Carnival in Venice or Protest in Paris? Louis XIV and the Politics of Subversion at the Paris Opéra
Journal of the American Musicological Society
Vol. 54, No. 2 (Summer 2001), pp. 265-302
After Louis XIV’s banishment of the Comédie-Italienne in 1697, its costumes and masks became increasingly fashionable among a public disenchanted with absolutist politics. This article reveals the manner in which the plots, characters, and subversive satire of the Comédie-Italienne inform two ballets of André Campra, Le Carnaval de Venise (1699) and Les Fêtes vénitiennes (1710). Following the satiric strategies of the Comédie-Italienne as well as two earlier tragédies en musique at the Paris Opéra, Campra and his librettists use an exotic Venetian setting as a mask for the libertine entertainments of a French public sphere. Reversing the ideology of Louis XIV’s courtly fêtes, they deconstruct his absolutist image in three ways: through a literary web of allusion, satire, and parody; through an Italianate musical style that serves to undermine the French language of absolutism; and through the thematic celebration of a new public audience as the subversive heir to the royal prerogative of pleasure.