French Opera


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A Short History

Vincent Giroud

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French opera is second only to Italian opera in the length, breadth, and diversity of its history. Yet most people, if asked to come up with titles, could mention only a handful of titles—Carmen, Faust, Pelleas et Melisande, Samson et Dalila—a small list for an operatic tradition that began in the seventeenth century and is still very much alive. This book provides a full, single-volume account of opera in France from its origins to the present day.

Vincent Giroud looks at the leading composers, from Lully to Messiaen and beyond; at the development of French operatic form and style; at performance, performers, and audience; and at the impact of French opera beyond France’s borders. Lovers of opera will find this an ideal companion to their appreciation of the form.

Vincent Giroud was formerly Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts at the Beinecke Library, Yale University. He is currently a professor at the University of Franche-Comté. His recent publications include William Walton, Composer; St Petersburg: A Portrait of a Great City; The World of Witold Gombrowicz; and Picasso and Gertrude Stein.

"Vincent Giroud's French Opera is a feast for anyone who cares about opera or French music in general. From Lully to Puolenc and beyond, via Rameau, Bizet, Gounod, Massenet and Debussy, with excursions to Belle Epoque operetta, French verismo and contemporary avant-garde composers like Saariaho, Giroud illuminates the story of the most continuously vital operatic tradition in the world. Immediately indispensable."—John Ashbery

"A brilliant overview of the history of French opera, scrupulously researched and eminently readable. The people, the politics, the scandals - informative and entertaining."—Richard Bonynge AO, CBE

"A long overdue, fantastically useful, and authoritative account of a neglected area. Vincent Giroud has done for English-speaking readers something that has long been needed. Let us hope his book brings the riches of the French operatic tradition more to the fore so that many more great examples of French opera can reach the stage and become part of the active repertory. Giroud's elegant command of the subject is a delight."—Leon Botstein, President of Bard College, Music Director of the American Symphony Orchestra 

"Eminently readable... readers will delight in new or forgotten names and will eagerly seek out renewed performances, for Giroud shows a rare ability to conjure up the particular musical qualities and eccentricities of composers over a wide range of talent."—Margaret M. McGowan FBA, University of Sussex

"From the revolution, through romanticism, the age of Grand opera, the Second Empire and the Belle Époque to the present day, Giroud's short but telling history proves an excellent and essential introduction to the subject."—Michael Quinn, Classical Music

"[Giroud is] an indispensable guide to 350 years of French repertory. . . . He does a superb job parsing the bewildering taxonomy of French opera, distinguishing grand opera from tragedie lyrique, operette from opera-cominique. . . . His unapologetic advocacy and depth of knowledge make this 'short history' a rich one."—Jesse Cohen, Opera News

"[Giroud’s] uncommon ability to present the gist of an opera is admirable.”—Andrew Thomson, Musical Times

“This engrossing tome details the cultural significance of opera in France and puts before us developments of the nation’s varied operatic achievements…..The illumination and detail is dazzling; vast learning made so digestible it might pass you by.”—Robert Giddings, Tribune

ISBN: 9780300117653
Publication Date: June 29, 2010
352 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
24 b/w illus.
St. Petersburg

A Portrait of a Great City

Vincent Giroud

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The World of Witold Gombrowicz 1904-1969

Catalog of a Centenary Exhibition at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University

Vincent Giroud

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