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Comedy-Ballet and Court Festivities : Three Extreme Scenarios

Perry Gethner

Gethner, Perry, "Comedy-Ballet and Court Festivities : Three Extreme Scenarios", dans Cahiers du XVIIe siècle, 1989, vol. III, 1.

Extrait de l’article

"Quittons, quittons notre vaine querelle" and "Unissons-nous tous trois d’une ardeur sans seconde." So sing Comedy, Music and Ballet in the prologue to Moliere and Lully’s L’Amour médecin, in lines that have often been cited as a motto for comedy-ballet.The comedy-ballet can be defined as a dramatic hybrid designed to enliven and enhance celebrations at the French court, and composed of alternating segments in which a spoken comedy is punctuated by episodes of music and dance. The components are called actes and intermèdes, although in fact the performance was continuous and the interludes (unlike, for example, the intermezzi from the Italian operatic tradition) had to maintain a link, however tenuous, with the action of the comedy. Ideally, the three art forms could be fused into a perfectly balanced spectacle in which all three played an indispensable part. However, complete success in integrating the components was not always achieved, even with such brilliant collaborators as Moliere and Lully. There are even cases where one of the arts far outshines the others. Such plays, though not masterpieces on the order of Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, are far from being aesthetic failures. I propose to examine three such plays, written for three different patrons, and to show how each one, by giving primary importance to one of the three components in the intermèdes, sheds light on the hybrid genre’s possibilities and limitations. In each case I also plan to demonstrate that theme, decor and choreography were tailored to the original occasion and to the tastes of the patron.

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