Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/142

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130
BALLET.
BALLARD.

his son Robert, under whom the house rose to its greatest height both in privileges and position. He was succeeded by Christophe, T. B. Christophe, and Christophe Jean François, who died in 1765. His son held the patent until it was abolished during the Revolution. One of the earliest specimens of their art of printing is 'The Psalms of Marot,' 1562. Lully's operas were printed by the Ballards—first about 1700, from moveable types, and afterwards from engraved copper plates.

[ F. G. ]

BALLERINA. (Ital.), a female ballet-dancer.

BALLET. The ballet is a more modern entertainment even than the opera, with which it has long been intimately connected. The name seems to have been derived from the Italian ballata, the parent of our own 'ballad'; and the earliest ballets (Ballets de Cour), which corresponded closely enough to our English masques, were entertainments not of dancing only, but also of vocal and instrumental music. M. Castil Blaze, in an interesting monograph ('La Dance,' etc.; Paris, Paulin), traces back the ballet from France to Italy, from Italy to Greece, and through the Greek stage to festivals in honour of Bacchus. But the ballet as signifying an entertainment exclusively in dancing dates from the foundation of the Académie Royale de Musique, or soon afterwards. In 1671, the year in which Cambert's 'Pomone,' the first French opera heard by the Parisian public, was produced, 'Psyche,' a so-called tragédie-ballet by Molière and Corneille was brought out. Ballets however in the mixed style were known much earlier; and the famous 'Ballet comique de la Royne,' the 'mounting' of which is said to have cost three-and-a-half millions of francs, was first performed at the marriage of the Duke of Joyeuse in 1581. [ Baltazarini.] The work in question consisted of songs, dances, and spoken dialogue, and seems to have differed in no important respect from the masques of an earlier period. Another celebrated ballet which by its historical significance is better worthy of remembrance than the 'Ballet comique de la Royne,' was one represented on the occasion of Louis XIV's marriage with Marie Thérèse, and entitled 'Il n'y a plus de Pyrénées.' In illustration of this supposed political fact half the dancers were dressed in the French and half in the Spanish costume, while a Spanish nymph and a French nymph joined in a vocal duet. Other ballets of historical renown were the 'Hercule amoureux,' at which more than 700 persons were on the stage, and the 'Triomphe de l'Amour' in 1681. Louis XIV took such a delight in ballets that he frequently appeared as a ballet-dancer, or rather as a figurant, himself. For the most part his majesty contented himself with marching about the stage in preposterous costumes, and reciting verses in celebration of his own greatness. Occasionally, however, he both sang and danced in the court ballets. When in 1669 the 'Great Monarch' assumed, ostensibly for the last time, the part of the Sun in the ballet of 'Flora,' it was thought that His Majesty's theatrical career had really come to an end. He felt, however, as so many great performers have since done under similar circumstances, that he had retired too soon; and the year afterwards he appeared again in 'Les Amants magnifiques,' composed by the king himself, in collaboration with Molière. In this work Louis executed a solo on the guitar—an instrument which he had studied under Francesco Corbetta, who afterwards went to England and obtained great success at the court of Charles II. It is indeed recorded of him that in connection with 'Les Amants magnifiques,' he played the part of author, balletmaster, dancer, mimic, singer, and instrumental performer. As Louis XIV did not think it beneath his dignity to act at court entertainments, he had no objection to his courtiers showing themselves publicly on the stage. In the royal letters patent granted to the Abbé Perrin, the first director of the French Opera, or 'Académie Royale de Musique' as from the beginning it was called, free permission was given to 'all gentlemen and ladies wishing to sing in the said pieces and representations of our royal academy without being considered for that reason to derogate from their titles of nobility, or from their privileges, rights, and immunities.' The right to sing seems to have been interpreted as including the right to dance; and several ladies and gentlemen of good birth profited by the king's liberality to appear in the ballets represented at the Académie Royale. The music of Louis XIV's ballets was for the most part written by Lulli, who also composed the songs and symphonies for the dance-interludes of Molière' s comedies. The dramatic ballet or ballet d'action is said to have been invented by the Duchesse du Maine, celebrated for her evening entertainments at Sceaux, which the nobles of Louis XIV's court found so exhilarating after the formal festivities of Versailles. With a passion for theatrical representation the Duchess combined a taste for literature; and she formed the project of realising on the stage of her own theatre her idea of the pantomimes of antiquity, as she found them described in the pages of her favourite authors. She went to work precisely as the arranger of a ballet would do in the present day. Thus taking the fourth act of 'Les Horaces' as her libretto (to use the modern term), she had it set to music for orchestra alone, and to the orchestral strains caused the parts of Horace and of Camille to be performed in dumb show by two celebrated dancers who had never attempted pantomime before. Balon and Mademoiselle Prévost, the artists in question, entered with so much feeling into the characters assigned to them, that they drew tears from the spectators.

Mouret, the musical director of the Duchess's 'Nuits de Sceaux,' composed several ballets, on the principle of her ballet of 'Les Horaces,' for the Académie Royale. During the early days of the French opera, and until nearly the end of the 17th century, it was difficult to obtain dancers in any great number, and almost impossible to find female dancers. The company of vocalists