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Inventing French Opera - Politics, Power and Poetry in 17th century France

Lute Player
Lute player from
Ballet de la nuit 1653

A look at the way history and politics intertwined at the 17th century French Royal court to foster the development of a very distinctive form of opera the tragedie lyrique which combined singing with dance and spectacle. Arising out of the French ballet de court we trace the influence of dance at the French court in the 16th and 17th centuries, and the way that the various civil and religious wars of the period affected culture.

The links between the French Royal court and the Florentine court of the Medici were fostered by a series of Royal marriages, which brought the idea of opera to the French court. The anti-Italian feeling arising after the civil war known as the Fronde (which was aimed at the Italian-born Cardinal Mazarin) would lead directly to King Louis XIV banishing Italian opera and supporting the creation of a new Academy devoted to the creation of a very French form of opera. A prime mover in this would be another Florentine, Jean-Baptiste Lully.

Lully's rise owes a lot to his friendship with King Louis XIV, starting with their participation in the 1653 Ballet de la Nuit. Thanks to Louis' support Lully would receive a monopoly in opera in France, and go on to create 13 tragedies lyriques before his bizarre and gory death.

We will look at the distinctive form of the tragedie lyriques and listen to some of Lully's greatest music, alongside music from his precessors who help to create this French operatic style.

Duration: 75 minutes
Includes recorded music by Philidor, Cavalli, Boesset, Cambert and Lully
Illustrated with images of the period including costume designs for the 1653 Ballet de la Nuit

Another vein of nationalism - Czech chamber music in the 19th and 20th centuries

We look at how the string quartet developed as a distinctively Czech form, moving from Vaclav Jindrich Veit to Bedrich Smetana to Antonin Dvorak to Leos Janacek, with Czech music moving away from the Germanic style of Veit to the more folk-inflected music of his success. We also see how this was paralleled by developments in the Czech nation, with the gradual restoration of the Czech language and the development of specifically Czech institutions such as the Prague Provisional Theatre, the Prague Artists Society, Czech Chamber Music Society and eventually the creation of the Bohemian Quartet (later Czech Quartet) with Joseph Suk (Dvorak's son-in-law) on 2nd violin.

We will be considering some prime examples of the genre and listening to movements from quartets by Veit, Smetana, Dvorak and Janacek.

Duration: 75 to 90 minutes
INcludes recorded music by Veit, Smetana, Dvorak and Janacek.
Illustrated with maps, images and photographs of the period

6 Dec 2018
St George's Church
Julian Merson, arr. Robert Hugill There is no Rose
London Concord Singers
Jessica Norton (conductor)
5 May 2019
Conway Hall
Robert Hugill: Winter Journey
Three pieces from Book of Common Prayer
Anna Huntley (mezzo-soprano)
James Newby (baritone)
Rosalind Ventris (viola)
William Vann (piano)
July 2019
Robert Hugill The Black Dragon
London Concord Singers
Jessica Norton (conductor)
Talks and Lectures
11 September 2018, 10:30am
U3A London
Inventing French Opera
Lully, politics & ballets du court
30 September 2018, 5.30pm
Conway Hall
Pre-concert talk: Brahms & the Schumanns
11 November 2018, 5.30pm
Conway Hall
Pre-concert talk: Haydn, Brahms & Strauss
Previous Performances
11 Feb 2018
Cheltenham Contemporary Concerts
Prince Michael Hall, Dean Close School, Cheltenham, GL51 6EP
Robert Hugill 3 pieces from Book of Common Prayer
Rosalind Ventris (viola)
James Willshire (piano)
email Robert
"You are a fresh and original composer
and deserve all possible encouragement",
Malcolm Williamson
late Master of the Queen's Music