to several significant collections of essays, and a growing number of tools for research and critical editions have been published, but few book-length works serve the English reader. John S. Powell’s Music and Theatre in France, 1600-1680, the most recent installment of Oxford’s Monographs on Music, presents a significant new contribution to this small bibliography. Powell’s impressive 582-page book, which addresses the musical practices of comedy, tragicomedy, tragedy, and mythological and non-mythological pastoral drama during the period, offers the first major work in English to thoroughly investigate these rich and momentous topics, all of which contributed significantly to the development of French opera.


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August 18, 2022