|dc.description.abstract||This dissertation explores the performance history of the tragédies en musique of Jean-Baptiste Lully in the French provinces between 1685 and 1750. During his lifetime, Lully held a monopoly that restricted opera production primarily to the royal court and Paris, where he served as director of the Académie Royale de Musique. Only following his death in 1687 did theaters elsewhere in France begin to stage operas. I concentrate on the performance and reception of Lully’s tragédies in Marseille, Lyon, Rennes, and Strasbourg, four cities characterized by especially rich musical environments or unique political and cultural circumstances. In each place, provincial artists performed, parodied, and adapted the tragédies of Lully, sometimes to the detriment of his patron, Louis XIV, to whose majesty the operas cast frequent allusion.
Lully’s operas circulated throughout France during an era marked by an unprecedented expansion of royal authority. This had two main effects. On the one hand, as vehicles of propaganda, Lully’s tragédies lent mobility to the king’s image as an absolutist monarch, functioning analogously to the equestrian statues of Louis XIV that were erected in major cities throughout France, or the chants triumphals and heroic engravings printed in quantity during the Nine Years’ War, the War of Spanish Succession, and the War of Polish Succession. Yet even as some provincial productions of Lully’s operas acted as emissaries of absolutism, many provincial artists altered or satirized Lully’s tragédies, deliberately keying their modifications to critique royal intervention – positively or negatively – in local affairs.
Scholars have typically focused on the performance history of Lully’s tragédies in Paris or at court. By looking beyond these geographic boundaries, I demonstrate how this repertoire fabricated, refabricated, and deconstructed the image and meaning of sovereignty in ancien régime France. More than an alternative history of Lully’s operas, my dissertation is an intervention in the historiography of early modern French absolutism, retold through opera.||