Tragédie en musique
Tragédie en musique (French: [tʁaʒedi ɑ̃ myzik], musical tragedy), also known as tragédie lyrique (French: [tʁaʒedi liʁik], lyric tragedy), is a genre of French opera introduced by Jean-Baptiste Lully and used by his followers until the second half of the eighteenth century. Operas in this genre are usually based on stories from Classical mythology or the Italian romantic epics of Tasso and Ariosto. The stories may not necessarily have a tragic ending – in fact, most do not – but the works' atmospheres are suffused throughout with an affect of nobility and stateliness. The standard tragédie en musique has five acts. Earlier works in the genre were preceded by an allegorical prologue and, during the lifetime of Louis XIV, these generally celebrated the king's noble qualities and his prowess in war. Each of the five acts usually follows a basic pattern, opening with an aria in which one of the main characters expresses their feelings, followed by dialogue in recitative interspersed with short arias (petits airs), in which the main business of the plot occurs. Each act traditionally ends with a divertissement, offering great opportunities for the chorus and the ballet troupe. Composers sometimes changed the order of these features in an act for dramatic reasons.
Notable examples of the genre
Apart from Lully, the most considerable writer of tragédies en musique is Rameau, whose five works in the form are considered the culminating masterpieces of the genre. The Viking Opera Guide refers to Marc-Antoine Charpentier's tragédie Médée as "arguably the finest French opera of the seventeenth century". In the eighteenth century, Jean-Marie Leclair's lone tragédie Scylla et Glaucus has been similarly praised. Other highly esteemed exponents are André Campra (Tancrède, Idoménée), Marin Marais (Alcyone, Sémélé) and Michel Pignolet de Montéclair (Jephté).
List of works in this genre (Baroque era)
Works by Lully's sons
- Warrack, John and West, Ewan (1992), The Oxford Dictionary of Opera, 782 pages, ISBN 0-19-869164-5