The Revolution on Stage: Opera and Politics in France, 1789–1800 Michael E. McClellan ©2004

Item number 6137 of the French revolutionary pamphlet collection housed in the National Library of Australia contains the statement ‘man is born a spectator’.1 Today this comment may strike one as curious. In contemporary usage, the term spectator connotes a relatively passive state. Literally, the spectator observes and watches. What she or he does not do is act or participate. However, Louis Portiez, the author of this pamphlet on the social and cultural significance of theatre, would not have considered theatrical spectators as inert creatures incapable of independent agency. Indeed, eighteenth-century audiences were anything but quiescent, and this was especially true during the French Revolution, when theatres frequently became scenes of heated debate and even violent clashes. Theatres of the day were forums in which ideas were expressed and values imparted to politicised audiences who in turn accepted, rejected, or transformed those messages as they saw fit. As all aspects of revolutionary society and culture became politicised, they simultaneously become theatrical. Spectators became actors, and the great events of the Revolution became spectacle. My presentation examines this phenomenon by drawing upon the traces of revolutionary culture that survive among the newspapers, librettos, scores and printed ephemera of that time.

Let us begin with a piece of visual evidence drawn from the mid-1790s, the title page from a full score to the opera La caverne, music by Jean-François Le Sueur, libretto by Palat-Dercy.2 Little known today, La caverne was one of the smash hits of the 1790s. Premiering on 16 February 1793, it was revived regularly during the decade, a tried and true moneymaker. The image you see attests to the success of the opera in a couple of ways. First only the scores of financially viable works were published; the expense involved in such a venture precluded the publication of operas that had limited success. Second, the illustration included on this title page added appreciably to the cost of publication and suggests that the publisher had great confidence in it. Only a handful of French operas published in the revolutionary era have comparable illustrations on their title pages. The engraving depicts a scene from the La caverne, highlighting one of the most celebrated features of the opera’s mise-en-scène, the horizontally split stage. The audience watched the action unfold on two parallel and separate planes, with events occurring simultaneously on the forest floor above, and in the cave below. What is most fascinating about this engraving, however, is not the depiction of this impressive bit of set design, but the combination of this naturalistic scene with the geometrically balanced, neo-classical border that envelops it. The border’s design suggests a proscenium, giving one the impression of viewing the scene from the parterre of a theatre. The artist used the simple effect of linear perspective to extend the border toward the viewer, an effect that appears to place the forest and cave within a recess. The perception of depth transforms the border into a physical barrier that seemingly separates the scene within, from the person looking at it. The border deserves our attention since it freely mixes the symbols of some vaguely antique past with an easily recognisable totem of the French Revolution.

On the left and right sides of the border, pairs of Corinthian columns stand atop piers that lend the border architectural weight. In between, various instruments are depicted: a natural horn, a harp, an aulos, and other musical instruments. The artist presumably intended the figures of the women to suggest two of the muses, probably Euterpe (Muse of Lyric Poetry) with her lyre on the right and Thalia (Muse of Comedy), baring a bit of leg on the left. The presence of the muses not only reinforces the classical references of the border but also emphasises a connection to the theatre. Across the top are more musical instruments, and below, immediately above the title of the work, is a Phrygian cap encircled by a wreath of laurel leaves. The Phrygian cap, although a symbol of the classical past, became an emblem of liberty during the French Revolution and its presence bestows revolutionary legitimacy upon the engraving.

The style of the border contrasts starkly with the image presented within it. The scene depicted is of a dark, mysterious, Gothic setting. Above, we see a forest in which some soldiers wander amid brush and fallen branches, presumably looking for an entrance to the subterranean hideout of the bandits. Below is the cave where the light of a single lamp suspended from the ceiling penetrates the murky darkness. Amid the shadows we observe a group of men skirmishing; some wounded individuals lie on the cave floor in the foreground. The engraving compresses the melodramatic action at the end of the third act of La caverne in which the dashing Don Alphonse and his men discover the bandits’ hideout, fight a pitched battle within the cave, save the saintly Séraphine from a fate worse than death, and ultimately reveal the chief bandit to be none other than—Mon Dieu!—the long-lost brother of Séraphine, who had been abducted as a child by brigands. Yet what we see is not merely a pretty picture employed to attract customers; it also represents a specific way of understanding what should happen inside a theatre. Indeed, the engraving reflects concern with maintaining a separation between what happens on stage and off. To understand its significance, however, we must first discuss the theatrical world of the French Revolution.

Prior to 1789, the monarchy recognised only three Parisian theatres: the Académie de Musique (or Opéra), the Comédie Française, and the Comédie Italienne (later and better known as the Théâtre de l’Opéra-Comique).3 By limiting the number of spectacles, the royal state fostered a close relationship with these three official enterprises. As a result of their elite status, these theatres aligned themselves with the interests of the monarchy and became its cultural representatives. All other theatrical ventures possessed an ambiguous legal position that made them vulnerable to judicial attacks by their privileged counterparts. This situation persisted for decades, but critics of the status quo grew increasingly vocal at the century’s end.4 In the late 1780s when the actor-owners of the Comédie-Française declared the system of privilege was in the best interest of the public, a number of authors openly ridiculed their position. Baron Friederich Grimm, for example, sarcastically wrote ‘forgetting their personal interest completely, [these actors] concerned themselves only with the cause of morality and good taste … (Could it be in better hands?)’.5 Grimm’s caustic tone implied that privilege benefited the official spectacles far more than it aided society as a whole. He and like-minded critics depicted the existing controls as artificial and outmoded. In their eyes, the official theatres not only failed to live up to their own standards but also kept other entrepreneurs from succeeding.

The system of privilege remained in place for the first year-and-a-half of the Revolution, but change finally arrived in mid-January 1791 when the National Assembly passed legislation that aimed to ‘free’ the theatres.6 Overnight, the Parisian theatrical world was transformed.7 Now anyone with the necessary financial means could open a theatre without any governmental interference for, along with privilege, censorship was also abolished. Alas, the legislators who had supported the new law were soon to regret their decision. They had sincerely expected that this liberation would rejuvenate French drama: Free theatres, the argument ran, should automatically produce dramas of the highest quality, dramas worthy of a free society. Instead there was a marked increase in the number of theatres as well as the number of theatre closings, and the majority of new theatres offered fare that pandered to the least common denominator of taste. Within months, newspapers were declaring the law to be intrinsically flawed.8

It is not the purpose of this presentation—you’ll be pleased to learn—to detail the complexities of theatrical legislation during the 1790s. It will suffice to say that over that decade the various governments strove to regain control over what happened on French stages but without wanting to be seen as violating the ideals of liberty. So, to justify the inevitable erosion of theatrical autonomy, theatres were defined as venues of public instruction and as such, subject to governmental oversight. This was especially true for those theatres producing operatic genres. A musical score intensified and strengthened the message of a drama, but the mutability of musical meaning posed a serious problem, a problem of control. Consequently, the balance between music and text in opera acquired a new political significance as the following example shows. On 3 September 1791, less than eight months after the introduction of the misguided legislation mentioned earlier, Paisiello’s Nina, osia la pazza d’amore (Nina or the Lovesick Girl), premiered in Paris. Although a wildly popular success, this work, which was sung in Italian, earned the enmity of local authors and composers who perceived it to be a serious threat to French literary and musical traditions. Their hostile reaction centered on the libretto, which was an Italian translation of a celebrated opéra-comique (Nina, ou la folle par amour).9 Since the French original remained in the active repertory of the Théâtre de l’Opéra-Comique, the success of the Italian Nina at a rival theatre represented a direct financial challenge to it.10 Condemning Paisiello’s delightful little opera, French critics, playwrights and composers pointed to its privileging of tone over word. Because the majority of the audience did not understand Italian, the opera offered them musical diversion divorced from textual meaning, which alarmed those who believed dramatic works should possess moral content and social purpose. In a petition sent to the National Assembly complaining about Paisiello’s Nina, the Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers expressed outrage that a Parisian theatre could ‘brazenly appropriate [our] benefits by taking care to gild [a text] with some brilliant pieces of Italian music’.11 In the minds of the members of the society, Paisiello’s music lured audiences away from instructive French drama via glittering, gaudy charm. By placing greater emphasis on music, opera buffa made the educational significance of a performance less clear, it encouraged Parisian audiences to enjoy the music independently of the text and its meaning. Not surprisingly, reviewers dismissed Nina and other opera buffa as ‘musical concerts,’ denying them dramatic viability since in them, they argued, literary thought was replaced by empty sensuous enjoyment.12 At a time when political transparency and clarity had become identified as revolutionary virtues in France, this emphasis on the pleasure of musical ambiguity at the expense of straightforward textual sense was eyed suspiciously, potentially a symptom of counterrevolution.13 After a flurry of angry printed exchanges, the threat of Italian opera was finally removed as a result of the armed insurgency on 10 August 1792 that brought about the final collapse of the monarchy. During this period, theatre s were temporarily closed and the Italian singers who had performed Nina hastily fled an increasingly unstable France.

The issue of musical meaning, however, was not forgotten. Following the opening of the National Convention, a new legislative body, in September 1792 and the trial and subsequent execution of the king in January 1793, the revolutionary government grew increasingly radical. For theatres this meant two things: increased scrutiny in the way of secret police surveillance, and more insistent legislative calls for opera and drama of a revolutionary nature. Not surprisingly, repertoires grew more overtly political as the Revolution entered that phase known as the Reign of Terror. Needless to say, the government of the Terror had no tolerance for theatrical amusements that offered its spectators little more than momentary diversion, and it actively encouraged the production of dramas that served the needs of the new French republic.14 To this end, the National Convention passed legislation that required regular performances of works that ‘relate the glorious events of the Revolution and the virtues of the defenders of liberty’. More ominously, the legislators warned: ‘any theatre that performs works attempting to undermine public spirit and to revive the shameful superstition of royalty will be closed, and the directors will be arrested and punished to the full extent of the law’.15

In the scramble to comply with such laws, theatres turned to a genre now called the pièce de circonstance (occasional or topical works). This label applies to dramas based on current events, especially French military triumphs. Government leaders encouraged this practice, occasionally identifying subject matter for patriotic dramas. For example, in the December of 1793, when the French recaptured the port of Toulon from enemy forces, Bertrand Barère, a member of the Committee for Public Safety, gave a speech in which he called upon playwrights and composers to use this battle as the subject of theatrical representations: ‘It is the duty of the national theatres and stages to repeat for the French what was achieved on the banks of the Mediterranean’.16 Within a month, at least seven productions based on this victory premiered.17 My favorite of them is La prise de Toulon (The Fall of Toulon) with libretto by Louis Benoît Picard and music by Nicolas Dalayrac.18 This work incorporates a number of direct references to political leaders of the day including an extended quotation from a speech of Robespierre.19 However, what is of particular interest to us is the composer’s use of music to belittle the enemy. For example, in one scene an aristocratic judge shares his longing for life during the Ancien Régime:

When the high court returns
I expect great renown
Everyone will admire
My red judicial gown.
But what a pity, alack!
The high court is not coming back

How I will distinguish myself
When studying casework!
Judgments made with great wit
For the sake of my clerk!
But what a pity, alack!
The high court is not coming back.20

The nobleman’s fascination with clothes and gossipy intimacy with his assistant lend him a foppish effeminacy that was reinforced by the fact that the role was sung by a soprano in drag. Moreover, the melody to which this ditty is set was borrowed from a well-loved operatic romance sung by a lovesick young woman who tearfully expresses her yearning for an absent lover. In this rather sophisticated manner, the music contributes to the emasculation of the nobleman and evoked a commonly held notion that the Ancien Régime lacked the strength and virility of revolutionary society. Most of the musical humor, however, was significantly more coarse. At the start of the finale, as an army of reactionaries arrives, a fanfare is played on the mouthpiece of a horn connected to a length of tube, producing a sort of flatulent squawk. The absurd timbre perfectly matches the cowardly demeanor of these counter-revolutionaries, whose ranks consist of a few animals and some monks carrying umbrellas (the umbrellas offer them protection from falling shells once the revolutionary army commences its bombardment). Such comical musical devices contrast sharply with the stirring orchestral renditions of patriotic hymns like the ‘Marseillaise,’ that accompany the triumphal entry of the French into Toulon.

This and other pièces de circonstance staunchly supported the Revolution and the revolutionary government, but no matter how carefully these works were written and rehearsed, one could not predict what would happen in live performance. To assume that the audiences received the message passively and without question would be inaccurate. Throughout the Terror, this patriotic fare generated debate among audiences, not all of it favourable. Although police reports of the day confirm that the government of the Terror had created a heightened political awareness among theatregoers, these newly politicised audiences did not always share the outlook of the government in power. Concern with the unpredictability of theatre audiences grew even stronger in the wake of the Terror and the Thermidorian Reaction. The government of the Directory, in power from 1795–1799, made a renewed effort to employ the arts in order to manage public opinion. As a result, the Directory launched several projects of cultural rejuvenation. The establishment of the National Institute of Painting and Sculpture and the regular cycle of public festivals are evidence of this effort. Music for the theatre also attracted political attention, with new forms of governmental oversight and protection advocated.21 One legislator of the Directory government, Jean-Baptiste Leclerc went so far as to bridge the gap between politics and musical aesthetics. He forcefully advanced the cause of government intervention in support of music as a necessary safeguard for the French Republic. In his Essay on the Propagation of Music in France, Leclerc explained his aesthetic vision and drew a direct connection between the political sphere and the world of music:

Music perfected or corrupted nations according to whether governments proposed [the people’s] liberty or debasement. Under the rule of tyrants [music] enervated and made [people] slaves. Under moral authority, it permeated the soul and strengthened [their] love of virtue and patriotism.22

The power that Leclerc attributed to music provided any state that manipulated this rhetorical force intelligently with invaluable influence over listeners. Most governments, according to Leclerc, missed this opportunity and employed music in order to amuse their subjects in a futile attempt to distract them from seeking political power. France, however, had freed itself from this servile mentality in the 1770s through the operatic reform of the composer Christophe Willibald Gluck:

It is not at all a mistake to say that the revolution carried out by Gluck in music ought to have made the government [of the king] tremble. [Gluck’s] vigorous harmonies reawakened the generosity of the French; their souls were renewed and were made to see an energy that was acclaimed soon after. The throne was shaken.23

Leclerc’s essay unambiguously described music, specifically music for the theatre, as an agent of political power and blurred easy distinctions between music and the political sphere. He expected successful ideologies to incorporate a coherent system of aesthetics. If the State ignored this source of support, music could develop in a manner that would be detrimental to the future of the French Republic.

Leclerc and similarly minded critics urged the government to propagate—without a hint of irony—a revolutionary music, with restraint as a requisite aesthetic principle. To that end, they adopted compositional clarity and simplicity as standards of excellence. Of course, clarity and simplicity (in the sense of elegant understatement) were hardly new aesthetic concepts in France, but by invoking them these authors paved the way for traditional musical values to assume new political resonance.24 The career of François-Joseph Gossec exemplifies this process. Born in 1734, he formed his musical tastes and honed his compositional style during the Ancien Régime, but he earned lasting fame for the patriotic hymns he wrote for revolutionary festivals.25 In doing so, Gossec successfully drew upon the cultural legacy of the monarchical past in the service of the new regime. In a letter to a younger colleague, Gossec articulated an aesthetic position that neatly captures the mood of the second half of the 1790s.

Melody, melody! That is the refrain of sensible men and the sane part of the public. Harmonic detours, barbaric transitions, exaggerated chromaticism; that is the truck of fools and fanatics.26

The emphasis on a melodically dominated style was consistent with the aesthetic assumption that revolutionary music would assist a text in conveying a clear and unambiguous message. In order for lyrics to be understood, composers had to construct music that allowed clear declamation and would not overwhelm the singer or singers. Attractive melodies with unobtrusive accompaniments represented the simplest means to realise this end. Without a clearly articulated text, ambiguity—the enemy of a coherent aesthetic—was the result. Not surprisingly, critics of the late 1790s heralded the lyric theatre of the 1770s and 1780s as the appropriate standard for the future. Composers such as Grétry and Dalayrac, who had established their reputations prior to the Revolution, were presented as models for younger artists.27

Mistrust of changes to accepted aesthetic conventions permeated criticism of the time. When reading newspaper reviews of operatic performances, one is struck by the increasing number of references to bruit or ‘noise’. Now, clearly all music is noise, but the means by which any society distinguishes music from those sounds deemed inappropriate to musical discourse reflect its cultural values.28 At the end of the eighteenth century, the fascination with bruit grew from the desire of French critics to conserve aesthetic limits that would contain and protect music from the contamination of extraneous sound. At first, references to noise within operas appeared almost exclusively in response to the introduction of particularly loud wind instruments in theatre orchestras and the use of these instruments to create the impression of a battle, siege, or other sound effect.29 Soon, however, complaints regarding bruit were not confined to objections over dynamics, and the term came to refer to various musical features that the critics wanted to eliminate from musical composition altogether. In short, critics reacted adversely to the introduction of any unfamiliar sounds within the standard musical vocabulary.30 For example, in an essay from the Décade philosophique (an influential weekly newspaper), one author dismissed opera scores that contained ‘the clank of bizarre chords which seems to form the foundation of the musical system in fashion today’.31 Even if the term bruit did not appear in this condemnation of harmonic novelty, noise was clearly in the author’s mind. Gossec’s cry of ‘melody, melody’ was echoed repeatedly.

The tension between melodically dominated musical styles and the use of ‘harmonic effects’ was particularly acute in overtures. With no vocal line to restrain them, composers could indulge their whims and experiment with unusual combinations of timbre or drastic contrasts of texture and dynamics.32 When compared to the ideal of an earlier generation, in which the overture was expected to introduce a mood appropriate to the subject of the drama, the perceived emphasis on musical effect often appeared to be a poor substitute. An anonymous reviewer in the Courrier des spectacles complained:

The overture [today] is a piece entirely outside the character of the opera. We see that the most brusque contrasts and the most striking oppositions are sought within them. After having heard the introduction begin in an extremely subdued manner, often lugubrious or full of pathos, and concluding with the noisiest, the fastest, and even the most irritable effects, we are completely astonished to see that nothing in the course of the work justifies this sort of composition.33

The lack of dramatic support for what this reviewer perceived as unmusical effects was a serious charge to be levelled against compositional novelties. This noise in contemporary music was further attested to by a poem entitled ‘Orchestra’ that poked fun at scores dominated by such devices, and associated complex harmonies with the din of battle:

Our orchestras have harmony
That is all noise and roar.
When depicting melancholy,
One offers sounds of war.
To portray peace and innocence,
Trombones and bugles call.
Accompanying a new romance
One will soon shoot a canon ball.34

Of course, if complex harmonies were used skillfully within a score, the criticism could take a slightly different approach; such works were labeled ‘overly learned’ (trop savant). Such reviews recognized the technical prowess of composers while simultaneously suggesting that their skill produced a cold and possibly tedious result.35 The composer Luigi Cherubini, in particular, attracted this sort of criticism. Even when his music received praise for its dramatic force and color, the label ‘too learned’ often followed. Indeed, one reviewer lamented the fact that ‘it is necessary to hear ten performances of [his new opera] in order to understand the music’.36 Without condemning contrapuntal techniques explicitly, the use of terms such as ‘learned’ or ‘scholarly’ identified extended contrapuntal passages as inappropriate for the lyric theatre, a form of unintelligible noise.

Of course, the generally conservative bias that dominated these evaluations of music did not preclude the possibility of novelty and invention. What distinguished critical attitudes towards music during the Directory was the desire to maintain aesthetic boundaries. Critics applauded innovation only if it were appropriately presented within the proper forms and did not represent a radical departure from traditional stylistic norms. Carefully constructed frames enclosed whatever unexpected passions might be released by the introduction of musical novelties. A work like Cherubini’s Médée startled reviewers who felt the composer and librettist were testing genre boundaries, a fact that led the author Le Chabeaussière to declare ‘if ever a dramatic subject and conception merited being called musical terrorism, it is surely that of [Cherubini’s] Médée’.37 The use of the phrase ‘musical terrorism’ stands out in this context, even more so when we realize that a different review of the same opera described Cherubini as ‘one of those whom the amoroso composers are pleased to call music terrorists in reference to the noise of their orchestra and the abundance of their dramatic effects. Méhul and occasionally Le Sueur are placed alongside him, other terrorists in music’. Notwithstanding the witty irony that was at play in these references, there can be no doubt that the term terrorist evoked for readers of the day images of the Reign of Terror, conflating musical aesthetics with political ideology. So when Gossec decried complex harmonies as ‘truck of fools and fanatics’ he may well have been thinking of radical revolutionaries. A similar sentiment was expressed by the esteemed Grétry at roughly the same time when he wrote to a friend that the music of the early 1790s had been little more than ‘the howling of dogs’.38 These critical concerns expressed a cultural anxiety that, like the government’s fear of uncontrolled political expression, was a product of the Revolution. ‘Noise’ represented a departure from established order.

Let us now return to the engraving that I spoke of at the start of this presentation. As I mentioned, the border resembles a proscenium. Compare this with another engraving, a print of a theatre auditorium from the end of the eighteenth century. The theatre in question is none other than the Théâtre Feydeau, the venue in which the opera La caverne was premiered. Notice that certain details of the theatre proscenium recall those of the title page. These decorations, however, were not present in the theatre at the time of the opera’s first performance. They were added in a remodelling that occurred in 1798. A newspaper review of the remodelling praised the new look, especially the proscenium that ‘occupies the space of the loges that were [formerly] on the sides of the stage and behind the curtain’. The removal of those stage boxes is significant because, as a result, the audience within the auditorium was separated more decisively from the action onstage. Unlike most Ancien R é gim e theatres, in which select members of the audience rented boxes on stage, muddying the distinction between audience member and performer, the Théâtre Feydeau now confined performers and audiences to distinct areas. I do not propose a direct link between the theatre and the title page, but I do want to suggest that the similarities point toward shared values. The architects who remodelled the auditorium mixed revolutionary and classical symbols in the same spirit as the engraver of the title page. Moreover, they shared a goal: to enclose the stage action. Returning once more to the title page: the border encompasses the violence that we see unfolding on the stage, distancing the viewer from it. The turbulence within the cave is contained between solid classical architecture that is supported by a cultural tradition as venerable as that of the ancients. The parallel to the aesthetic values discussed earlier is noteworthy. As we have already seen, by the end of the 1790s, critics believed music possessed enormous emotional power, and as such it needed containment. Securing musical meaning with appropriate texts was important but insufficient. Hence the emphasis on qualities like order and restraint, imposing them on composer and listener alike to avoid the creation of noise. In the absence of imposed regulation and standards, an unmanageable cacophony of individual voices—even terror—could result. Thus, whether concerned with the harmonies of an operatic finale or of public opinion within the political sphere, these values erected boundaries that delineated and protected appropriate modes of expression. In every sense of the word, they ‘contained’ revolution.


Extended footnotes for this lecture can be obtained from the author at

1. Louis Portiez, Opinion de Portiez (de l’Oise) sur les théâtres ( Paris : Imprimerie National, 1798), p. 2.

2. Jean-François Le Sueur, La caverne: Drame lyrique en trios actes ( Paris : Nadermann, 1796).

3. See the description of these enterprises in Nicolas-Etienne Framery, De l’organisation des spectacles de Paris, ou Essai sur leur forme actuelle sur les moyens de l’améliorer, par rapport au public and aux acteurs ( Paris : Buisson, 1790).

4. The relationship of the official theatre s to the unofficial spectacles at the end of the eighteenth-century is well covered in Michèle Root-Bernstein, Boulevard Theatre and Revolution in Eighteenth-Century Paris (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1984).

5. Frederich Grimm, Correspondance littéraire philosophique et critique (Paris: Garnier Frères, 1877-82), 14:193.

6. Isaac-René-Guy Le Chapelier, Rapport fait par M. Le Chapelier au nom du Comité de constitution, sur la petition des auteurs dramatiques dans la séance du Jeudi, 13 janvier 1791 avec le décret rendu dans cette séance (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, [1791]).

7. See my ‘Battling over the Lyric Muse: Expressions of Revolution and Counter-revolution at the Théâtre Feydeau, 1789–1801’ (Ph.D. dissertation, Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1994), pp. 68–82.

8. See for example, Journal de Paris, 5 September 1791, pp. 1013–14.

9. The original was written by Benoît-Joseph Marsollier and set to music by Nicolas Dalayrac.

10. For a more thorough discussion of the events surrounding the Parisian premiere of Nina, see my ‘The Italian Menace: Opera Buffa in Revolutionary France,’ Eighteenth-Century Music (forthcoming).

11. Pétition adressé à l’Assemblée nationale par les auteurs dramatiques ( Paris : Du Pont, 1791), p. 4.

12. This limited view of music, more typical of French thought of the mid-eighteenth century was changing. See Ora F. Saloman, ‘French Revolutionary Perspectives on Chabanon’s De la Musique of 1785,’ in Music and the French Revolution, ed. Malcolm Boyd (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1992), pp. 211–220.

13. Lynn A. Hunt, Politics, Culture and Class in the French Revolution (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1984), pp. 44–46.

14. For example, Anarcharsis Cloots, Opinion: Spectacles (Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1793–1794) and the reactions to Cloots in Procès-verbaux du Comité d’instruction publique de la Convention nationale, ed. M. J. Guillaume (Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1891–1907), 3:75.

15. Décret de la Convention nationale du à la représentation du 2 août 1793, l’an second de la république française relatif à la représentation des pièces de théâtre (Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1793), pp. 1–2. For the full text of this law see my ‘Battling over the Lyric Muse,’ p. 337.

16. Archives parlementaires de 1787 à 1860, eds J. Mavido and E. Laurent (Paris: Librairie Administrative de P. Dupont, 1862–1913). Rapport sur la marine, 14 nivôse an II ( 3 January 1794 ), ser. 1, 82:613.

17. Raphaëlle Legrand, ‘L’information politique par l’opéra: L’Exemple de La prise de Toulon,’ in Le tambour et la harpe: Oeuvres pratiques et manifestations sous la Révolution, eds J.-R. Julien and J. Mongrédien (Paris: Du May, 1991), pp. 111–121.

18. The sole surviving manuscript score (incomplete) is found in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Division de Musique, D. 2551. The libretto (probably revised) survives in Louis Benoît Picard, Théâtre républicain posthume et inédit (Paris: Mme Charles Béchet, 1832), pp. 240–82.

19. Compare Picard, Théâtre républicain, p. 282 with Maximilien Robestpierre, Oeuvres, ed. Laponneraye (Paris: Chez l’auteur, 1840), 3:511.

20. Picard, op. cit., pp. 259–60.

21. Esprit des journaux, fructidor, an IX (August/September 1800), pp. 201–204.

22. For a contemporary review of Leclerc’s essay see Esprit des journaux, November 1796, pp. 96–104.

23. Ibid, p. 10.

24. Saloman, ‘French Revolutionary Perspectives,’ pp. 212–213.

25. In the nineteenth century, Gossec served as professor of composition at the Paris Conservatory. Following the Bourbon Restoration, however, he lost this job, dying in poverty in 1829.

26. Gossec to H. A. Chelard, no date, Bibliothèque Nationale, Division de Musique, Lettres autographes, vol. 44, no. 305.

27. Courrier des spectacles, 18 fructidor, an VI ( 4 September 1798 ), pp. 3–4.

28. See Jacques Attali, Noise: The Political Economy of Music, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985), esp. pp. 21–45.

29. For example, orchestral imitation of battle sounds was a common feature of the pièces de circonstance, but critics only tolerated the use of these musical effects when specifically called for by the libretti.

30. I have found only one instance in which bruit is used as a term of approbation although undoubtedly others exist. In Semaines critiques, no. 1, 27 March 1797, p. 31, Cherubini’s Médée is referred to as ‘un beau bruit, un bruit énorme.’

31. Décade philosophique, 20 vendémiaire, an VI ( 11 October 1797 ), p. 105.

32. Basil Deane, ‘The French Operatic Overture from Grétry to Berlioz,’ Proceedings of the Royal Music Association 99 (1972/73): pp. 67–80.

33. Courrier des spectacles, 18 fructidor, an VI ( 4 September 1798 ), p. 4.

34. Marant, Tout Paris en vaudevilles (Paris: Barba, 1801), pp. 136–37. The air for this vaudeville was ‘Il faut quitter ce que j’adore.’

35. See William Weber, ‘Learned and General Musical Taste in Eighteenth-Century France,’ Past and Present, 89 (November 1980), pp. 58–85.

36. Petite poste, 29 ventôse, an V ( 19 March 1797 ), p. 896.

37. Décade philosophique, littéraire et politique, 30 ventôse, an V ( 20 March 1797 ), p. 556; as quoted in David Charlton, ‘Cherubini: A Critical Anthology, 1788–1801,’ Research Chronicle, 26 (1993), pp. 95–127.

38. Grétry to M. de Croix, 14 February 1796, in La correspondance générale de Grétry, ed. G. de Froidcourt (Brussels: Brepols, 1962), p. 173.