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Pierre Perrin and the first French operas

June 16, 2008

These two extracts are from Pierre Perrin’s Recueil de Paroles de Musique.

Operas

What will seem most interesting in my opinion are the three plays in music, or operas, which follow; first in the Pastoral genre, the next in the comic, and the last in the Tragic. I wrote these plays with the express purpose of proving to the French nation that such plays can succeed on the French stage, in the various dramatic genres, and with even greater effect than they have in Italy, where they are the wonder and the most pleasant pastime of any nation. This result is assured as long as they are judiciously constructed and formed according to the rules of Art, of which we treat at length in our Lyric Art, and of which the principal ones are; that the work should last no more than two or three hours in performance, which is the greatest length of the most excellent music and the limit of French patience, in public entertainment; and that they be composed entirely from one end to the other, as these are, of lyric pieces suitable for vocal setting, well balanced and varied, including Airs, Chansons, Recits, Dialogues, and Ensemble numbers.

The Pastorale d’Issy

The first of these plays is a light Pastoral, or if you prefer, an Eclogue, which was set to music by M. Cambert, Master of the Orchestra of the late Queen, and performed eight or ten times in the village of Issy near Paris in 1659, by an illustrious company, of one and the other sex, who took equal pleasure in it with the public. After that, their Royal Highness and his late Excellency desired to see it and come to Vincennes. I shall not speak here of its reception, for I am content to entrust that to the judgement of more than six thousand persons of quality who heard it.

Quoted in: Auld, Louis E., The Lyric Art of Pierre Perrin, Founder of French Opera, 3 vols, Henryville: Institute of Mediaeval Music, 1986, p.32.

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