Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/19

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7
ACADEMIE DE MUSIQUE.

to this, in 1570, similar privileges had been accorded by Charles IX to a Venetian, C. A. de Baif, in respect to an academy 'do poesie et de musique,' but its scheme does not appear to have included dramatic representation. In any case it failed utterly. The establishment of the existing institution was however also preceded, and therefore facilitated, by a series of performances in Italian by Italian artists, beginning in 1584 and continued with little interruption till 1652, and by rarer though not less important ones by French artists, beginning from 1625, when 'Akébar, roi du Mogol,' was produced in the palace of the bishop of Carpentras. This has frequently been spoken of as the earliest veritable French opera; but that title is more justly due to the 'Pastorale en musique' of Cambert—the subject of which was given to the Abbé Perrin by the Cardinal Legate of Innocent X—first performed at Issy in 1659. Two years after, Cambert followed this opera by 'Ariane,' and in the following year by 'Adonis.' The Académie was opened in 1671 with an opera by the same master, 'Pomone,' which attained an enormous success; having been repeated, apparently to the exclusion of every other work, for eight months successively. The 'strength' of the company engaged in its performance presents an interesting contrast with that of the existing grand opera, and even of similar establishments of far less pretension. The troupe consisted of five male and four female principal performers, fifteen chorus-singers, and an orchestra numbering thirteen! The career of the Académie under these its first entrepreneurs was brought to an end by the jealousy of an Italian musician then rising in court favour, J. Baptiste Lully, who, through his influence with Mme. de Montespan, succeeded in obtaining for himself the privileges which had been accorded to Perrin and Cambert. The latter, the master-spirit of the enterprise thus wrecked, notwithstanding his hospitable reception by our Charles II, died in London shortly afterwards, at the age of forty-nine, of disappointment and home-sickness. By this disreputable proceeding Lully made himself master of the situation, remaining to the time of his death, in 1687, the autocrat of the French lyric drama. In the course of these fourteen years he produced, in concert with the poet Quinault, no fewer than twenty grand operas, besides other works. The number, success, and, more than all, the merit, of these entitle Lully to be regarded as the founder of the school of which Meyerbeer may claim to have proved the most distinguished alumnus; though, as we have seen, its foundation had been facilitated for him by the labours of others. In the course of his autocracy, Lully developed considerably musical form in its application to dramatic effect, and added considerably to the resources of the orchestra; though, in comparison with those of more recent times, he left them still very meagre. He is said to have first obtained permission, though in spite of great opposition, for the appearance of women on the stage; but as the troupe of his predecessor Cambert included four, his claim to their first introduction there needs qualification. Probably he got prohibition which had ceased to be operative exchanged for avowed sanction. The status of the theatrical performer at this epoch would seem to have been higher than it has ever been since; seeing that, by a special court order, even nobles were allowed, without prejudice to their rank, to appear as singers and dancers before audiences who paid for admission to their performances. What it was somewhat later may be gathered from the fact that, not to mention innumerable less distinguished instances, Christian burial was refused (1673) to Moliere and (1730) to Adrienne Le Couvreur. Lully's scale of payment to authors, having regard to the value of money in his time, was liberal. The composer of a new opera received for each of the first ten representations 100 livres (about £4 sterling), and for each of the following twenty representations, 50 livres. After this the work became the property of the Académie. The theatre was opened for operatic performance three times a week throughout the year. On great festivals concerts of sacred music were given. The composers contemporary with Lully (many of them his pupils) could only obtain access to the Académie by conforming to his style and working on his principles. Some few of these however, whose impatience of the Lullian despotism deprived them of all chance of a hearing within its walls, turned their talents to account in the service of the vagrant troupes of the Foire Saint-Germain; and with such success as to alarm Lully both for his authority and his receipts. He obtained an order (more suo) for the suppression of this already dangerous rivalry, which however proved itself far too supple for legislative manipulation. The 'vagrants' met each new ordonnance with a new evasion, and that of which they were the first practitioners, and the frequenters of the Foire the first patrons, subsequently grew into the most delightful, because the most truly natural, of all French art products, the Opéra Comique. The school of composition established by Lully did not die with its founder; nor for many years was any serious violation of his canons permitted by his adopted countrymen. Charpentier (1634–1702), a composer formed in the school of Carissimi, was unsuccessful in finding favour for the style of his master: Campra (1660–1744) was somewhat less so; while Marais, Desmarets, Lacoste, and Monteclair were gradually enabled to give more force, variety and character to orchestration. The last of these (1666–1737) first introduced the three-stringed double-bass, on which he himself was a performer, into the orchestra. But a condition of an art on the whole so stagnant as this was sure eventually to become insupportable, if not to the public, to the few who at all times, consciously or unconsciously, direct or confirm its inclinations. Their impatience found expression in the Abbé Raguenet's 'Paralléle des Italiens et des Francais,