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Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

Volume 15 (2009) No. 1

French Opera in Print and on Stage in Antwerp: Three Generations of Antwerp Book Publishers and Their Opera Librettos (1682–1714)

Timothy De Paepe*

1. Introduction

2. The Introduction of Opera in Antwerp

3. The First Librettos and Establishing Who Published Them: 1682–1684

4. Van Dunwalt’s Sources

5. The Collections

6. A Second Series of Librettos: 1684–1689

7. A Successor: Bartholomeus Foppens

8. Petrus Grangé

9. The Publishers and Their Motives

10. The Use of the Librettos

11. Conclusions




1. Introduction

1.1 Between 1682 and 1714 three generations of Antwerp1 publishers—Hendrick van Dunwalt, Bartholomeus Foppens, and Petrus Grangé—issued nearly sixty opera librettos in duodecimo format. The great majority of these librettos were for operas by Jean-Baptiste Lully. Later a small number of other French composers, including Colasse, Delalande, and Destouches, were added to the list. In each case the original text of the opera was printed in its entirety, often including the list of performers of the original French court performances. Who were these relatively unknown publishers? Why were these librettos published in Antwerp and why did they begin to appear in 1682? And finally, what was the function of the librettos?

1.2 Van Dunwalt, Foppens, and Grangé have received very little attention. The three publishers had a strong personal relationship, and can therefore be considered as a single printer’s dynasty which played a noteworthy role in the dissemination of the operas of Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632–1687) and some of his contemporaries. However, they did not publish their librettos without reason or context. Relatively little has been written about the introduction of opera in Antwerp and about the operatic life which developed in that city during the last two decades of the seventeenth and the first decade of the eighteenth century. Yet, as this article will argue, it is there and then that we have to look for the reason for the existence of these librettos, as their publication can only be understood in the context of the arrival of French opera in Antwerp in 1682.

1.3 In this article I will first provide some background on the Antwerp opera. After that, the publishers and their work will be discussed. I will add several anonymously published librettos to the list of works that can be attributed to Hendrick van Dunwalt. And finally, this article will explore the publishers’ motives and the use of the librettos vis-à-vis the introduction of opera in Antwerp.

2. The Introduction of Opera in Antwerp

2.1 In 1585 Antwerp, at the heart of the religious wars raging through the Low Countries, was captured by the Spanish troops and became part of the Catholic Southern Netherlands. The second largest city north of the Alps during the first half of the sixteenth century, Antwerp soon lost over half of its population and its position as a commercial hub to the Protestant Northern Netherlands, especially Amsterdam. Antwerp, however, had not lost its taste for splendor and all things fashionable. Foreign travelers visiting Antwerp during the second half of the seventeenth century were still impressed by the monumentality of the city’s ramparts, the grandeur of its Gothic and Baroque churches, the splendor of the paintings created by Peter Paul Rubens and his pupils, and the art collections of its richest merchants.2 One particular luxury its bourgeois citizens liked to indulge in was theater.

2.2 The Chambers of Rhetoric (Rederijkerskamers), the renaissance theatrical societies in Antwerp, had by the middle of the seventeenth century lost their momentum, and the temporary void they left was quickly filled by the first, and for a long time only, fully commercial public theater of Antwerp, the so-called Almoners’ Theater. This new theater opened its doors in January, 1661. The city almoners, responsible for the care of the poor and the sick, the mentally ill and the orphaned, hoped that running a theater would provide new income: any profit would be used to support the needy and destitute. In the process of founding their theater, the almoners also hoped to ban other commercial theaters in the city, using the argument that “they [the organizers of theatrical performances] often try to rob our citizens of their money, they corrupt many of our youth, and they often cause discord among families.”3 Eventually, it was agreed that a quarter of the income of any commercial performance outside the Almoners’ Theater would go to the almoners.

2.3 The new stage and auditorium were erected in a small, unused sales hall, about 60 feet long and over 27 feet wide, located on the ground floor of a guild house, called the House of Spain, near the city hall (Figure 1). The very first companies to perform in the theater were local. The majority of the repertory was local as well and, therefore, in Dutch. Often, between the spoken plays some modest music was performed.4 After a few years, travelling troupes, apparently mostly from the Northern Netherlands, were also welcomed.5 The first decade was a relatively successful period, but during the 1670s the theater became less profitable and a new repertory was urgently needed.

2.4 When the French author Jean-François Regnard visited Antwerp in 1681, he noticed the eagerness with which the Antwerp population was following French fashion.6 The Antwerp almoners, acknowledging the French tastes of its audience, hoped to take advantage of this popularity and looked to France for inspiration. In France, the court composer Jean-Baptiste Lully had a few years earlier begun to produce a series of tragédies en musique. The influence of these operas would quickly spread beyond France, where they were performed by travelling French troupes or by local companies. In 1677 in Amsterdam, Isis was the first Lully opera performed in the Northern Netherlands, even though it would take several more years before Lully’s operas would be performed there on a regular basis.7 In the Southern Netherlands the first documented performances of Lully operas—Thésée in May and Persée in August 16828—took place in Brussels, where the governor and his court resided, although “it was not until more than a decade later that Lully’s tragedies saw steady production.”9  Despite the absence of a court culture and notwithstanding the bleak economic times, only a few months later Antwerp too would fall under the spell of Jean-Baptiste Lully.

2.5 In the summer of 1682, the composer Joannes de Haze (fl. 1681–1689), the singer and composer Nicolaes Procureur (1653–1723), the church singer Gillis Diricx (fl. 1681–1685), and the violinst Joannes Anthonius Lemire (1661–1733) signed a contract with the almoners and agreed that they would be responsible for the organization and performance of operas.10 Musical scores were bought, more musicians from the local musicians’ guild were hired, and the stage of the Almoners’ Theater was entirely renovated by installing the machinery for quick scene changes and modern perspective scenery (Figure 2). Finally, in late October 1682, Antwerp citizens could attend their very first operas.

2.6 The first opera was Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Bellérophon, followed by Proserpine, two tragédies en musique.11 While the main attraction was Lully’s music, evidence exists that these (and other) performances were followed by very short musical farces in Dutch, of which at least three survive: Belachelycke kluchte vanden onstantvastighen minnaer,12 De wel-bedachte ende vermaeckelycke kluchte vande broek-draghende vrouwe (Figure 5),13 and Het aenghenaem divertissement vande twee honden aen een been (published together with the Dialogue entre Lisette, et Lucas).14 All of them were published in Antwerp by Hendrick van Dunwalt. For Italian opera there was no room.15

2.7 The operas were an immediate success: between November 1682 and February 1683 at least 38 performances were given, and more probably followed as the contract stipulated that at least 50 were to be given.16 The limited size of the theater—“la  place est trop petite pour des grandes representations” lamented the almoners—determined  the size of the orchestra: two or three violins, a viola, two bass violins, a harpsichord, and an occasional bassoon.17 Added to that was a complement of around eight singers, a few actors for silent roles and, when required, four dancers.18 All in all a small company, quite unlike the forces Lully had at his disposal in France, but enough to preserve the essence of Lully’s music.

3. The First Librettos and Establishing Who Published Them: 1682–1684

3.1 Performances were only one of the ways through which the Antwerp public became acquainted with the works of Lully; librettos were another. This article opened by referring to three generations of Antwerp publishers and their librettos. Establishing the chronology of these librettos is the first problem that must be tackled. Carl Schmidt was the first to study the librettos of Lully’s operas extensively and systematically from a bibliographical point of view, resulting in several articles and in his authoritative catalogue.19 If we follow Schmidt’s chronology, the first individual libretto with a reference to Antwerp (“à Anvers”), is Amadis, published in late 1684. However, if we are willing to dig a little deeper, more and earlier librettos come to light.

3.2 In 1682 and 1683 a series of (at least) eleven librettos of operas by Jean-Baptiste Lully was published (Table 1). These librettos were decorated with an armillary sphere as printer’s device (Figure 3). The place of publication is not disclosed on the title page, but the librettos follow “la copie imprimée à Paris.” Schmidt attributes the printer’s device to an anonymous Amsterdam printer/publisher. That attribution is based on a comparison with rather similar devices used by Amsterdam printers and in particular by the Elzevier printing house.20 These librettos were not objects of great value, but simple, hastily printed booklets. They contain no engraving, and even the printer’s device is witness to the low quality and the high speed with which they were created: “[le] titre est orné d’une sphère des plus grossières,” a printer’s device most crude indeed.21

3.3 The printer/publisher of these librettos remains anonymous, but in 1683 several of the librettos appeared again, this time bundled under a general title page (Figure 4) and a new frontispiece created by the Antwerp engraver Gaspar Bouttats (1648–1696). The rather high-flown title of this collection reads: Le Parnas François, ou œuvres mis en musique par le Sieur Jean-Baptist Lully Sur-Intendant de la Musique Royale. Tome second. The title page also informs the reader that the “copie imprimée à Paris” was followed and that the collection was sold in Antwerp, “chez Henry van Dunwalt libraire.” This “Henry” (Hendrick) van Dunwalt bundled the individual librettos and had a frontispiece for the collection designed by a local artist, but was he also responsible for the individual librettos, that is was he just an importer and a reseller, or was he also the printer and publisher?

3.4 That these librettos were not printed in France where printers like the Ballard family and René Baudry controlled the market has already been established by Schmidt.22 What then about Schmidt’s logical solution: that the librettos were published in Amsterdam? The armillary sphere was indeed a popular printer’s device in the Northern Netherlands, but also appeared in other cities, including Brussels in the Southern Netherlands.23 Research into more local printed matter published in the city of Antwerp reveals that an identical armillary sphere appears on the title page of a play which has nothing to do with either Paris or Amsterdam, the farce De wel-bedachte ende vermaeckelycke kluchte vande broeck–draghende vrouwe (Figure 5), that had been “presented in music by the amateurs of the Antwerp opera in the year 1683” and was now being sold by none other than Hendrick van Dunwalt.

3.5 Hendrick van Dunwalt is a figure who left relatively few traces. He was born in Antwerp in 1655 as the son of a maker of scales and coin-weights called Artus (Arnoldus) van Dunwalt and his wife Joanna van de Velde. In 1667–8 he entered the guild of Saint-Luke—the guild of, among others, painters, sculptors and book printers and sellers—as an apprentice, and in 1679–80 he became a full master book seller. Not much later, in 1681 he married Maria Magdalena Jouret (1657–ca.1707).24

3.6 On the title page of the 1683 Parnas François Van Dunwalt identifies himself as a book seller, not as a book printer, nor does he mention the name of any other possible printer. Yet, we do know that Van Dunwalt was a printer himself: in 1681 he had acquired a printer’s license. Van Dunwalt was a relatively versatile printer. The largest part of his output consisted of religious works, including several devotional books and a songbook, but he also printed at least two fully illustrated books on geography, an emblem book and a handful of theatrical pieces by local playwrights.25 Van Dunwalt limited himself to text, and he did not print any music.

3.7 In order to determine whether Van Dunwalt was just the retailer of the opera librettos, we should look at some of the books that we know Van Dunwalt did print himself. A number of similarities between these books and the librettos—some typographical ornaments found in Thésée (1682) can also be found in Les veritez chrétiennes (1683), several initials used in Persée (1682) are reused in Les Œuvres de Sainte Therese (1688), an initial used in, again, Thésée turns up in the songbook ‘t Hemels lusthofken (1681)—confirm that not an Amsterdam or Parisian printer was responsible for printing the librettos, but Hendrick van Dunwalt.26 This also means that the first Antwerp librettos did not appear in 1684 but in 1682, the very same year the Antwerp opera house was opened.

4. Van Dunwalt’s Sources

4.1 Printing librettos means finding source texts: manuscript sources or librettos printed elsewhere. As far as we can tell, Hendrick van Dunwalt had no clear relations with France, where, logically, the original librettos came from. As Schmidt demonstrated, the Lully operas and especially their librettos quickly found their way to other regions and countries.27 The Northern Netherlands in particular, and especially Amsterdam, were quick to pick up these librettos where they would appear in print from the late 1670’s onwards, despite, at that point in history, the lack of regular performances of Lully’s operas.28

4.2 Van Dunwalt had therefore two possible locations to obtain the sources for his librettos: Paris or Amsterdam. He chose the latter. Reconstructing the chronology of Van Dunwalts librettos (Table 1) and comparing this chronology with the chronology of other publishers,29 reveals that Van Dunwalt uses the same texts as the publisher of librettos printed in Amsterdam under the motto “Quaerendo,” who, most likely, was Abraham Wolfgang (1658–1695). And since Wolfgang was nearly always the first to print a specific libretto (for example, Wolfgang published Alceste, Psyché and Thésée in 1680, which Van Dunwalt published in 1682; Wolfgang then published a second edition of Amadis in 1684, which Van Dunwalt copied and published in 1685) it seems logical that it was Van Dunwalt who followed Wolfgang, not the other way around.

4.3 Van Dunwalt had at least one connection with Amsterdam and he would develop a second one. His first connection was a personal one since his uncle Geeraerdt van Dunwalt had settled in Amsterdam around 1666.30 A second connection, which he developed from 1682 onwards, was a professional one. Van Dunwalt was also active as a printer of straight plays from the Antwerp Almoners’ Theater, and several of these plays would appear in collaboration with the Amsterdam publishers Albert Magnus and (the widow of) Michiel de Groot.31 This shows that books easily crossed the Dutch border and that Van Dunwalt had convenient access to Amsterdam sources.

4.4 When using the Amsterdam librettos as the basis for his own editions he changed little or nothing: he copied the complete text of the title pages, the prefaces, the lists of singers and of course the actual words from the opera. Van Dunwalt only changed the type and the typographical ornaments, using the material he had at his disposal, and he dropped any images, such as the engravings or frontispieces that Wolfgang used, saving time and money. Wolfgang seems to have based his librettos on French originals which meant that they earned the indication “suivant la copie imprimée à Paris,” but it also meant that they often contained some extraneous information such as the original French list of performers. Apparently that did not bother either Wolfgang or Van Dunwalt as it gave their librettos an aura of authenticity.

5. The Collections

5.1 Although Hendrick van Dunwalt slavishly followed the content of the Amsterdam librettos, he also took some initiative himself. As mentioned earlier, Van Dunwalt published his first recueil factice, or collected edition, in 1683, which means that he was the first outside France to bundle several Lully librettos to create a more or less unified work.32 He gave the edition a new general title page and title, Le Parnas François, and a new frontispiece, engraved by Gaspar Bouttats depicting Mount Parnassus with the muses, Apollo, and Pegasus (Figure 6). Bouttats and Van Dunwalt collaborated frequently and they were responsible for some very diverse works, including an emblem book and a geographical book with maps.33

5.2 The title page tells us that Le Parnas François is actually the second volume (“tome second”) in a series. This, however, must have been some sort of sales ploy, since no first (or third) volume seems to have existed, only a second volume which could contain any possible configuration of librettos. Depending on the exemplar one examines of this “tome second” of Le Parnas François, the table of contents lists Atys, Psyché, Alceste, Cadmus et Hermione, and Isis; or Thésée, Bellérophon, Proserpine, Le triomphe de l’Amour, and Persée.34

6. A Second Series of Librettos: 1684–1689

6.1 By the end of 1684 Hendrick van Dunwalt reached the bottom of his libretto supply and began printing new editions (Table 2). Between 1684 and 1689 at least 29 librettos were published under Van Dunwalt’s name. With a few exceptions these were all of operas by Lully. The sources remained the same, again the publications of Abraham Wolfgang, but the title pages of the individual librettos were changed. The old, rough armillary device was thrown out and replaced by a new version of much higher quality (Figure 7). Also, no longer do we find that the librettos followed “la copie imprimée à Paris,” but that they were actually printed in Paris and that Van Dunwalt sold them, the exact same wording he had already used on Le Parnas François.35 By claiming that the works were printed in Paris he probably tried to pass himself off as the exclusive importer of these librettos. It is not clear why Van Dunwalt chose to use an armillary shield, a printer’s device popular in Amsterdam and Paris, as his printer’s device right from the start, but this too may have been an attempt to make the librettos appear more “foreign.” It has less to do with piracy than with giving his publications an aura of quality, legitimacy and perhaps a direct link to Paris, all of which were sales arguments which appealed to the francophile public in Antwerp. Paris still has little to do with these printed matters: just like the old printer’s device, the new armillary sphere also appears on several other (more local) works that Van Dunwalt printed.36

6.2 In the meantime, in 1685, Van Dunwalt began publishing new collected editions. He dropped the name Le Parnas François and copied the title Abraham Wolfgang had begun using in 1684 for his first collected edition: Recueil des Opera’ des Balets, & des plus belles Pieces en Musique.37 This time Van Dunwalt did publish a first and a second volume. Unlike Wolfgang’s set, a third volume did not appear. Initially Van Dunwalt’s new collected editions contained a mix of material printed between 1682 and 1685, but when these librettos ran out they were supplanted by post-1685 librettos.

7. A Successor: Bartholomeus Foppens

7.1 The librettos and a collected edition Van Dunwalt published in 1688 were his last works as a publisher. Those librettos that appeared in 1689 were his work only in name: around December 1688 Hendrick Van Dunwalt suddenly died.38 His widow, Maria Magdalena van Dunwalt née Jouret, continued Hendrick’s business for some time on her own, but she soon got help from Bartholomeus Foppens (d. 1697), whom she would marry in May 1689.39 Conveniently enough, Foppens became a master bookseller of the Guild of Saint Luke in 1688–9. Like Van Dunwalt, Foppens wasn’t just a book seller: in the following years he accepted several apprentice book printers and typesetters in his workplace,  and in April 1689 he acquired his own printer’s license.40

7.2 Bartholomeus Foppens was a true heir to Van Dunwalt’s legacy and reprinted several works of his predecessor, religious texts as well as plays. Apart from adding new librettos, Foppens also reprinted several librettos Van Dunwalt had published in the preceding years. Both in content and design these reprints are quite similar to each other, the only major update being the address on the title page which changes from “on les vends a Anvers chez Henry van Dunwaldt” to “on les vends a Anvers chez Barthélémy Foppens.” Foppens also continued to use the armillary sphere as his printer’s device (Figure 8).41 When printing his own collected editions, he even reused some of Van Dunwalt’s title pages and added his own librettos, which resulted in collections with a 1688 title page but with 1693 librettos.42

7.3 After Lully’s death in 1687, other French composers tried to fill the void. In Antwerp these changes could be felt as well. Foppens printed eight librettos (Table 3), half of which were from operas by Lully, but he added several new composers to his production, including Delalande, Campra, and Desmarest.

8. Petrus Grangé

8.1 When Bartholomeus Foppens died in January 1697, Maria Magdalena once more tried to continue the business and she had Foppens’ printer’s license transferred to her in January 1698.43 She seems, however, to have lost interest in printing opera librettos and during the years that followed Maria Magdalena Jouret printed only a single libretto: Lully’s Armide (1707). When she died that same year, successors had already been appointed: her children would continue the printing business.44 Under the designation “les heritiers d’Henry Dunnewalt & de Barthelemy Foppens” they printed at least one libretto: Le Carnaval et la Folie by Antoine Houdar de la Motte and André Cardinal Destouches (Table 4).

8.2 Maria Magdalena Jouret’s heirs were her daughter Magdalena van Dunwalt and her son-in-law Petrus Grangé (d. 1734). Grangé had become a master of the Guild of Saint Luke in 1706, but he received his printer’s license only in 1711.45 The years between these two dates were covered by a license to the “heritiers,” which included Grangé.

8.3 Between 1711 and 1714 Petrus Grangé published at least six librettos (Table 5). Grangé no longer used the old armillary sphere as his printer’s device, but another that Schmidt describes as “a decorative letter ‘A’ surrounded by an oval frame intertwined with foliage.”46 While the form does indeed suggest an A and could refer to Antwerp, it is actually a combination of the letters B and F, both regular and mirrored (Figure 9). These letters can only refer to Bartholomeus Foppens, Grangé’s immediate predecessor, and no doubt came from his supply of typographical material, which confirms that there is no real caesura between Van Dunwalt, Foppens, and Grangé. Grangé published his last libretto in 1714.

9. The Publishers and Their Motives

9.1 What drove Hendrick van Dunwalt to begin publishing these librettos? The fact that the first Antwerp opera house opened in the same year the first librettos were published should already be a clear indication of what inspired Van Dunwalt. He knew well in advance that opera was going to be introduced. In the Fall of 1682, when preparations for the opera performances were underway, the almoners turned to Van Dunwalt in the hopes that he, as a bookseller, would be able to provide the score of Proserpine. And indeed, Van Dunwalt obtained a copy of the score which he then sold to the almoners for ten guilders; the original payment note has survived.47 It does not specify how he obtained the score or in what form (a printed edition or a manuscript copy). An exemplar of a Ballard print seems unlikely as the price is probably too low, so a manuscript copy seems more likely. A manuscript copy of Proserpine from the Almoners’ Theater does indeed survive in B-Aa  (Figure 10), but was apparently copied by a bassoon player, not by Van Dunwalt.48

9.2 That the whole opera undertaking was quickly becoming a reality must have led Van Dunwalt to realize the potential opera offered him as a publisher: after all, where there is an audience for opera performances, there must also be a market for the librettos of operas. Indeed, the very moment the first operas were performed in Antwerp, Van Dunwalt began selling librettos, including those of Proserpine and Bellérophon. That Van Dunwalt rushed to get his librettos ready explains why the armillary sphere he had used on his first series of librettos was created so hastily.

9.3 The publication of Van Dunwalt’s first series of librettos (Table 1) runs parallel with the first season of the Antwerp opera (1682–3). After the first season the Antwerp opera lost some of its impetus and no information about performances survives for the following season (1683–4). In 1683 Van Dunwalt began to gather his librettos into collections. The lack of operatic activity meant that he was left with a large stock of librettos. It is conceivable that he was afraid that opera had turned out to be nothing but a flash in the pan; bundling the individual librettos and adding a new title page and frontispiece was perhaps a way of making them more attractive to a wider audience and hopefully selling them more quickly.

9.4 In November 1684 (season 1684–5) the opera took a fresh start. Van Dunwalt too must have realized this, as he began publishing new librettos (Table 2). As a matter of fact, the performances were so successful that the members of the revived “De Olijftak” (the “Olive Branch” chamber of rhetoric) began giving their own opera performances49 an activity the almoners outlawed after a few performances. In the meantime the Almoners’ Theater was professionalized by the addition of a board of former almoners (who oversaw the activities) and of the first opera director, Wouter Dieltiens, who led the theater on a day-to-day basis between 1684 and 1686. The opera experienced some growing pains, including insubordinate musicians and singers with oversized egos.50 When the opera house was in its infancy, Lully reigned supreme both in print and on stage, just as in Paris. In the Almoners’ Theater the titles of Proserpine and Amadis, again both by Lully, and both performed in February 1686, have come down to us, but other archival evidence also suggests that it was French opera that was performed.51

9.5 After Hendrick Van Dunwalt’s death, Bartholomeus Foppens continued to print librettos of operas by Lully and his contemporaries. Little information about the opera survives from the years 1687 to 1694, although we do know that Dutch theater companies visited Antwerp. In the meantime the number of librettos published diminished as well. In 1696, with performances of Lully’s Armide and Pascale Colasse’s Enée et Lavinie, we hear more from the Almoners’ Theater.52 However, Foppens’ productivity does not increase significantly. The widow of Marcelis Parys, another Antwerp printer, attempted to get involved in the opera business, and published an edition of Bellérophon in 1695, but limited herself to that one edition.

9.6 In 1696 more opera was performed, but information about the years that follow is very limited. In 1701–2 and 1702–3 Gio Paolo Bombarda (ca.1650–1712), founder of the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels, came to Antwerp to lead the Almoners’ Theater. He surely organized many performances of French operas, but the evidence has not survived, and the death of Bartholomeus Foppens in 1697 meant that for quite some time no new librettos would appear, with the exception of Armide (1707).

9.7 It was Petrus Grangé who showed renewed interest in printing librettos, an interest which was no doubt fuelled by the next step the almoners took in the history of the Antwerp opera. In 1709 the almoners left their cramped quarters and finally obtained the theater they had always hoped for: a large, comfortable theater with a plethora of technical possibilities, representing the latest in stage design.53 The city council granted them the use of a part of an empty tapestry hall, and building of the new theater soon began. In 1711 the almoners were finally able to open the Theater of the Tapestry Hall, a large théâtre à l’italienne with room for about 600 spectators, or over 400 more than the old theater (Figure 11).

9.8 Grangé continued his predecessors’ work but added one intriguing aspect, which demonstrates how sensitive the Antwerp publishers were to developments in local operatic life. Grangé contacted Petrus Balthasar Bouttats (1681–1756) and asked him to prepare an engraving of the proscenium of the new theater, providing us with a rare image of the interior of the theater as it appeared before it was destroyed by a fire in 1746 (Figure 12). It is a unique addition, giving the librettos a local character and confirming that the librettos were intended for a local audience.

9.9 Although he would remain in business for many years to come, Grangé printed his final libretto, Issé by Destouches, in 1714. There is no obvious immediate cause that led to the end of libretto production, but we may assume that the repertory of the new Theater of the Tapestry Hall expanded further and further and was no longer limited to the operas of Lully. Also, the performance of operas ceased being a local affair, and became the work of travelling troupes who gave a limited run of performances in Antwerp and then left for the next city. This must have made the production of librettos too uncertain and therefore too unattractive. In 1717 another Antwerp printer, Jean-François Lucas, published a single libretto, Joseph-François Salomon’s Médée et Jason, but no others followed. The printing and publishing of opera librettos in Antwerp became a thing of the past.

10. The Use of the Librettos

10.1 A final important question that requires an answer is the use of the librettos. Van Dunwalt, Foppens, and Grangé were no doubt motivated and inspired by the creation and evolution of the Antwerp opera. But what purpose did they have in mind for their librettos? Did these librettos only serve a literary function or did they have a practical function during performances as well?

10.2 Schmidt writes that “almost all livrets published in Amsterdam for Lully’s stage works served a literary function and were not intended to accompany any actual performance.”54 In an Amsterdam context this makes perfect sense: apart from a small number of performances in 1677, no operas were performed there before 1687.55 Therefore, librettos printed in 1682 or 1683 simply cannot have accompanied any performance. Schmidt bases his hypothesis principally on two arguments: literary and practical librettos differed in size, duodecimo for literary versus quarto format for practical use; and in content, the text of practical librettos was often altered to reflect local requirements.56

10.3 For the Antwerp librettos, a literary purpose is likely: all of them were in duodecimo format, and the content of the booklets was identical to the French (and Amsterdam) editions and was therefore not tailored to a specific performance; nor did the title pages refer to a specific theater. Furthermore, almost all of these individual librettos eventually ended up in a collected edition, where they most definitely had a literary use. Also, Van Dunwalt and his successors no doubt wanted to cash in on a general popularity of French texts, and the librettos could of course be read without having attended an actual performance.

10.4 Yet we have seen that Van Dunwalt was contacted by the almoners to provide the score of Proserpine, and that he was also responsible for printing at least three Dutch musical farces performed in the opera. We can therefore conclude that he was not an outsider and that he was at least somehow involved with the opera. We also know that the librettos were originally conceived as individual booklets with the text of a single opera, and that only later they became part of a literary collection. Perhaps the publishers also hoped to reach members of the theatrical audience who, after a performance, wanted to have a copy of the text of the opera they had attended as a souvenir, or perhaps even as a literary equivalent of a short score of an opera recently attended. If this is the case, many, if not all, librettos are evidence of actual performances.

10.5 Finally, what about truly practical use? There is no direct proof in the form of a title page that explicitly mentions that a particular libretto was especially printed for a specific production. We do know, however, the titles of several operas that were performed in Antwerp: Bellérophon in 1682, Prosperine in 1682 and 1686, Amadis in 1686, Armide and Enée et Lavinie in 1696, Tancrède in 1712. All these operas also appeared in print in Antwerp, either in the same year or earlier.

10.6 That Van Dunwalt, Foppens, and Grangé kept their librettos as general as possible, copying the French originals or Amsterdam copies almost verbatim, is no proof that the librettos only served a literary purpose; it can be explained by the Almoners’ Theater itself. The theater was small, and the market for a libretto for each performance or even each run of an opera must have been simply too small. It was economically much safer to create a general libretto, usable under all circumstances. We know that the original opera troupe in 1682 was a small group, with local musicians and even family members cooperating.57 No doubt they made some changes and cuts in the original libretto’s text; but a few months later they, or another company, might have made different changes. Why even bother removing the names of the original French performers when it makes the librettos appear as if they were imported directly from Paris? Changing as little as possible makes them suitable even for export to Brussels for example, or to Amsterdam. Indeed, Abraham Wolfgang used a few of Van Dunwalt’s librettos in some of his collected editions in 1684, 1688 and 1690.58 Petrus Grangé also kept his librettos as general as possible. Not all exemplars of the librettos contain the engraving of the Antwerp theater, allowing for a cheaper version of the libretto, but also for a version suitable for export.

10.7 Two exemplars of these librettos suggest that at least some librettos had a practical use. B-As contains an exemplar of Armide which has a handwritten note on the title page telling us that the opera was performed in 1696.59 And in an exemplar of Médée et Jason a spectator has crossed out the names of the original French performers, signaling that these were most definitely not the singers he had heard.60 Still, no hard proof of a practical use exists. And while it is tempting to believe that many, if not all, librettos were printed because of performances, all evidence must be considered circumstantial.

11. Conclusions

11.1 Several conclusions can be drawn, the most obvious being that now that the armillary sphere librettos (1682–1684) can be assigned to an Antwerp printer, it is clear that more librettos were printed in that city than previously thought, and that this activity started earlier than thought. Several interconnected generations of Antwerp publishers were involved, and printing these librettos was a regular task for them, spanning more than thirty years, from 1682 to 1714. It is also possible to establish that Antwerp, not for example Brussels, was the third city where librettos were printed on a regular base, after Paris and Amsterdam. That Antwerp came to publishing them so early in the spread of Lully librettos can only be explained by the activities of its opera house. This in turn means that the early Antwerp opera was more active than previously thought.

11.2 Comparing the list of printed librettos with the list of actual performances, we have to conclude that Hendrick van Dunwalt and his successors worked parallel to, and most likely even in collaboration with the almoners. After all, the publishing of opera librettos would not have continued for over thirty years had the citizens of Antwerp not been receptive to opera: export alone cannot explain the large number of titles printed. All this suggests that Antwerp, despite an important economic decline throughout the seventeenth century, was in fact a relatively significant early center for Lully operas, even though it would quickly lose its pioneer-like position to other cities.


* Timothy De Paepe (Timothy.DePaepe@ua.ac.be) studied Dutch and English Literature at the University of Antwerp, Belgium. He also holds a master’s degree in Arts Management from the University of Antwerp Management School. He is currently a Research Foundation-Flanders (FWO) post-doctoral fellow in Theatre History at the University of Antwerp.

1 Antwerp, now part of Belgium, was, until 1585, part of the Seventeen United Provinces. During the Eighty Years War (1568–1648), the Catholic Southern Provinces, which included the city of Antwerp, and the Protestant Northern Provinces, were divided. The Northern Provinces later evolved into what we now call The Netherlands (or Holland, after its central province). The largest part of the Southern Provinces eventually became part of modern-day Belgium.

2 See, among others, the playwright Jean-François Regnard’s description of Antwerp in Les Œuvres (Paris: La Compagnie des Libraires, 1742), 1:9. In the eighteenth century both the Mozart family (1765) and Charles Burney (1772) visited Antwerp. Burney was quick to notice that, although the city was full of splendid buildings and works of art, it was also largely deserted.

3 “On a veu souvent disciper inutilement l’argent de nos bourgeois, débaucher beaucoup de la jeunesse et souvent mettre le désordre dans les familles”. (B-Aa PK 359 Minuten van secretaris A. M. van Valckenisse, 1686, fol. 5r)

4 As confirmed by an anonymous letter writer, quoted in E. F. Kossmann, Nieuwe bijdragen tot de geschiedenis van het Nederlandsche Tooneel in de 17e en 18e eeuw (‘s Gravenhage: Nijhoff 1915) and by musician Jan vander Meerssen (B-Aa PK 771 Requestboeck 1679–80, fol. 160v).

5 Timothy De Paepe, “Des operas avecq plus d’esclat: de eerste commerciële schouwburg van Antwerpen en de introductie van opera,” De zeventiende eeuw: cultuur in de Nederlanden in interdisciplinair perspectief 24, no. 1 (2008): 25–37; especially p. 27.

6 “Anvers … surpasse toutes les autres villes que j’aye vûës, à l’exception de Naples, Rome, Venise; non-seulement par la magnificence de les bâtimens, par la pompe de ses Eglises, & par la largeur de ses rues spacieuses, mais aussi par les manieres de ses habitans, dont les plus polis tâchent à se conformer à nos manières françoises, & par les habits & par la langue qu’ils font gloire de posseder en perfection.” (“Antwerp … surpasses all the other cities I have seen, with the exception of Naples, Rome and Venice; not only because of the magnificence of its buildings, the splendor of its churches and the size of its streets, but also because of the manners of its inhabitants, among whom the most polite tend to adopt our French manners, customs, and language, which they pride themselves in knowing perfectly.”) Regnard, Les Œuvres, 1:9.

7 Rudolf Rasch, “De moeizame introductie van de opera in de republiek,” in Louis Grijp, ed., Een muziekgeschiedenis der Nederlanden, (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2001), 311–6. Rasch states: “25 november 1677. Lully’s opera Isis wordt opgevoerd in de Schouwburg.”

8 Henri Liebrecht, Histoire du Théâtre Français à Bruxelles au xviie et xviiie siècle (Paris: Edouard Champion, 1923), 98–9. It is not certain whether a performance of Lully’s Cadmus et Hermione in Ghent in 1679 really took place. The performance is listed in Prosper Claeys, Histoire du théâtre à Gand (Gent: Vuylsteke 1892), 35, but no sources are given. The first documented performance in Ghent, Lully’s Thésée, took place almost twenty years later, in 1698.

9 Carl B. Schmidt, “The Geographical Spread of Lully’s Operas During the Late Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Eenturies: New Evidence from the Livrets,” in John Hajdu Heyer, ed., Jean-Baptiste Lully and the Music of the French Baroque (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 183–211; specifically, p. 203.

10 Archive of the Museum Maagdenhuis Heilig Geesttafel, Aalmoezeniers box 112.

11 De Paepe, “Des operas avecq plus d’esclat,” 29.

12 Belachelycke kluchte vanden onstantvastighen minnaer (The Ridiculous Farce of the Inconstant Lover) (Antwerp: Van Dunwalt, 1683).

13 De wel-bedachte ende vermaeckelycke kluchte vande broeck–draghende vrouwe ofte Simpelen Giel (The Clever and Amusing Farce of the Trouser-wearing Woman or Simple Giel, Presented in Music by the Amateurs of the Antwerp Opera in the Year 1683) (Antwerp: Van Dunwalt, 1683).

14 Het aenghenaem divertissement vande twee honden aen een been, … musicalijck gherepresenteert … op het Antwerps schouborgh (The Delightful Divertissement of Two Dogs and a Single Bone, … Presented with Music … in the Antwerp Theater) (Antwerp: Van Dunwalt, s.d.).

15 Only around the middle of the eighteenth century did Italian opera become popular in Antwerp.

16 Archive of the Museum Maagdenhuis Heilig Geesttafel, Aalmoezeniers box 112; De Paepe, “Des operas avecq plus d’esclat,” 29.

17 “The theater is too small for large-scale performances.” Archive of the Museum Maagdenhuis Heilig Geesttafel, Aalmoezeniers box 112.

18 De Paepe, “Des operas avecq plus d’esclat,” 33–4.

19 Carl B. Schmidt, “Livrets for Lully’s Ballets and Mascarades. Notes toward a Publishing History and Chronology (1654–1671),” in Jérôme de la Gorce and Herbert Schneider, eds., Jean-Baptiste Lully: actes du colloque (Laaber: Laaber Verlag, 1990), 331–48; “The Geographical Spread of Lully’s Operas” (see Reference 9); The Livrets of Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Tragédies Lyriques: A Catalogue Raisonné (New York: Performers’ Editions [Broude Brothers], 1995).

20 Schmidt, The Livrets of Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Tragédies Lyriques, 559.

21 E. Rahir, Catalogue d’une collection unique de volumes imprimés par les Elzevier et divers typographes hollandais du 17e siècle (Nieuwkoop: De Graaf, 1965), 313.

22 The Livrets of Jean–Baptiste Lully’s Tragédies Lyriques.

23 Rahir, Catalogue, 454, 462.

24 The preceding information can be found in greater detail in Timothy De Paepe, “Opera op de Antwerpse drukpers: een commercieel interessante onderneming tussen 1682 en 1714,” De Gulden Passer 86 (2008): 43–60.

25 The songbook, ‘t Hemels lusthofken (The Heavenly Garden of Delights) (Antwerp: Van Dunwalt, 1681), contains no music, only lyrics which are to be sung to pre-existing tunes. A part of Van Dunwalt’s output can be found through the Short Title Catalogue Flanders (http://www.stcv.be).

26 For more specific similarities see De Paepe, “Opera op de Antwerpse drukpers,” 43–60.

27 Schmidt, “The Geographical Spread of Lully’s Operas.”

28 Rasch, “De moeizame introductie van de opera in de republiek,” 314.

29 As listed in Schmidt, The Livrets of Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Tragédies Lyriques.

30 Wittop Koning, Dirk Arnold, and G.M.M. Houben, 2000 jaar gewichten in de Nederlanden (Lochem: Tijdstroom, 1980), 170, 186.

31 De seven Hooft-sonden, Den grooten en onoverwinnelycken Don Quichot and Gheluck door ongheluck, all three “t’Amsterdam, voor Michiel de Groot”, 1682. Michiel De Groot had died in October 1680, and it was actually his widow who now ran the business. See M.M. Kleerkooper and W. P. Van Stockum, De boekhandel te Amsterdam voornamelijk in de 17de eeuw: biographische en geschiedkundige aanteekeningen I (‘s-Gravenhage: Nijhoff, 1914), 239. The plays in these three publications were originally performed in Antwerp, where they were also printed by Van Dunwalt. Other examples include Beleg en ontzet van Weenen and De helle-vaert van den grooten vizier, both “T’Amsterdam by Albert Magnus … 1684. Men vintze te koop ‘t Antwerpen by Hendrick van Dunwalt.”

32 From a bibliographical point of view, a distinction should be made between collected editions in which several, often unrelated works were randomly put together in one book without a general title page, and collected editions in which works were bound together with a new general title page and often a table of contents. Unlike the first type, the second type of edition can, at least in part, be considered as a new work and requires more planning and a greater effort on the part of the publisher. Le Parnas François falls in the second category.

33 Jacob Moons, Sedelycken vreughden-bergh (The Moral Mountain of Rejoicing) (Antwerp: Van Dunwalt, 1682); Vincenzo Coronelli, Korte, beknopte, en nette beschryvinghe van het koninck-ryck Morea (Short, Concise, and Precious Description of the Kingdom of Morea) (Antwerp: Van Dunwalt, 1688).

34 Exemplars in IRL-Dtc OLS B-6-642 and B-Br BC 39.830 which Schmidt labels as RF 2, and exemplars B-Amp 8 27 and B-Lc (Terry C47), labeled by Schmidt  as RF 2a.

35 Wolfgang too had changed his impressum in the meantime which now read: “suivant la copie de Paris, à Amsterdam chez Abraham Wolfgang.”

36 The device appeared on, for example, Les Œuvres de Sainte Therese (Antwerp: Van Dunwalt, 1688) and on the musical farce Het aenghenaem divertissement vande twee honden aen een been (Antwerp: Van Dunwalt, s.d.)

37 The complete title on Van Dunwalt’s title page reads: Recueil des Opera’ des Balets, & des plus belles Pieces en Musique, qui ont ete representees depuis dix huit ou vingt ans jusques a present devant Sa Majeste Tres-Chretienne. Divisées en trois parties.

38 Ph. F. Rombouts en Th. Van Lerius, De liggeren en andere historische archieven der Antwerpsche Sint Lucasgilde (Antwerp: Baggerman, 1872), 536.

39 B-Aa PR 199 Marriages 1679–1730 (O.L.V. Zuid), fol. 45v.

40 Rombouts en Van Lerius, De liggeren en andere historische archieven; B-Baeb Registers of the Council of Brabant 3677, fol. 105r.

41 When he prepared a new edition of the Kluchte van de broeck–draghende vrouw, he replaced Van Dunwalt’s 1682 armillary sphere with the one Van Dunwalt began using in late 1684.

42 For example: a collection in the private library of Michael D’Andrea (Lawrenceville, New Jersey) contains a title page and table of contents from 1688. The table of contents lists the libretto of Roland, which actually appears in an edition from 1693.

43 B-Baeb Registers of the Council of Brabant 3677, fol. 105v.

44 B-Baeb Registers of the Council of Brabant 3677, fol. 106v.

45 B-Baeb Registers of the Council of Brabant 3677, fol. 105r.

46 Schmidt, The Livrets of Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Tragédies Lyriques, 560.

47 Archive of the Museum Maagdenhuis Heilig Geesttafel, Aalmoezeniers box 112.

48 B-Aa MP 1. Four parts have survived: “viol. 1o,” “viol. 2do,” “bas. viol.,” and “bas. cont.” These parts represent only three of the five instrumental parts in Ballard’s Lully scores; it is not clear if the two other parts are lost or were never copied/performed. The bassoon player’s role is indicated by a note on the inside of the cover of the second violin score.

49 Antwerp had three competing chambers of rhetoric, founded in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries: De Olijftak (The Olive Branch), De Violieren (The Gillyflowers), and De Goudbloem (The Marigold). Two of the chambers ceased functioning between 1640 and 1650, but De Violieren remained dormant, being revived in 1662 (confusingly) under the name De Olijftak.

50 B-Aa PK 598, Collegiaal Akteboek, fol. 160v.

51 B-Aa PK 598, Collegiaal Akteboek, fol. 160v.

52 De Paepe, “Des operas avecq plus d’esclat,” 32. B-Aa PK 2947 [F. Verachter, History of the Antwerp Theatre], fol. 28r.

53 This theater is described in Timothy De Paepe, “‘Un des plus jolis Théâtres hors de l’Italie & point de spectacle’: The Design and Construction of the First Proper Theatre in Antwerp,” Restoration and Eighteenth Century Theatre Research 23, no. 2 (Winter, 2008): 7–21.

54 Schmidt, “The Geographical Spread of Lully’s Operas,” 201.

55 Rudolf Rasch, “Soixante ans de réception de la musique de Lully en Hollande (1655–1715),” in Agnès Terrier and Alexandre Dratwicki, eds., L’Invention des genres lyriques et leur redécouverte au XIXe siècle, (Lyon: Symétrie, 2010), 99–115.

56 Carl B. Schmidt “The Amsterdam Editions of Lully’s Music: A Bibliographical Scrutiny with Commentary,” in John Hajdu Heyer, ed., Lully Studies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 100–165, specifically pp. 105–6.

57 For example, one of the singers during the 1685–6 season was Joanna de Haze, daughter of Joannes de Haze, one of the founding members of the opera. (Archive of the Museum Maagdenhuis Heilig Geesttafel, Aalmoezeniers box 112.)

58 Schmidt, The Livrets of Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Tragédies Lyriques,  486–95 (RF 3–RF 4, RF 17–RF 18).

59  BAs c 41312 [c2-548 h].

60 BAs C 52983 [C2-550 h].


Figure 1: Reconstruction of the exterior of the House of Spain

Figure 2: Hypothetical reconstruction of the Almoners’ Theater

Figure 3: Title page of Thésée

Figure 4: Title page of Le Parnas François

Figure 5: Title page of the De wel-bedachte ende vermaeckelycke kluchte

Figure 6: Frontispiece of Le Parnas François

Figure 7: Title page of Le Triomphe de l’Amour

Figure 8: Title page of Armide

Figure 9: Printer’s device of Bartholomeus Foppens

Figure 10: First page of the “violino primo” of Proserpine

Figure 11: Hypothetical reconstruction of the Theater of the Tapestry Hall

Figure 12: Engraving and title page of Tancrède


Table 1: The Librettos Printed Under the Armillary Sphere

Table 2: Librettos Printed by Hendrick van Dunwalt

Table 3: Librettos Printed by Bartholomeus Foppens

Table 4: Librettos Printed by the widow Foppens and heirs

Table 5: Librettos Printed by Petrus Grangé

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