Tragédie en musique [tragédie lyrique] (Fr.)
- Graham Sadler
[tragédie lyrique] (Fr.)
The most important species of French opera in the period from Lully to Rameau (1673–1764). In its organization and musical character it shares many features with lesser genres such as the pastorale-héroïque. It is nevertheless distinguished by its five-act structure (others usually had fewer acts) and by a greater dramatic intensity and seriousness of tone. In the later 18th century the tragédie en musique profoundly influenced the operatic reforms of Jommelli, Traetta and, above all, Gluck. In their turn the French tragedies of Gluck, Piccinni, Sacchini and Salieri, produced in the 1770s and 80s, represent a transformation and final flowering of the genre.
During the greater part of the Lully–Rameau period, the term ‘tragédie lyrique’ is rarely encountered. For the first 85 years of the genre’s existence, this expression was scarcely ever employed by librettists or composers. Almost without exception, librettos printed before 1760 use the terms ‘tragédie’ or ‘tragédie en musique’. On printed scores the same terms are found with similar consistency, together with such variants as ‘tragédie mise en musique’ or (after the mid-18th century, when old librettos began to be recycled) ‘remise en musique’ (e.g. Dauvergne’s ...