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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Three opéras comiques of the 1830s : Fra Diavolo, Zampa and Le pré aux clercs and the placement of musical soli within the drama Regaudie-McIsaac, Francine Yvonne


In the 1830s the opera-comique genre evolves from the simple "comedies melee d'ariettes" to a true operatic form with musico-dramatic significance. One primary area of development is found in the placement and dramatic function of solo forms which begin to play a markedly different role than they had in operas comiques of earlier periods. Despite the evidence suggesting significant musico-dramatic development, few scholars have attempted to identify the practices governing the placement and function of musical soli in the operas comiques of the 1830s. For this reason we have undertaken a detailed study of these elements in three libretti: Fra Diavolo (1830), Zampa (1831) and Le Pre aux Clercs (1832). In a preliminary examination, these libretti were found to exhibit traits representative of many works of the period. Our research has led us to conclude that solo forms are employed in one or more of the following four dramatic situations: (1) to convey background information to the plot or to characters, or to reveal pre-curtain events; (2) to paint a character's true personality; (3) to expose a character's emotional state of mind or train of thought at a given moment; and (4) to distribute the number of soli through the opera in a manner that reflects a character's importance in the drama. Although such uses of solo forms are not unique to the 1830s, the extent to which they were employed represents a significant departure from earlier practice. This thesis is divided into five chapters. The first chapter--by way of introduction--contrasts the roles of musical numbers in 1830s operas comiques with those of their predecessors. It also discusses the literary and musical conventions of the works of this period. The second chapter first presents a synopsis of Scribe's and Auber's opera comique Frat Diavolo, and a view of the well made play elements as displayed in the libretto, before focusing on a discussion of the placement of musical soli in the drama. Similarly, chapters three and four discuss Melesvilie's and Herold's Zampa, ou la Fiancee de marbre and Planard's and Herold's Le Pre aux Clercs respectively. The final chapter outlines the practices observed in the placement and dramatic function of soli in the three selected operas and relates the significance of these practices to the genre's development.

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