Royal Academy of Music

Katherine Kolb

in Berlioz on Music

Published in print March 2015 | ISBN: 9780199391950
Published online March 2015 | e-ISBN: 9780199391981 | DOI:
Royal Academy of Music

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Like French composers in general, Berlioz considered ballet an essential part of opera. And although he had once planned to produce a Faust ballet, as a critic, he repeatedly derides independent ballet-pantomime as incomprehensible inanity—much as instrumental music was derided in the eighteenth century. True, he wrote few ballet reviews, since Janin was responsible for dance at the Débats. (Janin’s review of this ballet is devastating.) Of the ballet reviews he did write, this one is typical in its airy, whimsical, implicitly dismissive manner. Yet Berlioz appears genuinely sensitive to the dancing of Marie Taglioni and Fanny Elssler, the great ballerinas of the age. Just as eighteenth-century listeners were known to delight in instrumental music despite their rational reservations, so Berlioz’s mockery ceases, here, once Fanny Elssler steps on stage. The inanities of the plot, comically conveyed via invented dialogue, prove ultimately irrelevant.

Keywords: ballet; ballet-pantomime; instrumental music; Fanny Elssler; Jules Janin; Vestris the great; Kant; Paul de Kock

Chapter.  2243 words. 

Subjects: Opera ; Musicology and Music History

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