Opéra comique (opera) (Fr.)
- M. Elizabeth C. Bartlet
- and Richard Langham Smith
Term for a French stage work of the 18th, 19th or 20th centuries with vocal and instrumental music and spoken dialogue (though it may also include recitative). Its origins are found in the 18th-century Parisian Fair Theatres (known from about 1715 as the Opéra-Comique) and also the Comédie-Italienne ( see Paris, §2, (iii) ). The essentially popular appeal of these repertories formed the antithesis of the stately tragédie mise en musique and allied works at the Académie Royale de Musique (the Opéra). Soon, however, a broad range of subjects and styles was developed: drame and other literary and dramatic models became important. The word ‘comique’ should thus be broadly construed, in the spirit of Balzac’s term ‘la comédie humaine’, or perhaps that of Shakespeare’s comedies.
The term first appears in current usage in the 18th century when, in the phrase ‘opéra-comique en vaudevilles’ (or similar expression), it designated stage works using pre-existing tunes and usually spoken dialogue (as in C.-S. Favart’s ...