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Volume 16, no. 1:

Rebecca Harris-Warrick*

Reading Roland**

Abstract

This article offers a reading of Jean-Baptiste Lully’s penultimate tragédie en musique, Roland (1685), that takes the opera’s five divertissements as its point of departure. Far from serving as mere decoration, the divertissements, complete with their dances, engage with central concerns within the opera and function as a fundamental part of the work’s dramaturgy. This article aims to demonstrate the benefits to be derived from interpretations of French operatic repertoire that take the divertissements into full account.

1. Introduction

2. A Few General Remarks about Lully’s Divertissements

3. Overview of Roland

4. Act I

5. Act II

6. Act III

7. Act IV

8. Act V

9. Conclusion

References

Tables

Figures

Audio Examples

1. Introduction

1.1 Dance has such a strong presence in French Baroque opera that it cannot be ignored. However, it can be, and often has been, marginalized—damned with the label “decorative” that obviates any need to take it seriously. In this view, dance may be part of the work, but it is not part of the drama. By extension, the divertissements in which the dancing is embedded are seen mainly as pretexts for dance and spectacle, something imposed on composers and librettists by the taste of the day. Even scholars of Baroque opera have been inclined to see divertissements as ornamental appendages: all too frequently they are characterized as having “little to do with the main action,” as features that “inevitably dilute the dramatic intensity,” or as “a decorative but nonessential and dramatically neutral ornament.”1 To be fair, it must be said that such scholars do recognize that not all divertissements are alike and that Philippe Quinault, Lully’s main librettist, was particularly skilled at integrating the divertissements into the opera. Nonetheless, discussions of the dramaturgy of divertissements have generally remained on the level of the plot.2

1.2 What happens if, instead of trying to explain away the presence of dance, we accept it as an essential element of the style and ask what kind of work the divertissement is doing inside the opera? This switch in angle of vision encourages us to assume that Lully and his associates had just as clear ideas about divertissements as they did about the rest of the opera, and that it is our job to make sense of their choices. It further obliges us to ask not only how a divertissement may be worked into the plot, but to examine in detail what happens within it, to pay close attention to the texts, the music, and (insofar as it can be discerned) the choreography. Just as scholars of nineteenth-century opera use their understanding of the double-aria structure as an interpretive tool, so do I hope to gain a greater insight into the workings of French Baroque opera by giving one of its defining features full dramaturgical standing. In this article I offer a divertissement-centric reading of Lully and Quinault’s penultimate tragédie en musique, Roland, which premiered in 1685. Its central theme is announced in the prologue: “Let us reveal the errors that love may induce in a heart that neglects glory.” (“Montrons les erreurs où l’Amour / Peut engager un coeur qui neglige la gloire.”) In the five acts that follow, the divertissements participate in developing this theme, while simultaneously complicating how we see the three main characters and their relationships to the larger world.

2. A Few General Remarks about Lully’s Divertissements

2.1 Before turning to my analysis, let me mention a few points that underlie it.3

2.2 First, the lushest music in a Lully opera is to be found in the divertissements. This is where the orchestra finally gets to play, not just the continuo section. Whereas Lully had started giving solo singers fuller accompaniments part of the time starting with Bellérophon in 1679, the divertissements still represent the one place in each act where a rich sound becomes part of the fabric for an entire scene. They command attention on musical grounds alone.

2.3 Second, the chorus is a composite group consisting of both singers and dancers. Only rarely are dancers and singers assigned separate roles. If Lully has shepherds who sing, he also has shepherds who dance.

2.4 Third, a standard aesthetic principle was for there to be a single focus for the audience’s attention, which is to say that dancing occurred primarily during instrumental pieces or in some of the instrumental passages within choruses. Dancing did not take place during solo singing or duets, no matter how danceable the music, but it could occur during the ends of choruses or in choruses whose text invites action.

2.5 Next, because the group characters are almost always obedient followers of a powerful being, the divertissements become sites where power relationships are on display. It is thus important to identify who or what is controlling these masses of people and to what end.

2.6 One interesting recurring pattern is that the characters inside divertissements may serve as surrogates for the main characters, who either do not, or cannot, speak for themselves. The classic example is the dream sequence in Act III of Atys, in which the goddess Cybèle sends dreams to Atys because she cannot bring herself to make her declaration of love directly to him.4 In Atys this function of transferring agency from a protagonist to a group is explicit, whereas in many other operas, including Roland, it is not openly acknowledged but is no less actual.

3. Overview of Roland

3.1 Roland is based not on mythology, but on a chivalric romance—Ariosto’s Orlando furioso.5 The French knight, Charlemagne’s nephew, has lost his appetite for war because he has fallen in love with the queen of Cathay, Angélique. She is flattered and knows she ought to return the affection of such a renowned hero, but she is struggling against her love for Médor, a man of low birth, whom she had found wounded and nursed back to health. Even after Angélique finally succumbs to her deepest desires, she cannot bring herself to reject Roland to his face; when Roland discovers on his own that he has been deceived, he goes mad, and he is only restored to sanity through the intervention of a good fairy. The opera ends as Roland abandons love and returns to the pursuit of military glory.6

4. Act I7

4.1 The first act of Roland does not involve the title character at all, but rather centers on the conflicted feelings of Angélique, who is torn between love and pride, which push her alternately toward the low-born Médor or the hero Roland. She shocks her confidante, Témire, by confiding that it is Médor whom she loves; when he appears, in despair because he thinks his love is hopeless, she hints at her true feelings yet nonetheless tells him that they must separate and sends him away. In the midst of her anguish over this decision, one of Roland’s allies, Ziliante, prince of the Oriental Islands, arrives to offer her a gift from Roland. Angélique has been expecting such an emissary—both Témire and Médor have mentioned the valuable gift that Roland has gained through his prowess—but she nonetheless resents the intrusion on her privacy: “May I not freely sigh and bemoan my situation? Will I always have to restrain myself?” (“Ne puis-je, en liberté, soûpirer et me plaindre? / Faudra-t’il toûjours me contraindre?”). The ceremonial presentation Ziliante makes to her of a beautiful bracelet closes the act. This gift turns out to be crucial to the plot: in Act IV the bracelet becomes a symbol of Angélique’s betrayal when Roland discovers that she has given it away. In this regard it is rather like the pin sealing the letter Susanna slips to the Count in Act III of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro—also transmitted during a divertissement (the fandango)—which becomes a symbol of betrayal in the next act.

4.2 This divertissement has an economical and tight structure that is typical of Lully (see the outline in Table 1 and link to this scene [pp. 31–68] in the score published by Ballard in 1685 [http://www.digital.library.unt.edu/permalink/meta-dc-66:95]). It includes only two instrumental pieces, the second of which is performed twice, interspersed with a closely related vocal duet, yielding a four-part structure that characterizes many of Lully’s dance songs. (Here and in subsequent tables the purely instrumental pieces are highlighted in brown.) Moreover, this unit is enfolded within two iterations of the chorus, which is related in both text and music to Ziliante’s solo air. Only the introductory portions of the divertissement—the march and recitative—are musically independent. The chorus of Insulaires probably included sixteen to twenty singers, plus eight or nine dancers.8

4.3 The group that breaks in upon Angélique’s agonizing is entirely male.9 In fact, she is the only woman on stage, having sent her confidante in search of Médor at the end of the previous scene. Ziliante is not only Roland’s deputy, he even has the same voice type. He pays tribute to Roland’s valor by explaining that he owes him his life and that, as the only expression of gratitude that Roland would accept, he has traveled “from the shores where dawn opens the gates of day” to offer Angélique this gift (Figure 1). The text of his accompanied air both celebrates Angélique’s qualities and takes for granted her union with Roland:

Triomphez, charmante Reyne,
Triomphez des plus grands coeurs.
Ce n’est qu’aux plus fameux Vainqueurs
Qu’il est permis de porter vôtre chaîne.
Triomphez, charmante Reyne,
Triomphez des plus grands coeurs.

[Ziliante, then the chorus: May you triumph, charming queen, over the greatest of hearts. Only the most famous conquerors are worthy of your love. May you triumph, charming queen, over the greatest of hearts.]10

4.4 Given Angélique’s conflicted state of mind, Ziliante’s words must ring unwelcome at best, but they are enthusiastically taken up by the entire group, and it is while they sing that the bracelet is presented. Notwithstanding the wording of the didascalie11—“The chorus sings the last few lines while Ziliante presents the bracelet to Angélique”—I believe it likely that the dancing Insulaires made the actual presentation. Not only are there multiple instances in French operas where the dancers are the ones delegated to carry out an action, the social hierarchies visible both within the opera itself and within the society that gave it birth support such an inference. Ziliante is a prince; he is not the type who does work himself, but rather, he orders other people to carry it out. As Catherine Kintzler has noted regarding the rule of appropriateness (propriété) that applied during the Ancien Régime to both spoken and operatic tragedies, “Someone cannot say or do just anything. A god of first rank will not act directly, as that would be unworthy of his majesty. Instead, he will send an intermediary who, within the hierarchy of the mythological realm, occupies a lower rank, or else he will send dreams to make his intentions known.”12 Thus for this scene we should envisage a group of men, whose training has taught them how to move beautifully, making a ceremonial presentation while the chorus sings (score, p. 38ff.; Audio Example 1).

4.5 After this bit of action, the dancers perform a real dance—“in the manner of their country,” the didascalie says,13 although Lully did not exoticize his musical language for this piece. (This is the “Air gay” on the outline in Table 1; see the first page of the score in Figure 2. Because this dance has strong musical connections to a song (Figure 3) and is interwoven with it, we are invited to interpret the two pieces together—and to give them the same tempo.14 The words of the duet, sung by two Insulaires, could easily be dismissed as trivial, especially by a listener who pays attention only to the beginning of the first verse, but they turn out to contain a warning for Roland.

Dans nos climats
Sans chagrin on soûpire,
L’Amour dont nous suivons l’empire
N’a que des appas.
[Refrain:]
Fuyons les Belles
Cruelles
Craignons leur pouvoir,
Que sert-il de les voir?
Ah! gardons-nous d’un amour sans espoir.
Quelle peine!
Quel tourment!
D’être amant
D’une Inhumaine!
Si nous devenons amoureux,
Aimons pour être heureux.

[Second verse:]
Sans les amours,
On s’ennuiroit de vivre;
Mais nous devons cesser de suivre
Qui nous fuit toûjours.
[Refrain]

[1st verse: In our country we sigh without pain; Love, whose laws we follow, has nothing but attractions. Refrain: Let us flee those beauties who are cruel; let us fear their power. What good is it to see them? Ah! let us avoid a love without hope. What pain, what torment, to love an unkind woman! If we are to fall in love, let us aim to be happy. 2nd verse: Without love, life would be irksome; but we should stop following someone who always flees from us. Refrain.]

4.6 The opening quatrain’s claim that love has only attractions is completely undermined by the warning in the refrain to stay away from cruel women who abuse their power and to avoid a love that offers no hope. Lully chose to emphasize the key words “Ah! gardons-nous d’un amour sans espoir” by a long descending sequence (it covers an octave on its first appearance), and he highlighted the exclamations “Quelle peine! Quel tourment!” through rhythmic separation and harmonic inflection (Figure 4). This negative point is reinforced in the second verse: “We should stop following someone who always flees from us.” Unfortunately, Roland is not present to hear the warning; he has to learn this lesson the hard way over the course of the opera. The warning aimed at him is not as bald as the one the Songes funestes give to Atys in Act III of the eponymous opera, but it is just as real.15 Moreover, it serves to call attention to the fact that in this scene the most conspicuous attribute of Roland, the person offering the gift, is his absence. He may be powerful enough to command his allies from a distance, but his emissaries seem clearer-sighted than he turns out to be about the nature of his relationship with Angélique.

5. Act II

5.1 Angélique, the captive audience for the Act I divertissement, seems to interpret the words “If we are to fall in love, let us aim to be happy” as offering advice on her own situation; by the end of Act II, her cruelty toward Médor has dissolved. The love scene that closes the second act is one of those places where France and Italy part aesthetic company. Just where an Italian opera might provide a passionate duet, Lully and Quinault offer a collective blessing of the happy couple by Cupid’s entourage—yet another instance in which group characters stand in for the protagonists. Exceptionally, this divertissement is not conjured up by any of the characters; it happens spontaneously, as an exteriorization of the power of Love, and Cupid’s followers appear silently, as if by magic, without even a change of key to mark their arrival. (The three-part structure of this scene is outlined in Table 2; see the score, pp. 100–28 [http://www.digital.library.unt.edu/permalink/meta-dc-66:164].) Angélique and Médor are passive vessels, having been taken over by a force that is contrary to reason and stronger than themselves.16 As Angélique herself says in scene 4, “My honor protests today; I see my lot as well above yours. But who can prevent Love from uniting two hearts that are made for each other?” (“Ma gloire murmure en ce jour, / Je voy mon sort trop au dessus du vôtre; / Mais qui peut empêcher l’Amour / D’unir deux coeurs qu’il a faits l’un pour l’autre?”) It is rare for main characters to sing within a divertissement, but Angélique and Médor are drawn seamlessly into the realm of Love. To a languid triple meter in A minor, they enter into a hypnotic dialogue with a trio of nymphs17: “Aimez, aimez-vous,” command the nymphs, and the lovers respond, “Aimons, aimons-nous.” This exchange then spreads to the entire group, as if an immobilizing amorous mist were covering the whole world (Audio Example 2).

5.2 Unlike the divertissement in Act I, where the world invoked is masculine, this one comes across as predominantly feminine. Even though the group characters participating are both male and female, the sound world is colored by the many high vocal trios that are interspersed within the choruses. In addition, the soloists who sing a duet in section 2 are both women (contented lovers). The dancers, however, were evenly divided, at least in 1705, with three men and three women dancing as Cupids and Nymphs. Given the convention in favor of groups of eight dancers, usually four men and four women, Pécour’s choice of six dancers, which would allow for less symmetrical groups of three, is an unusual one. On the other hand, perhaps his choreography for this scene emphasized the idea of coupleness.18

5.3 The sequence of texts within the divertissement suggests a psychological progression: at first Angélique and Médor have to be gently exhorted to love each other as they come under Cupid’s power. The text associated with the gavotte complex tells them that the waters of the fountain of Love are addictive, and the final chorus is a paean to fidelity. It is set antiphonally, with the two choirs even trading some key lines, and the group as a whole seems to be taking a kind of marriage vow (see the full text below). The petit choeur sings, “May a charming knot forever bind us,” and the grand choeur responds, “Tender Cupids, enchant us for eternity.…Close our hearts to love for anyone else.…Let us carry our love into the grave.” This love fest has the effect of freeing Angélique and Médor from any responsibility for their actions; love is stronger than they are. And it also weakens Médor, who wallows in a feminized sound world (Audio Example 3).

Text of the chorus of enchanted lovers that ends Act II, scene 5 (score, pp. 122–8):

Petit choeur

Que pour jamais un noeud charmant nous lie;

Grand choeur

Tendres Amours,
Enchantez-nous toujours.
Triste Raison, nous fuyons ton secours.

Petit choeur

O douce vie,
Digne d’envie!

Grand choeur

Rien de facheux n’en troublera le cours.

Petit choeur

Sans rien aimer, comment peut-on vivre?

Grand choeur

Que de plaisirs, que de jeux vont nous suivre.

Petit choeur

Tendres Amours,
Enchantez-nous toujours.
[sound clip starts here (score, p. 125)]
Fermons nos coeurs à des flâmes nouvelles.

Grand choeur

Gardons-nous bien d’éteindre un feu si beau.

Petit choeur

Vivons heureux dans des chaînes si belles.

Grand choeur

Portons nos fers jusques dans le tombeau.

Petit choeur

O douce vie,
Digne d’envie!

Grand choeur

Tendres Amours,
Enchantez-nous toûjours.

[Petit choeur: May a charming knot forever bind us. Grand choeur: Tender Cupids, enchant us for eternity. Sad Reason, we flee from your help. Petit choeur: O sweet life, worthy of envy! Grand choeur: Nothing troublesome will disturb its flow. Petit choeur: With nothing to love, how can one live? Grand choeur: How many pleasures and games will follow us! Petit choeur: Tender Cupids, enchant us for eternity. Let us close our hearts to any new flames. Grand choeur: Let us be sure not to extinguish such a beautiful fire. Petit choeur: Let us live happily within such beautiful chains. Grand choeur: May we carry them into the grave. Petit choeur: O sweet life, worthy of envy! Grand choeur: Tender Cupids, enchant us for eternity.]

6. Act III

6.1 Lois Rosow has noted that the structure of a Lully opera often “pivots around a weighty action in Act III.”19 In Roland’s third act, the action pivots around a lie. Angélique fears for Médor’s life, because she knows that Roland would win any combat between the two men. Her solution is to deceive Roland into thinking that she is in love with him just long enough for her to flee with Médor. Médor, listening in on her conversation with Roland, falls into a fit of jealousy, but she reassures him and invites her subjects to honor their new king. She then departs, in order to lure Roland away from the port where the two lovers plan to make their escape, leaving Médor behind to receive the homage of his new subjects.

6.2 In the middle of the eighteenth century, this divertissement was severely criticized by the Parfaict brothers, who wrote in their manuscript history of the Académie Royale de Musique that “In Act III Quinault made an unpardonable lapse in judgment. This is where Angélique has Médor acknowledged as king of Cathay by her subjects. [But] how could Roland, who is hunting everywhere for Angélique, not know about such an event? Most assuredly, it was not Ariosto who led Quinault to the edge of this cliff.”20 This criticism takes aim at the relationship between divertissement and plot, but it does so from a vantage point within the opera: the theatrical rule that has been transgressed is not propriété (appropriateness)—a fête in honor of Médor’s elevation is to be expected—but vraisemblance (verisimilitude). But whether or not Roland should have known about this celebration, this particular divertissement does show that a fête can be just as dramatically salient as a divertissement that contains action.

6.3 The scene contains only two pieces (score, pp. 159–210 [http://www.digital.library.unt.edu/permalink/meta-dc-66:223]): an instrumental air in 6/4 time, which probably served as entrance music for Angélique’s subjects, and a gigantic chaconne, which has both instrumental (Figure 5) and vocal (Figure 6) sections and is, perhaps, the longest chaconne ever used in a French opera through the end of the eighteenth century. (The uncertainty derives from ambiguities in the score as to which parts of the chaconne are to be repeated.) As notated, this one is 496 measures long; Raphaëlle Legrand has concluded that when all the repeats are taken it has 896 bars.21 Just as the music of the 496 notated measures of the chaconne is through-composed, so is its text, which is exceptionally long and exceptionally interesting. Usually the chorus in a divertissement has little or no independence; it tends to offer general expressions of celebration or to repeat words introduced by a solo singer (as in Act I) rather than generate ideas of its own. Moreover, the chorus tends to be a creature of few words: a quatrain may generate an extended composition, in which the text is repeated over and over. Angélique’s subjects, however, are very loquacious, having no fewer than sixty-two lines of text (see the first twenty-two lines below).22 They pay Médor homage, but they call attention to things that he might prefer not to dwell on: how lucky he is that Angélique loves him, that she had thousands of suitors, and that the defeated rivals will continue to be jealous. They go on to comment on the speed with which Médor’s relationship with Angélique developed, and they remind him of his low social status by pointing out that she had to overcome her pride before she could bring herself to love him. All of this is couched in Quinault’s delicate language, whose courteous surface simultaneously covers and reveals depths of feeling.23 Angélique’s subjects, safely out of her hearing, seem to wish to let Médor know they think he is fortunate, but they are not so sure that they are (Audio Example 4).

Beginning of the text of the sung chaconne, Act III, scene 6:

Le Choeur

C’est Medor qu’une Reyne si belle
A choisi pour regner avec elle.
Est-il un Mortel aujourd’huy
Plus heureux que luy?

Un des Sujets d’Angélique

Malgré l’orgüeil du grand nom de Reyne,
Elle se rend, et l’Amour l’enchaîne;
De mille et mille Amants son coeur s’étoit sauvé;
Pour l’aimable Medor il étoit reservé.

Une Suivante d’Angélique

Trop heureux un Amant qui s’exemte
Des chagrins d’une ennuyeuse attente!
Que l’Amour, pour Medor, a fait d’aimables noeuds;
A peine est-il Amant, qu’il est Amant heureux.

Le Choeur

Ses Rivaux n’ont plus rien à pretendre,
Que de plaintes se vont faire entendre!
Au premier bruit d’un choix si doux,
Que de Roys seront jaloux!
Nous venons tous
Vous presenter notre hommage:
Regner sur nous,
Est vôtre moindre avantage.
L’Amour donne un bonheur qui vaut mieux mille fois
Que la pompe qui suit les plus superbes Roys.
[…] [40 more lines of text]

[Chorus: Médor is the one that a beautiful queen has chosen to rule with her. Is there any mortal today more fortunate than he? One of Angélique’s male subjects: Notwithstanding the pride in the rank of queen, she has surrendered, and Love has her in thrall. She turned down thousands of suitors; her heart was reserved for the estimable Médor. A female subject: How fortunate the lover who avoids the sorrows of a long wait! For Médor Cupid has formed love knots; no sooner did he become a suitor than his suit was fulfilled. Chorus: His rivals no longer have any grounds for hope; so many laments are going to be heard! At the first news of [Angélique’s] sweet choice, kings are going to be jealous! We come here to offer you [Médor] our homage. To reign over us is the least of your advantages. Love supplies a type of happiness that is a thousand times more valuable than the pomp associated with the highest of kings.]

6.4 Even though Médor himself remains silent throughout this long fête, Lully makes sure that his listeners understand that this chaconne is all about the equivocal position in which Médor finds himself. In the scene leading up to the divertissement, Angélique’s lie to Roland bears fruit: Médor, who has overheard their conversation, does not know which words of Angélique’s to believe and gives way to anguished expressions of jealousy and insecurity. “You will go with him? No, no, let me rather die!” (“Vous le suivrez? non, non, que plûtôt je perisse.”) Angélique hastens to reassure him, but she herself sounds frightened and unsure. Their conversation takes place over the very descending tetrachords, in both their major and minor manifestations, that are to structure the chaconne, and even in the same keys (G major and minor) and in the same triple meter. Although not all their dialogue adheres to the ground, the most fraught portions of it do so. It first appears when Angélique reveals her fears for Médor’s life if he should challenge Roland; here, it is in the major mode, inflected by F-natural in its descent (Figure 7; entire scene on pp. 149–58 of the score [http://www.digital.library.unt.edu/permalink/meta-dc-66:213]).

Medor, je tremble pour vos jours,
Ils sont dans un peril extrême:
A quoy n’a t’on pas recours
Pour sauver ce que l’on aime?

[Angélique: Médor, I tremble for your life, it is in extreme danger. What is one not willing to do, in order to save the person one loves?]

6.5 Angélique repeats the first couplet twice and the next one no fewer than four times, with yet another repeat of the last line. The insistent repetition, which is not typical of Lully’s dialogue airs, is matched by Médor, who asks his own rhetorical question, still above the unadorned descending tetrachord, which by the time this exchange ends, has been heard thirteen times.

Roland va m’ôter
L’Objet que j’adore,
Qu’ai-je à redouter
Que de vivre encore?

[Médor: Roland is going to take from me the one I adore. What do I have to fear, but to remain alive?]

6.6 Médor first sings the entire quatrain twice, then returns obsessively to the question, “What do I have to fear, what do I have to fear, but to remain alive? What do I have to fear, what do I have to fear, but to remain alive?” Angélique breaks into recitative as she offers multiple assurances of her love, and Médor even joins her in a brief expression of mutual love, “Je ne veux que votre Coeur.” But Médor’s doubts resurface, this time expressed above the descending minor tetrachord, which is repeated over and over in its simplest possible form (Figure 8).

Vous me quittez, et je demeure
Troublé du chagrin le plus noir;
Ma vie est attachée au plaisir de vous voir;
Ne vaut-il pas mieux que je meure
Par la main de Roland que par mon desespoir?

[Médor: You are leaving me and I remain, troubled by the blackest woe. My life is bound to the pleasure of seeing you. Is it not better for me to die at Roland’s hand than from my despair?]

6.7 Once again Médor is filled with thoughts of his own death; he repeats the last two lines three times, his anxiety highlighted by the unsettling disjunction between the lines of verse and the cadences of the ground. Angélique commands him to live for her sake; if he dies, so will she. But this time she cannot escape the pull of the ground, and the question she returns to, repeated three times over (score, pp. 155–6), betrays her own insecurity: does Médor not want to live for Angélique?

Vivez pour moy, qu’il vous souvienne
Que vôtre destinée est unie à la mienne,
Ma mort suivroit vôtre trépas:
Evitons un destin tragique;
Medor ne veut-il pas
Vivre pour Angelique?

[Angélique: Live for my sake; remember that your destiny is united to mine. My death would follow yours; let us escape a tragic destiny. Does Médor not want to live for Angélique?]

6.8 Before this second exchange ends, the minor descending tetrachord has been heard no fewer than fifteen times. Whereas the two do settle themselves down a little and even manage another short joint expression of love, their music remains in G minor and in the same triple meter; neither their anxieties nor the ground are very far away. And before long both reappear, this time through the medium of the chaconne, which is separated from their conversation only by a brief passage of recitative, in which Angélique orders her subjects to acknowledge Médor as their king, and by the first dance of the divertissement. This binary dance in 6/4 with a gigue-like character—which within the context of the divertissement alone might seem superfluous, given the length of the chaconne—provides, in the larger context, a transitory respite from the two different expressions of strong emotion on either side of it. However, Lully withholds another kind of transition—change of key—that he usually uses to mark the boundaries of scenes. The chaconne remains in G/g, as had the conversation between Médor and Angélique.

6.9 Lully does adhere to his normal practice in his treatment of the bass line in the chaconne, which allows for a structured variety rather than simple repetition. The long instrumental section opens in G major (score, p. 161 [http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc66/m1/225/]), and the first statement of the bass outlines root position chords. But the descending tetrachord appears in measure 9 and controls the next three couplets of the dance, reappearing periodically thereafter, including at key structural points. When the chaconne passes to the parallel minor (p. 167), the minor tetrachord in its chromatic form leads off. Similarly, the return to the major mode (p. 172) is marked by the tetrachord. The entrance of the chorus in measure 249 (p. 178) coincides with a return to the minor mode and a clear statement of the minor tetrachord in the bass. This triple articulation (entrance of the chorus, change of mode, and return of the tetrachord) has the effect of calling attention to the words Angélique’s subjects sing.

6.10 In her examination of the use of the descending minor tetrachord in the vocal and instrumental works of Charpentier and Lully, Lois Rosow has concluded that whereas “it signified profound emotion,” it did not have a single meaning, but was used in a variety of ways, particularly in various shadings of love. She further notes that “Just as a traditional emblem comprises a picture and an explanatory motto, so the tetrachord requires a poetic text to make its full meaning clear.”24 In Act III, scene 4 of Roland, the emotions Médor and Angélique experience as they confront their fears are indeed profound, and Lully draws upon the power of the tetrachord to paint the swings of their emotional states. The text of the chaconne, on the other hand, appears to belong to a different emotional world, one of celebration and homage. But the connections made through the music suggest otherwise, and Quinault’s ability to convey subtle shades of meaning, well honed in the salons of the précieuses, lends itself to more nuanced interpretations. Angélique’s subjects conclude the chaconne by expressing their allegiance (“we will follow your steps to the ends of the earth” [“Jusqu’au bout de la terre, / Nous suivrons vos pas”]), but they couch their wishes for a happy future in a sequence of subjunctives (“may the fortunate Médor be one of the best of kings; may he make those who will follow his laws fortunate” [Puisse l’heureux Medor être un des plus grands Roys. / Puisse-t’il rendre heureux ceux qui suivront ses loix.”]). This construction leaves room for doubt; might not these people be hinting that Cathay would have been better off had Angélique chosen to marry Roland instead of a nobody? Are they not prey to the same fears that plague Médor?

6.11 Geoffrey Burgess has argued that “more than any other dance form the chaconne exemplifies [the representation of sovereign power],” and that its ground bass, what the French sometimes called a “basse contrainte,” is “a source of both subjugation and empowerment, a principle which, in essentialized terms, was predicated on the legitimization of mastery over others through the exhibition of self-mastery. Stated another way, in order to be empowered, one must be subjugated.”25 In some regards this scene does appear to empower Médor. Angélique has already told him privately that “I wish to place my supreme power into your hands,” and when her subjects arrive, she introduces him as their king. The chaconne enacts Médor’s elevation to this rank: the people of Cathay place him on a throne and, in their song, allude to the crown that he is henceforth to wear. (The didascalie at the start of the scene reads: “Le Peuple de Catay, Sujets d’Angélique, rendent hommage à Medor; ils l’élevent sur un thrône, et témoignent par leurs chants et par leurs danses la joye qu’ils ont de le reconnoitre pour leur Souverain.”) But what kind of mastery does he himself exhibit? He has single-minded devotion to Angélique going for him, but within the world of the opera, the only other qualities he has demonstrated are jealousy and insecurity. The chorus’s ambiguous retelling of his love life undermines his position, as does Pécour’s casting of the dancers.

6.12 All we know about the dancers in 1685 is that they, like the chorus, represented “people of Cathay.” In the revival of 1705 there were thirteen dancers: six men and six women, plus a soloist. In this context, a solo dancer must have been seen as a dominant figure, a representation of power. It is thus telling that in 1705 and for several revivals thereafter, the soloist was a woman. The celebrations, ostensibly in honor of Médor, do not put him on display via the body of the dancer, either as a hero or as part of an amorous couple. Are we therefore to read the soloist as a surrogate for the absent Angélique, as an acknowledgment that she is not as willing to share her power with her new husband as much as her words suggest? We already know that she cannot be trusted to tell the truth, that she finds lying easier than facing the consequences of her decisions.26 But we never find out what the future holds for this couple. Who really ends up ruling Cathay? Does Médor realize the chorus’s hopes for his kingly qualities? The libretto does not tell us, and this particular chaconne is fraught with the anxieties of Angélique’s subjects.

7. Act IV

7.1 Act IV has been abundantly praised since the eighteenth century, when it even became something of a touchstone.27 The Parfaict brothers, who criticized Quinault for his misjudgments in Act III, thought that he had surpassed Ariosto in Act IV, as Roland gradually uncovers Angélique’s treachery and descends into madness.28 The divertissement, which falls in the middle of the act as one stage in Roland’s process of discovery, highlights the hero’s deplorable state by juxtaposing it against the innocent happiness of a village wedding.

7.2 At the start of the act, Roland is eagerly anticipating the rendezvous at the fountain of Love that he has made with Angélique, unaware that she has no intention of keeping it. One of his military comrades reminds him that as he lingers in the grove, he is losing time that he should be devoting to the defense of his imperiled country, but Roland will not be dissuaded from his single-minded attention to love, just when he is finally in sight of his goal. Left alone, he expresses a sense of peace that has eluded him heretofore:

O nuit, favorisez mes desirs amoureux! […]
Je ne troubleray plus, par mes cris douloureux,
Vôtre tranquilité profonde; […]

[Roland: O night, favor my loving desires!...I will no longer disturb your profound tranquility with my painful cries.]

7.3 But as he searches for Angélique, he notices graffiti on nearby rocks linking her name with Médor’s. At first, he reassures himself with the thought that Angélique could not possibly be in love with someone he has never heard of; Médor must be a pseudonym for someone heroic, presumably Roland himself. However, his uneasiness mounts; he hears musettes playing in the distance and, thinking that Angélique may be watching the shepherds dance, follows the sound.

7.4 A group of rustic folk enter, singing and dancing in preparation for the wedding of two among them on the morrow (score, pp. 239–49 [http://www.digital.library.unt.edu/permalink/meta-dc-66:303]). Coming as it does on the heels of Roland’s misgivings, the divertissement serves to relax the tension and—at least initially—to divert attention away from the distraught hero, who is not even on stage to witness the shepherds’ expressions of joy. These take the form of a compact sequence intermingling a chorus and a vocal duet with related dances (Table 3).29

7.5 This outline includes only those pieces that participate in the divertissement as narrowly defined. The start of the divertissement is clearly articulated by the march that brings the shepherds onto the stage, but its end boundary is more porous. Whereas there is a change of key from C major to G minor after the duet between the pâtre and pastourelle and no further dance pieces or large choruses, the shepherds do not leave the stage, and what comes next seems dramatically all of a piece. The bride, Bélise, and groom, Coridon, pledge their troth to each other in a tuneful duet just as Roland returns from his fruitless search for Angélique. He is shocked to hear the newlyweds claiming that they are so happy with each other that they would never swap places with Angélique and Médor. Through a series of questions Roland discovers that his beloved and his rival not only held trysts in these very woods, but that the bride’s father, Tersandre, had just helped them embark on a ship to parts unnamed. For his pains Angélique had presented Tersandre with a beautiful bracelet, which he proudly shows to Roland. This, of course, is none other than the bracelet that Angélique had received from Ziliante in the Act I divertissement, and the sight of it tips Roland into madness. His frenzy frightens the shepherds away, and the act ends as he falls prey to violence and hallucinations.

7.6 The praise this divertissement has garnered over the years is mainly aimed at the seamless way Quinault built it into the depiction of Roland’s psychological deterioration. Caroline Wood considers Lully’s three finest divertissements to be the dream sequence in Atys III/4, the Pan and Syrix masque in III/ 3-6 of Isis, and “the village wedding in Roland IV, which is truly part of the action, divulging information to Roland and leading to his insanity.”30 Her summary shows that she conceives of the divertissement as extending beyond the celebratory part (when Roland is not even on stage), through the scene where he converses with the bridal couple, and perhaps even to the end of the act. Yet it is worth taking a look not just at how the divertissement is framed, but at what happens within it. The Ballard score gives a label to scene 3—“une Nopce de Village” (a village wedding)—and calls the first piece “le Marié” (the bridegroom). Village weddings have a long history on the French stage, one that draws upon two overlapping traditions: the idealized, pastoral Arcadia populated by bergers héroïques and an earthier depiction of rustic characters as laughable country bumpkins.31 This divertissement partakes of both visions. The Arcadian world is apparent in the text of the first chorus, sung to the same music as the triple-meter march that brings the villagers on stage:

Quand on vient dans ce boccage,
Peut-on s’empêcher d’aimer?
Que l’Amour, sous cet ombrage,
Sçait bien-tôt nous désarmer!
Sans effort il nous engage
Dans les noeuds qu’il veut former.
Quand on vient dans ce boccage,
Peut-on s’empêcher d’aimer?
Que d’Oyseaux sur ce feuillage!
Que leur chant nous doit charmer.
Nuit et jour, par leur ramage,
Leur amour veut s’exprimer.
Quand on vient dans ce boccage,
Peut-on s’empêcher d’aimer?

[When we come into this grove, can we prevent ourselves from loving? In this shady spot, Cupid knows how to disarm us. He easily enmeshes us in the knots he wants to tie. When we come into this grove, can we prevent ourselves from loving? How many birds there are in this greenery! How their singing delights us! Night and day their love finds expression in their warbling. When we come into this grove, can we prevent ourselves from loving?]

7.7 The minuet that follows the chorus remains within the same idealized realm, as does the subsequent oboe trio. But a switch in affect arrives with the herdsmen (pâtres), the country-bumpkin analogues of the Arcadian shepherds, who perform the next dance to music that is very different in character. In lieu of the triple meter that has governed the divertissement up to this point, the piece is in 4/8 time32 and notated in consistent eighth notes, each with its own stem (Figure 9). This notation suggests that the notes are to be played equally, not given the gentle swing of notes inégales.33 When its lively tempo (“Fort gay”) is also taken into account, this dance changes the tone from the sentimental to the humorous—and, in fact, peasant dances such as this one were in the process of becoming a shtick, one that in the early eighteenth century became a regular means of smuggling levity into the dignified tragédie en musique.34 (During this later period, the dancer at the Opéra who specialized in peasant dances, François Dumoulin, also frequently danced as Harlequin.) It is not known who danced this piece in 1685—its heading in the score includes four character types, which does not necessarily mean that everyone available danced—but an eighteenth-century choreography set to this music is assigned to a solo peasant.35

7.8 As is often the case in Lully’s divertissements, this dance is paired with a vocal piece—here the duet for a pâtre and pastourelle, which shares the key, time signature, ternary structure, phrasing, and bouncy eighth notes. It is perhaps not a coincidence that the voice parts of this unnamed pair (soprano and haute-contre) are shared not only by Bélise and Coridon, the village bride and groom, but also by Angélique and Médor. As if musical means alone were insufficient to clarify the parallel, Bélise even tells Roland in the next scene that Médor and Angélique “have given themselves to each other in marriage, here, in front of us.” (“Ils se sont donné, devant nous, / La foy du mariage.”). But even before the audience and Roland learn this, the second part of the divertissement has been mocking the same love that it extols. The sly text of the duet takes aim, once again, at relationships that develop rapidly (“C’est un bonheur extrême / D’obtenir ce qu’on aime, / Sans languir trop long-temps” [“It is extreme good fortune to obtain the object of one’s love without languishing very long”]), and whereas it urges eternal fidelity on the pair (“Amants, soyez fideles, / Aimez vous à jamais.”), the bouncy music casts the eternity of fidelity in doubt, as does the line extolling the charms of new love: “Que les amours sont belles, / Quand elles sont nouvelles!” (“How beautiful love is when it is new!”) Bélise and Coridon nonetheless immediately respond, in the very next piece, by swearing to love each other forever: “J’aimeray toûjours ma Bergere.” “J’aimeray toûjours mon Berger.” But they go on to bring up the sensitive topic of social distinctions that has plagued all three of the main characters in this opera. Bélise’s words are particularly pointed:

Coridon

Angelique est Reyne, elle est belle,
Mais ses grandeurs, ny ses appas
Ne me rendroient point infidele;
Je ne quitterois pas
Ma Bergere pour elle.

Bélise

Quand, des riches pays arrosez de la Seine,
Le charmant Medor seroit Roy
Quand il pourroit quitter Angelique pour moy,
Et me faire une grande Reyne
Non, je ne voudrois pas encor
Quitter mon Berger pour Medor.

[Coridon: Angélique is a queen, she is beautiful, but neither her grandeur nor her beauty would make me unfaithful. I would not leave my shepherdess for her. Bélise: Even if Médor were king of the rich countries watered by the Seine, and even if he were to leave Angélique for me and make me into a great queen, no, I still would not want to leave my shepherd for Médor.]

7.9 The two then sit Roland down on a mossy bank while they recount the progression of Médor and Angélique’s love and invite Roland to their own wedding, blissfully oblivious to his mounting distress. The arrival of Tersandre, Bélise’s father, lets us know that she inherited her insensitivity: his excitement over “an invaluable good that will crown our desires” leads him to answer questions asked by Roland without noticing the person asking them.36 When he shows off the bracelet Angélique has given him and finally takes stock of Roland’s state, he attributes it to love but fails to figure out the love object. Although he expresses compassion, he is too pleased by his own good fortune to think for long about anyone else and leads everyone in a rousing chorus: “Let us bless the love of Angélique and Médor” (“Benissons l’amour d’Angelique, / Benissons l’amour de Medor.”). Roland can take no more; his cries frighten everyone away.

7.10 The Marquis d’Argenson, writing in the 1730s, gave his own evaluations of several of the operas still in the repertoire. “Armide and Roland are the most magnificent operas known: Armide is a finer [visual] spectacle, Roland has a more interesting plot and has comedy mixed in.”37 Nowhere else does comedy figure into Roland. The cleverly crafted village wedding scene must be what d’Argenson had in mind.

8. Act V

8.1 Dance and choral music saturate Act V; of the four scenes it contains, group characters figure in all but the first. Music and dance here are performative in that they are the vehicles for restoring Roland to a state of reason—and they do so outside the normal constructions of dance pieces.

8.2 Between Acts IV and V the sleeping Roland, having collapsed after his fit of frenzy, is brought to the fairy Logistille’s palace. Admitting that it is easier to calm a stormy ocean than a heart disturbed by love, she nonetheless casts spells designed to break the power that love holds over him. Or, more precisely, she utters the words, and her followers perform the actions. As a didascalie in scene 2 says, “The fairies dance around Roland and perform mysterious ceremonies in order to restore his reason.” (score, pp. 296ff. [http://www.digital.library.unt.edu/permalink/meta-dc-66:360]). Her incantations and her followers’ responses, both sung and danced, happen within a single piece that begins instrumentally (“Symphonie”), then switches textures among solos for Logistille, responses by her fairy followers, and another extended instrumental passage. The words reveal that music is part of the magic; “With the help of sweet sounds let us calm this great heart forever,” sings Logistille (score, p. 297). (“Par le secours d’une douce harmonie / Calmons ce grand coeur pour jamais.”) The piece is almost through-composed but is given coherence by the flowing accompaniment that continues throughout and by the refrain: “Fortunate is he who can defend himself against Cupid’s fatal charm” (“Heuruex qui se deffend toujours / Du charme fatal des amours!”). The mysterious ceremonies, performed by the dancers, probably took place during the instrumental passages, not during the singing (Audio Example 5, Figure 10).

8.3 This incantation does not suffice; Roland needs a more virile model in order to escape from his feminized state. An energetic prelude in duple meter (score, p. 305) replaces the gentle triple, to which the fairies must now adapt their movements. A new didascalie reveals that “The fairies continue their dances around Roland, and Logistille calls up the shades of ancient heroes to aid her in bringing Roland out of his madness.” The 32-measure prelude that introduces her appeal to the heroes is the only music available for the fairies’ new dances. After Logistille calls up the ghosts of ancient heroes, they run on stage to a lively, but short, triple-meter prelude in C major (score, p. 310). In a musically related air she exhorts Roland to pick up his arms; the chorus enthusiastically seconds her call (“Roland, courez aux armes. / Que la gloire a de charmes!”), and the ancient heroes lend their support, undoubtedly dancing during the instrumental interludes that punctuate the chorus (Audio Example 6).

8.4 The intervention by the heroes finally arouses Roland from his sleep, but he is so ashamed of himself that he threatens suicide. Logistille stays his hand and sets to work yet again. Returning to the heroic C major, she tells him that no hero is exempt from weakness. Her words are set in triple meter above the descending major tetrachord, which continues to structure the first two sections of the incantatory chorus that follows: “Today, free yourself forever from the shameful bonds of love” (“Sortez pour jamais en ce jour / Des liens honteux de l’amour”). The 17-measure instrumental interlude that follows the first statement of these words by the singing heroes affords the opportunity for the dancing heroes to translate the incantation into movement. The second time through the text the chorus frees itself from the tetrachord, and Roland frees himself from his bonds. When, upon its conclusion, Logistile exhorts him to follow glory, he responds by repeating the words that first woke him up—“Allons, courons aux armes. / Que la gloire a de charmes!”—which the chorus endorses with a repeat of its earlier text and music. The third incantation has succeeded.

8.5 Even though Roland is now cured, it remains to send him off to fight his enemies. Here, for the first time in an act interspersed with actions by the dancers, there are two official dance pieces (score, pp. 328ff. [http://www.digital.library.unt.edu/permalink/meta-dc-66:392]). “The fairies and the shades of the heroes show through their dances the joy they have at Roland’s cure. Glory, followed by Renown and preceded by Terror, come to urge Roland to go save his country.” In the revival of 1705 the dancing cast for this act consisted of six fairies and seven heroes, one of them (Monsieur Blondy) a soloist. Spotlighting a heroic male dancer at this juncture certainly makes dramatic sense, and the music of the “Second Air,” which bears some affinities to the dance type known as the entrée grave, would appear particularly appropriate for this purpose. It is telling that the didascalies stress (twice) that the emotion to be communicated through these dances is joy, since the texts sung by Glory, Logistille, and the chorus are moralistic rather than celebratory, warning Roland never to forget the dangers of love. But the dancers also have a pantomimic role: in the rousing final chorus, the fairies and heroes arm Roland, who then rushes off to save his country.

9. Conclusion

9.1 This whirlwind tour of Roland’s divertissements reveals not a series of irrelevant sets of dances, but the extraordinary coherence of Quinault’s libretto. The words one of the fairies sings in the prologue turn out to be illustrated throughout all parts of the opera: “It is Cupid (Love) who threatens us; so many hearts are in danger. No matter what pain Cupid brings, we cannot free ourselves from him. He comes back when he is chased away; he delights in taking vengeance. It is Cupid who threatens us; so many hearts are in danger.”38 Cupid’s chief victim is, of course, Roland, who spends most of the opera mooning over Angélique—although he, at least, ultimately escapes. Three of the divertissements directly engage the issue of Cupid’s power. First, there is the love fest enveloping Angélique and Médor in Act II, where they seem to have no wills of their own. Cupid also controls the village wedding in Act IV, but there the more rustic characters, especially the dancing peasants, inject a note of earthiness that inflects the bromides to love. Act V is devoted to overthrowing Cupid, but the chorus will not let Roland forget the threat that Cupid represents. Its last words are, “Glory calls you; do not sigh for anyone but her. No, never forget the evils that Love has done to you.”39 Thus the libretto comes full circle.

9.2 The other two divertissements display political power—Roland’s power to command from afar in Act I and Angélique’s control over her subjects in Act III—but in both cases, the hold Cupid has over the person offering the divertissement complicates what might seem to be a straightforward public event.

9.3 An alternative, yet complementary way of summarizing the divertissements focuses on the characters themselves. Acts I and V concern Roland, the first demonstrating his love-sickness (even if he is not present) and the last curing him of it. The three in the middle show us Angélique and Médor. Act II is their love scene; Act III exposes the extraordinary elevation to power Angélique has given Médor; and Act IV undercuts them by offering a parody of their wedding.

9.4 Is Roland exceptional in its treatment of the divertissements? No. Every single one of Lully’s operas rewards this kind of attention to the inner workings and external connections of the divertissements.40 Surely more is at stake here than decorative display.

References

Tables

Table 1. Outline of the divertissement in Roland, Act I, scene 6

Table 2. Outline of the divertissement in Roland, Act II, scene 5

Table 3. Outline of the divertissement in Roland, Act IV, scene 3

Figures

Figure 1. Lully, Roland (Paris: Ballard, 1685), 35: Act I, scene 6, start of Ziliante’s air, “Triomphez, charmante Reyne”

Figure 2. Lully, Roland (Paris: Ballard, 1685), 63: Act I, scene 6, first page of the instrumental “Air gay”

Figure 3. Lully, Roland (Paris: Ballard, 1685), 66: Act I, scene 6, end of the “Air gay” and start of the duet for two Insulaires

Figure 4. Lully, Roland (Paris: Ballard, 1685), 67: Act I, scene 6, continuation of the duet for two Insulaires

Figure 5. Lully, Roland (Paris: Ballard, 1685), 161: Act III, scene 6, start of the instrumental chaconne

Figure 6. Lully, Roland (Paris: Ballard, 1685), 178: Act III, scene 6, start of the sung chaconne

Figure 7. Lully, Roland (Paris: Ballard, 1685), 150: Act III, scene 4, Angélique expresses her fears for Médor’s life above the descending major tetrachord

Figure 8. Lully, Roland (Paris: Ballard, 1685), 154: Act III, scene 4, Médor sings of his despair above the descending minor tetrachord

Figure 9. Lully, Roland (Paris: Ballard, 1685), 246: Act IV, scene 3, the oboe trio and the start of the “Entrée de Pastres, de Pastourelles, de Bergers et de Bergeres”

Figure 10. Lully, Roland (Paris: Ballard, 1685), 299: Act V, scene 2, the end of a section sung by the fairies, followed by a return of the related Symphonie

Audio Examples

Audio Example 1. Lully, Roland, Act I, scene 6, excerpt from the chorus “Triomphez, charmante Reyne.” Evgueniy Alexiev, bass (Ziliante); chorus of the Opéra de Lausanne; Les Talens Lyriques, directed by Christophe Rousset (Ambroisie AMB 9949). Used by permission.

Audio Example 2. Lully, Roland, Act II, scene 5, transition from the Choeur de Nymphes (a3), with interjections by Angélique and Médor, to the Choeur des Amours, Sirènes, Dieux des Eaux, Silvains, et Amants enchantés. Anna-Maria Panzarella, soprano (Angélique); Olivier Dumait, haute-contre (Médor); chorus of the Opéra de Lausanne; Les Talens Lyriques, directed by Christophe Rousset (Ambroisie AMB 9949). Used by permission.

Audio Example 3. Lully, Roland, Act II, scene 5, end of the first section of the chorus “Que pour jamais” and the start of the Second Air. Chorus of the Opéra de Lausanne; Les Talens Lyriques, directed by Christophe Rousset (Ambroisie AMB 9949). Used by permission.

Audio Example 4. Lully, Roland, Act III, scene 6, end of the instrumental chaconne and start of the sung chaconne. Anders J. Dahlin, haute-contre and Marie-Hélène Essade, soprano (followers of Angélique); chorus of the Opéra de Lausanne; Les Talens Lyriques, directed by Christophe Rousset (Ambroisie AMB 9949). Used by permission.

Audio Example 5. Lully, Roland, Act V, scene 2, where Logistille’s couplet is repeated by the fairies, then extended instrumentally. Salomé Haller, soprano (Logistille); chorus of the Opéra de Lausanne; Les Talens Lyriques, directed by Christophe Rousset (Ambroisie AMB 9949). Used by permission.

Audio Example 6. Lully, Roland, Act V, scene 3, Logistille and the chorus, “Roland, courez aux armes,” interspersed with instrumental passages for the dancers. Salomé Haller, soprano (Logistille); chorus of the Opéra de Lausanne; Les Talens Lyriques, directed by Christophe Rousset (Ambroisie AMB 9949). Used by permission.

 

 

* Rebecca Harris-Warrick (rh14@cornell.edu) is Professor of Music at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. Her research interests include French opera and ballet of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, and much of her work is inflected by her studies of Baroque dance. She is a member of the editorial boards of JSCM and of the Œuvres complètes of Jean-Baptiste Lully, for which she co-edited, with James R. Anthony, the Ballet des Amours déguisés (Hildesheim: Olms Verlag, 2001).

** Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the annual conferences of the Society for Seventeenth-Century Music and of the American Musicological Society, both in 2007.

1 “Lully and Quinault gave the divertissements of the tragédies lyriques two mutually exclusive functions: first, as a decorative but nonessential and dramatically neutral ornament; and second, as a decorative but integral part of the dramatic action itself,” according to James R. Anthony, French Baroque Music from Beaujoyeulx to Rameau, 2nd ed. (Portland, OR: Amadeus Press, 1997), 100. To his credit, Anthony goes on to say that divertissements are “too often overlooked or minimized by contemporary scholars.” See also Brian Trowell, “Libretto,” New Grove Dictionary of Opera (London: Macmillan, 1992), 2:1208, in regard to Quinault’s tragédies lyriques: “Its plots were pastoral, mythological or romantic; it thrived on divine intervention, magic and irrationality, on striking and sumptuous décor with frequent changes of scenery, on the deployment of chorus and dancers in masque-like divertissements which have little to do, usually, with the main action.” Whereas the question of whether or not a divertissement participates in the action is one that deserves to be asked, I have become convinced that divertissements can carry a dramatic charge in many ways, of which furthering the plot is but one.

2 See, for example, Étienne Gros’s discussions of Quinault’s librettos in his Philippe Quinault: Sa vie et son oeuvre (Paris: Champion, 1926), part IV passim. Catherine Kintzler has theorized the presence of dance in the tragédie lyrique in several of her writings, most notably in “Le Divertissement dans l’opéra merveilleux: Histoire d’un échappement chorégraphique,” posted April 26, 2008, on her blog, Mezetulle: http://www.mezetulle.net/article-19050226.html. See also her Poétique de l’opéra français de Corneille à Rousseau (Paris: Minerve, 1991). Laura Naudeix discusses the relationships between divertissement and the operatic tragedy, mainly from the perspective of the libretto, in Chapter 5 of her book, Dramaturgie de la tragédie en musique (1673–1764) (Paris: Champion, 2004).

3 For a fuller discussion of these points, see my articles “Recovering the Lullian Divertissement,” in Dance and Music in French Baroque Theatre: Sources and Interpretations, ed. Sarah McCleave (London: Institute of Advanced Musical Studies, King's College London, 1998), 55–80, reprinted in Studies in Seventeenth-Century Opera, ed. Beth L. Glixon (Farnham: Ashgate, 2010), 333–58; “‘Toute danse doit exprimer, peindre...’: Finding the Drama in the Operatic Divertissement,” in Basler Jahrbuch für historische Musikpraxis 23 (1999), ed. Peter Reidemeister (Winterthur, Switzerland: Amadeus Verlag, 2000), 187–210; and “Dance and Representation in the Operas of Lully” in ‘L'Esprit Français’ und die Musik Europas (Festschrift in Honor of Herbert Schneider), ed. Michelle Biget-Mainfroy and Rainer Schmusch (Hildesheim: Olms Verlag, 2007), 208–18. My book manuscript, tentatively entitled Dance as Drama in French Opera from Lully to Rameau, is nearing completion.

4 In Act II, scene 3 Cybèle acknowledges the social distance that separates her from the object of her affections, but nonetheless asks her confidante Mélisse to summon Sleep so that he and his followers may reveal her love to Atys (“Fai venir le Sommeil, que luy-même en ce jour, / Prene soin icy de conduire / Les Songes qui luy font la cour; / Atys ne sçait point mon amour, / Par un moyen nouveau je pretens l’en instruire.”).

5 For fuller discussions of Roland’s origins, libretto, and critical reception, see Gros, Philippe Quinault, 629–32 and Buford Norman, “Roland,” in Touched by the Graces: The Libretti of Philippe Quinault in the Context of French Classicism (Birmingham: Summa Publications, 2001), 305–23.

6 My analysis of Roland rests both on the libretto, which the Ballard house published for distribution at the time of the premiere and later reprinted in the Recueil général des opéra, vol. I (Paris: Ballard, 1703; reprint, Geneva: Slatkine, 1971), and on the full score also published by Ballard in 1685 (reprint, New York: Broude, 2000; a copy at the University of North Texas is available online and is linked to this article). The 1685 libretto does not provide the names of the performers, although librettos for later revivals do (see below, ref. 8, ref. 9, and paragraphs 5.2, 6.12, and 8.5). None of the ten surviving choreographies of dances for revivals of Lully operas on the stage of the Académie Royale de Musique comes from Roland. A recording of the opera has been made by Les Talens Lyriques, directed by Christophe Rousset (Ambroisie AMB 9949); I would like to thank Christophe Rousset and Ambroisie for permission to embed sound clips from their recording in this article.

7 The prologue—an essential part of each of Lully’s operas—has conventions that are different enough from those used within the five acts of a tragédie en musique as to deserve a separate discussion, which it receives in my book in progress on the dramaturgy of dance in French opera from Lully to Rameau.

8 Librettos for performances at the Académie Royale de Musique did not begin to systematically list the names of the performers until 1699, but several librettos published for court performances during Lully’s lifetime do so. The number of sixteen to twenty choristers is inferred on the basis of other divertissements in which only men sang. As for the dancers, the most common number for a single group was eight. The revival of Roland in 1705 called for nine dancers in this divertissement, one of them a soloist, and this configuration can be seen in later revivals as well. See Carl B. Schmidt, The Livrets of Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Tragédies Lyriques: A Catalogue Raisonné (New York: Performers’ Editions, 1995); this catalogue includes those performers named in librettos. Unfortunately, Schmidt did not preserve the distinction between soloist and group that can be discerned from the layout of the libretto, but listed all the dancers in a given role alphabetically.

9 Quinault was scrupulous about making gender distinctions among the group characters. The next act, for instance, calls for both “Amants enchantés” (masculine) and “Amantes enchantées” (feminine), while in Act I of Atys he designated both “Phyrgiens” and “Phyrgiennes.” In Roland’s Act I divertissement the characters are called simply “Insulaires orientaux” (masculine plural). The two Insulaires who sing a duet are both men, and all six Parisian revivals of Roland (1705, 1709, 1716, 1727, 1743, and 1755) have only men dancing as Insulaires. The chorus does sing in four parts, with the top part notated in the treble clef, but so does the all-male chorus of Sacrificateurs in Act III of Cadmus et Hermione.

10 Quotations from the libretto and score retain the original spelling. Here and elsewhere, all translations are mine.

11 I have chosen to use the French term rather than the English “stage direction” because of its wider applicability. Quinault’s didascalies cannot be taken as instructions for a director, a function that did not exist at the time. Rather, they were aimed at arm-chair readers who needed to be able to visualize the stage as they read the libretto.

12 “N’importe qui ne peut pas dire et faire n’importe quoi. Un dieu de première grandeur n’agira pas directement, ce serait indigne de sa majesté; il aura recours à un intermédiare qui, dans la hiérarchie fabuleuse, occupe un rang subalterne, ou bien il enverra des Songes pour faire connaître ses intentions.” Catherine Kintzler, “La Tragédie lyrique et le double défi d’un théâtre classique,” in La Tragédie lyrique, ed. Patrick F. van Dieren and Alain Durel, Carnets du Théâtre des Champs-Elysées 2 (Paris: Cicéro, 1991), 56. (One hundred years later, in The Marriage of Figaro, such divisions of labor still prevail. Whereas Susanna herself delivers the secret letter to the Count, the Count delegates another servant, Barbarina, to carry the response.)

13 “Le Choeur des Insulaires chante ces derniers Vers dans le temps que Ziliante presente le Brasselet à Angelique, & les autres Insulaires dansent à la maniere de leur Païs.”

14 Christophe Rousset, in his recording of Roland, conflates the two verses, by having the second verse sung upon repeat of the A section, thus before the refrain. This, however, might have been a choice rather than an error due to relying only on the score, in order to shorten the divertissement without cutting any of the music. The libretto accompanying the recording presents both verses of the text separately. (In the Ballard 1685 score the two verses are both written under the A music of the duet, which section is indicated to be repeated. A verbal indication at the end of the duet instructs the musicians to repeat the “Air gay” and the song; neither piece is written out again. This arrangement in the score is a common shorthand on Ballard’s part to avoid resetting pages of music. The fact that the second verse is written directly under the first should not be taken as an indication that on the initial repeat of the A music, the second verse should be sung immediately, before the refrain. The libretto, which writes out the text in full, clearly shows the correct order of events.)

15 In Act III, scene 4 the goddess Cybèle sends sweet dreams to tell Atys that she is in love with him, and nightmares to warn him of what will happen if he does not return her love.

16 The woods into which Angélique and Médor have individually wandered contains the fountain of Hate and the fountain of Love. Angélique tells Témire that while she keeps seeking the former, she succeeds in finding only the latter.

17 The libretto identifies these singers as Cupids (“Choeur des Amours”) rather than as nymphs. In either case the singers would have high voices.

18 Guillaume-Louis Pécour became the choreographer at the Opéra in 1687, after Lully died, and he remained in the position until his own death in 1729. Although a large number of his choreographies are preserved in Feuillet notation, including ones for the stage of the Opéra, none of them is for more than two dancers, so we cannot know how he might have treated a group of six. Other group dances for mixed couples, however, show that a choreographer might sometimes choose to emphasize the group as a whole and at other times to match up couples within it; see Rebecca Harris-Warrick and Carol G. Marsh, Musical Theatre at the Court of Louis XIV: Le Mariage de la Grosse Cathos (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 50–1 and 56–7. It is of course possible, or even likely, that not all six danced all the time.

19 Lois Rosow, “Power and Display: Music in Court Theatre,” in Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Music, ed. Tim Carter and John Butt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 233.

20 Parfaict, Histoire de l’Académie Royale de Musique (1741), F-Pn (Manuscrits) Fr. nouv. acq. 6532, 57: “Ce Poëme qui a de grands beautez, est cependant fort au dessous de plusieurs autres du même auteur. Il y a dans le IIIe Acte, une faute de jugement qui n’est pas pardonable à Quinault. C’est Angélique qui fait reconnoitre Médor Roy du Cathay, par ses peuples. Roland, qui la cherche de tous côtez, peut-il ignorer un pareil événement? Assurément ce n’est point Arioste qui a conduit Quinault dans ce précipice: au contraire, il fait partir Angélique, et Médor très secretment.”

21 See Raphaëlle Legrand, “Chaconnes et passacailles dansées dans l’opéra français de Lully à Le Sueur” (mémoire de maîtrise, Université de Paris-Sorbonne, 1984), 126–32. According to her research, the next longest, with 860 measures, is also from a Lully opera, Amadis. These two are much longer than any of those that followed them for the next hundred years. The recording of Roland by Les Talens Lyriques (see ref. 6) includes only the 496 notated measures; these take almost twelve minutes.

22 By way of comparison, the vocal section of the passacaille in Armide, which is 522 measures long, has twelve lines of text. The chaconne that ends Amadis has almost as much music as the one in Roland and a very lengthy text.

23 Médor has admitted his insecurities on these very points earlier in the act (scene 1): “Je n’osais pas esperer / Le bien que l’Amour me donne; / Un si grand bonheur m’étonne, / Et j’ay peine à m’assurer / Qu’il puisse long-temps durer.”

24 Lois Rosow, “The Descending Minor Tetrachord in France: An Emblem Expanded,” in New Perspectives on Marc-Antoine Charpentier, ed. Shirley Thompson (Farnham and Burlington: Ashgate, 2010), 64.

25 Geoffrey Burgess, “The Chaconne and the Representation of Sovereign Power in Lully’s Amadis (1684) and Charpentier’s Médée (1693),” in Dance and Music in French Baroque Theatre (see ref. 3), 81–104 (81 and 85).

26 Angélique’s behavior was defended by Saint-Mard, in his Réflexions sur l’Opéra (The Hague, 1741) as cited in Wood and Sadler, French Baroque Opera: A Reader (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000), 112, precisely because she was flawed: “There is one other opera which is priceless to me because it contains just about everything I want: Roland. I love to see in it a proud princess who, after wrestling with her own vanity, laughs at what is being said about her, gives herself over to the whims of love, falls in love with Médor, who is worthy of love, and dismisses Roland, who is not. I know that there are things to take exception to in the conduct of Angélique, which is not always as honourable as it could be, but I assure you that it is wrong to believe that our heroes and heroines must always conform to a certain model of perfection, sad and noble, which opinion and prejudice have constructed. In the situation in which she found herself, Angélique had to be deceitful.” Later in the book, he attributes his favorable impression to the performers, Mlle Journet and Cochereau, whom he saw in the revival of 1716: “I scarcely saw that improper, treacherous Angélique I was expecting. The one I saw was tender and delicate, and I forgave her everything. I felt nothing but pity for her, so effectively did Journet employ her charm, dignity and nobility to make me like this character. Cochereau was playing Médor; he was an uninspiring (froid) youth, but pleasant enough. He had an affecting voice and a handsome, noble face, which made one willing to forgive Angélique for the trick she played on Roland.” (Wood and Sadler, French Baroque Opera, 134.)

27 In reviewing the premiere of Jephté in 1732, the Mercure de France compared the divertissement in its fourth act to this one from Roland: “Cette Fête, qui est, sans contredit, la plus gracieuse de la Piece, et qu’on compare, à bon droit, à celle du quatrieme Acte de l’Opera de Roland, est interrompuë par Almasie, qui après avoir fait éloigner les Bergers, annonce à Iphise qu’elle doit être sacrifiée.” (Mercure de France, March 1732, 584.)

28 “C’est ce qui forme son quatrième acte, où [Quinault] se surpasse dans l’intérêt qu’il a sçu y repandre, et l’art du divertissement qui fait corps de la piéce. Icy le Poëte François surpasse le Poëte Italien; les fureurs de Roland sont mieux placées en coupant et rompant des trophées que son rival n’a dressé que pour son déshonneur, que de luy faire prendre un cheval, et après l’avoir crévé à force de le faire courir, le porter sur ses épaules, ainsi que l’Arioste le débite.” Parfaict, Histoire, 57.

29 Starting with the revival of Roland at the Opéra in 1690 and on into the mid-eighteenth century, this divertissement underwent expansion; see Rebecca Harris-Warrick, “Roland apprenant l’infidélité d’Angélique: Les différentes versions de l’acte IV de Roland au fil des reprises,” Annales de l’Association pour un Centre de Recherche sur les Arts du Spectacle aux XVIIe et XVIIIe Siècles, vol. 5: Le Tableau et la Scène, Peinture et mise en scène du répertoire héroïque dans la première moitié du xviiie siècle, Autour des figures des Coypel (forthcoming 2013). Regarding what the two theatrical choreographies set to music from this divertissement suggest about the tone of the dancing, see in the same publication the article by Hubert Hazebroucq, “Les danses de l’Acte IV de Roland: Questions de reconstruction et d’interprétation.”

30 Caroline Wood, Music and Drama in the Tragédie en Musique, 1673–1715: Jean-Baptiste Lully and his Successors (New York and London: Garland, 1996), 252.

31 In Lully’s works alone, there are five earlier village weddings, ranging in length from a single scene to the entire work: Ballet des plaisirs (1655); Ballet de l’Amour malade (1657); Les Nôces de village (1663); Ballet royal de Flore (1669); and Le Carnaval mascarade (1675). Village weddings may also be found in the works of other composers, such as Philidor l’aîné and Lalande, in plays, and in engravings.

32 The time signature is notated as 8/4, but it functions as 4/8.

33 Ballard’s printing system meant that each note required its own piece of type, but notes could nonetheless be beamed together; cf. the notation of this piece with the oboe trio that precedes it.

34 The ways in which divertissements served as a means of introducing the comic into otherwise serious works was the subject of my unpublished paper, “The Unbuttoned Opéra,” presented at the national meeting of the American Musicological Society in November 2002. The point is developed in my book about the divertissements in French opera (in progress), as is information about the dancers who performed in them.

35 The choreographer of this “Entrée de paysan” (F-Po Rés 817, fols. [23r–27v]) is unknown, nor is there any reason to think that this particular choreography was performed at the Opéra. It is nonetheless interesting to note that this choreography requires an extension of what is otherwise a very short dance, given its lively tempo: instead of the ABA conveyed in the score, the through-composed choreography requires an extra repetition, thus ABABA. It is not rare for choreographies to extend the music in such ways beyond what the score appears to call for. For bibliographic information about this dance, see LMC 3040 and FL/Ms05.1/06, its entries in the two catalogues of choreographies in Feuillet notation: Meredith Ellis Little and Carol G. Marsh, La Danse Noble: An Inventory of Dances and Sources (Williamstown, New York, Nabburg: Broude Brothers Ltd., 1992); and Francine Lancelot, La Belle dance: Catalogue raisonné fait en l’an 1995 (Paris: Van Dieren Éditeur, 1996). Lancelot’s catalogue includes information about the repeat structure for the music that each choreography requires.

36 The lines Quinault gave to Tersandre lend themselves to comic treatment. At first, his entrance text seems to be another bromide about the pastoral life, but really it is motivated by his glee over receiving the bracelet. He fails to notice Roland’s presence until well into the scene, even though he hears someone making comments about the story he is recounting. He has a bit of worldly wisdom to offer (he breaks the news to his daughter that love can cause pain), but he picks the wrong way to try to cheer up Roland. Apparently the pâtres are not the only characters in this scene intended to make the audience smile.

37 René Louis de Voyer de Paulmy, Marquis d’Argenson, Notices sur les oeuvres de théâtre, as cited in Wood and Sadler, French Baroque Opera, 116. By the time d’Argenson saw this opera, the divertissement had been enlarged by at least two dances, one of them for the bride and groom, that were borrowed from Lully’s early ballets and added for the revival of 1690. Annotated scores at the Bibliothèque de l’Opéra show that further additions were made to this divertissement over the years, a fact that can also be deduced from the continued expansion in the dancing cast, whose configuration suggests that there were ever more pas de deux and solos. In the revival of 1727, for example, the dancing cast numbered seventeen: the bride and groom, the bride’s parents, the groom’s parents, the sister of the bride (Mlle Camargo, one of the stars of the troupe), two pâtres, four shepherds, and four shepherdesses. It is entirely possible that some of these additional dances were also given a comic slant. Regarding the early enlargement of the divertissement, see my article “La Mariée: The History of a French Court Dance,”in Jean-Baptiste Lully and the Music of the French Baroque: Essays in Honor of James R. Anthony, ed. John Hajdu Heyer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 247–51; see also my article “Roland apprenant l’infidélité d’Angélique” (full citation in ref. 29).

38 “C’est l’Amour qui nous menace; / Que de coeurs sont en danger! / Quelques maux que l’Amour fasse, / On ne peut s’en dégager. / Il revient quand on le chasse, / Il se plaît à se vanger. / C’est l’Amour qui nous menace; / Que de coeurs sont en danger!”

39 “La Gloire vous appelle, / Ne soûpirez plus que pour elle, / Non, n’oubliez jamais / Les maux que l’Amour vous a fait.”

40 I have written briefer and more general articles about the dances in Thésée and Psyché in the program books for the Boston Early Music Festival in 2001 and 2007 respectively. These articles were republished in the booklets accompanying the recordings of the two operas as performed by the Boston Early Music Festival, Paul O’Dette and Steven Stubbs, music directors: Thésée in 2007 (Cpo 777 240-2 [RadioBremen]) and Psyché in 2008 (Cpo 777 367-2 [RadioBremen]). See also my “La Danse dans Cadmus et Hermione,” in Cadmus et Hermione de Jean-Baptiste Lully et Philippe Quinault: Livret, études et commentaires, ed. Jean Duron (Wavre, Belgium: Mardaga, 2008), 231–50.


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