Printed stage-direction books, so-called livrets de mise-en-scène, count among the most important sources for the history of staging of nineteenth-century French opera. Their function was to document the then-current condition of a Paris production, and to serve as a model for provincial or foreign theatres. In this essay, a comparison of two such livrets for Auber's Fra Diavolo from Paris, by Vieillard Duverger and Louis Palianti, shows that the staging of successful works underwent significant changes over time. One cannot, however, assume that a published stage manual indicates the chronological fixity of a production. Indeed, directors even in the nineteenth century did not aim at an ‘‘objective” reproduction of a staging, but rather at an innovative, lively, and ever-changing music theatre within the framework of contemporary operatic aesthetics.
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