Building the Operatic Museum

June 2013
16 black and white, 2 line illustrations
280 pages
9x6 in
Eastman Studies in Music
Library eBook
University of Rochester Press
BISAC MUS020000, MUS006000, MUS028000

Building the Operatic Museum

Eighteenth-Century Opera in Fin-de-Siècle Paris

William Gibbons

The pathbreaking revival in Paris ca. 1900 of long-neglected operas by Mozart, Gluck, and Rameau -- and what this meant to French audiences, critics, and composers.
Focusing on the operas of Mozart, Gluck, and Rameau, Building the Operatic Museum examines the role that eighteenth-century works played in the opera houses of Paris around the turn of the twentieth century. These works, mostly neglected during the nineteenth century, became the main exhibits in what William Gibbons calls the Operatic Museum -- a physical and conceptual space in which great masterworks from the past and present could, like works of visual art in the Louvre, entertain audiences while educating them in their own history and national identity. Drawing on the fields of musicology, museum studies, art history, and literature, Gibbons explores how this "museum" transformed Parisian musical theater into a place of cultural memory, dedicated to the display of French musical greatness.

William Gibbons is Associate Professor of Musicology at Texas Christian University.

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Table of Contents



Gibbons synthesizes much recent literature on such topics as French musical nationalism and the reception of early music in the nineteenth century, and analyzes these cultural trends in a manner that is [extensively] documented, rich in insight, clear, and highly readable. The book is a model of skillful argument and of expertise in organizing a subject that could easily overflow; a lesson in history and historiography that succeeds in offering a convincing central thesis (the establishment of an Operatic Museum) without denying the manysidedness of historical reality. IL SAGGIATORE MUSICAL

What makes the book particularly worthwhile is its careful contextualization of the major fin-de-siècle revivals of eighteenth-century operas including abundant selections from critical discourse. . . . One of the merits of Gibbons' book is the way it enables us to see how these dilemmas [of historical fidelity vs. practical viability, and of Germanic traditions vs. French national pride] were understood, and hotly debated, throughout the period in question, paving the way for a conception of the repertoire that is still very much with us. The book's most engrossing section is probably the one devoted to Mozart, for the [Austrian] composer's place within the French operatic pantheon would always entail the most complex negotiations. NINETEENTH-CENTURY MUSIC REVIEW

Gibbons's well-written study of the productions of eighteenth-century operas in late nineteenth-century Paris considers broad issues of edition-making, nationalist interpretation, allegorical readings, and value judgment. An important addition to critical reflections on canon building. --Steven Huebner, McGill University

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