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French Opera at the Fin de Siecle$
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Steven Huebner

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195189544

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195189544.001.0001

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(p.269) 17 Gwendoline
French Opera at the Fin de Siecle

Steven Huebner

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on Chabrier's Gwendoline. It is shown that because Gwendoline appeared to lean towards the avant-garde when it was conceived and drafted in the late 1870s and early 1880s, Chabrier at first appeared to elbow Saint-SaËns and the pre-Manon Massenet on the front lines. However, by the 1886 Monnaie première mainstream critical opinion — as well as the composer's self-image — placed him in a more progressive position than either of those two figures. At the same time, from the Symbolist corner Édouard Dujardin's short review of Gwendoline in the Revue wagnérienne sounded a note of impatience by remarking that one-half the opera was given over to conventional number types; the other half was a more sustained effort truly to communicate, ‘a poor attempt for anyone who remembers twenty bars of Parsifal or the Missa Solemnis’, but nonetheless it presented a brave face in the context of the general decrepitude of French operatic culture. Fourcaud praised Chabrier's independence of spirit and detected some passages that evoked Wagner. Unfortunately, others reminded him of Gounod.

Keywords:   French opera, Emmanuel Chabrier, Wagner, Édouard Dujardin, Gounod

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