OPÉRA COMIQUE. A French Opera, in which the dénouement is happy, and the Dialogue spoken. Provided these two conditions be present, it is not at all necessary that the piece should introduce any really comic Scenes, or Characters; for instance, one of the finest Opéras comiques in existence is Cherubini's 'Les deux journées,' in which the hero is only saved from what appears to be almost certain destruction by the devotion of an humble friend. [See Opera, 16th Period, vol. ii. p. 522; also Comic Opera.]
OPÉRA COMIQUE, THE, at Paris, a theatre for French pieces with spoken dialogue, originated in the 'spectacles de la Foire.' For its early history we refer the readers to Chouquet's 'History of Dramatic Music in France' (Paris, Didot, 1873), and will only state that the title of 'Opéra comique' dates from the execution of an agreement between the comedians and the directors of the Académie royale de Musique in 1715. The new enterprise, thus recognised, succeeded so well as to excite the jealousy of the large theatres, and in 1745 to cause the closing of the Opéra Comique. In 1752, however, Monet received permission to reestablish it at the Fair of St. Germain, and under his skilful management it progressed so rapidly that in 1762 the Opéra Comique joined the Comédie Italienne, and took possession of the room in the Rue Mauconseil, whence in 1783 they migrated to the theatre in the Rue Favart. In 1791 a second Opéra Comique Company established itself in the Rue Feydeau, and a fierce competition ensued, which ended in the ruin and closing of both houses in 1801. After this the two companies were united into one, which settled itself at the Théâtre Feydeau, leaving the Salle Favart to the Italian troupe. At the Feydeau they remained till April 1829, when the theatre, being no longer habitable, was closed. The Favart theatre being still in the hands of the Italians, the Opera Comique took possession of the Salle Ventadour, but quitted it in 1832 for the little Theatre des Nouveautés in the Place de la Bourse (no longer existing), and at length in 1840 returned to the Salle Favart, where it is still located. The house looks on to the Place Boieldieu. It holds 1500 persons. In 1879 it was completely restored by Crépinet, to the improvement of its acoustic qualities, which before were not good. [App. p.735 "the theatre was burnt down on May 25, 1887."]
[ G. C. ]
OPERA, FRENCH. [See Opera, 5th, 11th, 16th, and 19th Periods, vol. ii. pp. 505–506, 515b–516, 522b, and 525.]
OPERA, GERMAN. [See Opera, 7th, 13th, 14th, 15th, and 20th Periods, vol. ii. pp. 507b–508, 518b–519, 519b–520, 520b–522, 525b–528.
OPÉRA, GRAND. 1. A French Opera, sung throughout, with the accompaniment of the full Orchestra, to the entire exclusion of spoken dialogue. The finest examples we possess are, Rossini's 'Guillaume Tell,' Cherubini's 'Les Abencerrages,' and Spontini's 'La Vestale': the most popular are, Meyerbeer's 'Robert le Diable,' 'Les Huguenots,' and 'Le Prophète.' [See Opera, 19th Period, vol. ii. p. 525.]
2. A magnificent Theatre, in Paris, near the Boulevard des Capucines (opposite to the Rue de la Paix), devoted to the performance of Grands Opéras. [See Academie de Musique.]
OPERA, ITALIAN. [See Opera, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 12th, 13th, and 18th Periods, vol. ii. pp. 497–500, 500–502, 502b–504, 504–505, 508–513, 513b–514, 516b–517, 517b–518, 524b–525.
OPERETTA. A little Opera, generally of a buffo character, too short to furnish an evening's amusement, but useful as an Afterpiece, or Intermezzo. We can scarcely point out more charming examples of the style than Mozart's 'Il Direttor della Commedia' (the Italian version of his 'Schauspieldirektor') and Rossini's 'L'Inganno felice.' Both these little masterpieces are in one Act; and this condition is really an essential characteristic of the Operetta; but, of late years, Operettas in two Acts have been not at all uncommon, as in the case of Mr. Arthur Sullivan's 'H.M.S. Pinafore'—the most successful work of the kind on record. Pieces extending to this length are prevented, for the most part, from taking rank as true Operas, either by triviality of subject, or by the evanescent character of the Music by which it is accompanied, and are, therefore, correctly described as Operettas in two Acts, notwithstanding the anomaly implied in the title.
In Italy, the Dialogue of the Operetta is always carried on in Recitativo secco. In England, Germany, and France, it is spoken.
OPHICLEIDE (Eng. and Germ.; Fr. Basse d'Harmonie). A barbarous name, compounded of the Greek words for snake and door-key, which has been given to an improvement on the Serpent, Russian bassoon, or Bass-horn.
The invention of this instrument is attributed by Fétis to Frichot, a French musician settled in London about the year 1790. He states moreover that Frichot published in London in the year 1800 a description and method of playing it, under the title of 'A Complete Scale and Gammut of the Bass-horn, a new instrument, invented by M. Frichot, and manufactured by J. Astor.' It seems however that a musician of the church of St. Peter, at Lille, by name Regibo, had already, in 1780, made improvements on the serpent, by adding several keys and modifying the bore, so that Regibo may in fact be considered as the inventor even of the so-called Russian bassoon, 'which returned from the north of Europe about thirty years later.' It seems agreed on all hands that the French were made acquainted with this instrument by the bands of the allied sovereigns, when the latter