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Saint-Saëns and Sophocles

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 October 2020

Steven Huebner*
Affiliation:
McGill University

Abstract

Saint-Saëns's incidental music for Sophocles’ Antigone (Comédie-Française, 1893, trans. Meurice and Vacquerie) gives witness both to his engagement with culture classique and an experimental orientation in the context of fin-de-siècle music theatre. This essay situates Saint-Saëns's highly idiosyncratic score within the frame of late nineteenth-century research into ancient Greek music by François-Auguste Gevaert and Louis-Albert Bourgault-Ducoudray. It documents how Saint-Saëns aimed to participate in the creation of an authentic experience of ancient Greek theatre, one enhanced by the initiative of the Comédie-Française to stage its production at the open air Théâtre d'Orange in southern France. The article also shows the limitations of authenticity resulting from the nature of the translation as well as from Saint-Saëns's own compositional instincts.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press

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References

1 For biographical context see Studd, Stephen, Saint-Saëns: A Critical Biography (Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1999): 192–7Google Scholar, and Macdonald, Hugh, Saint-Saëns and the Stage: Operas, Plays, Pageants, a Ballet and a Film (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019): 243–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

2 These and other productions of Greek drama at the end of the nineteenth century are discussed in Humbert-Mougin, Sylvie, Dionysos revisité: les tragiques grecs en France de Leconte de Lisle à Claudel (Paris: Belin, 2003): 176–88Google Scholar.

3 Geary, Jason, ‘Reinventing the Past: Mendelssohn's Antigone and the Creation of an Ancient Greek Musical Language’, The Journal of Musicology 23 (2006): 189CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

4 The distinction is articulated in Richard Taruskin, ‘The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past’, Text and Act: Essays on Music and Performance (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).

5 For a brief survey of this activity see Solomon, Jon, ‘The Reception of Ancient Greek Music in the Late Nineteenth Century’, International Journal of the Classical Tradition 17 (2010): 497525CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

6 For background and in-depth discussion of the Reinach-Fauré arrangement see Dorf, Samuel N., Performing Antiquity: Ancient Greek Music and Dance from Paris to Delphi, 1890–1930 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), 2247CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and Solomon, ‘The Reception of Ancient Greek Music’, 505–16.

7 On Saint-Saëns's interest in Greek and Roman classical culture see Brooks, Erin, ‘“Une culture classique supérieure”: Saint-Saëns et l'esthétique antique’, in Figures de l'antiquité dans l'opéra français: des ‘Troyens’ de Berlioz à ‘Oedipe’ d'Enesco, ed. Branger, Jean-Christophe and Giroud, Vincent (Saint-Étienne: Publications de l'Université de Saint-Étienne, 2008), 235–58Google Scholar and Flynn, Timothy S., ‘The Classical Reverberations in the Music and Life of Camille Saint-Saëns’, Music in Art 40 (2015): 255–66Google Scholar.

8 Saint-Saëns, Camille, Note sur les décors de théâtre dans l'antiquité romaine (Paris: L. Baschet, 1886)Google Scholar.

9 Olin, Elinor, ‘Reconstructing Greek Drama’, in Melodramatic Voices: Understanding Music Drama, ed. Hibberd, Sarah (Burlington: Ashgate, 2011): 45–60Google Scholar.

10 See Saint-Saëns, Camille, Écrits sur la musique et les musiciens, 1870–1921, ed. Soret, Marie-Gabrielle (Paris: Vrin, 2012)Google Scholar, 446–7, 565–8, 867–70, 1020–23. For a review of his research activities, see Soret, Lyres and Citharas of Antiquity’, in Camille Saint-Saëns and his World, ed. Pasler, Jann (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012): 275–86Google Scholar.

11 On the Béziers theatre see Moore, Christopher, ‘Lyric Theater in Béziers’, 19th Century Music 37 (2014): 211–41Google Scholar.

12Déjanire et M. Camille Saint-Saëns’, in Saint-Saëns, Écrits sur la musique et les musiciens, 541–2.

13 Dorf, Performing Antiquity, 11–13.

14 ‘Les Choeurs d’Antigone’, in Saint-Saëns, Écrits sur la musique et les musiciens, 476–7.

15 Gevaert, François Auguste, Histoire et théorie de la musique de l'antiquité, 2 vols (Gand: C. Annoot-Braeckman, 1875–1881)Google Scholar.

16 Gevaert, Histoire et théorie, I, 368–70.

17 Gevaert, Histoire et théorie, I, 164.

18 ‘Lettre de Las Palmas’ [1897], in Saint-Saëns, Écrits sur la musique et les musiciens, 501–6, and ‘Deux lettres de Saint-Saëns’ [1897], 708–10.

19 Gevaert, Histoire et théorie, I, 31.

20 Gevaert, Histoire et théorie, I, 140.

21 Gevaert, Histoire et théorie, II, 45–50.

22 Bourgault-Ducoudray, L.A., Trente mélodies populaires de Grèce et d'orient (Paris: Henry Lemoine, [1876])Google Scholar.

23 See Egger, Emile, L'Hellénisme en France: Leçons sur l'influence des études grecques dans le développement de la langue et littérature françaises (Paris: Didier, 1869): II, 448Google Scholar.

24 Dorf, Performing Antiquity, 28–42.

25 Macdonald, Saint-Saëns and the Stage, 248.

26 See Rigord, Agis, Le Théâtre Antique d'Orange: notice historique et archéologique (Avignon: Imprimerie Rhône Durance, 1960): 16–19Google Scholar.

27 On Nîmes, see Lardic, Sabine Teulon, ‘Communiquer sur la citoyenneté et la latinité par le spectacle dans l'amphithéâtre de Nîmes’, in Le Rituel des cérémonies, ed. Duma, Jean (Paris: Édition éléctronique du CTHS, Actes des congrès des sociétés historiques et scientifiques, 2015)Google Scholar.

28 Maurras, ‘Barbares et Romans’, electronic edition on www.maurras.net (accessed 28 January 2020). See also Humbert-Mougin, Dionysos revisité, 130, and Dard, Olivier, Charles Maurras: le maître et l'action (Paris: Armand Colin 2013): 45–7Google Scholar.

29 Humbert-Mougin, Dionysos revisité, 130.

30 Humbert-Mougin, Dionysos revisité, 117–46.

31 Jacques Normand, ‘Les Fêtes Félibréennes: au théâtre d'Orange’, Le Gaulois, 15 August 1894.

32 Vial, Eugène, Paul Mariéton d'après sa correspondence (Paris: Georges Crès, 1920): II, 87Google Scholar.

33 Emile Berr, ‘La Revanche de Sophocle’, Le Figaro, 14 August 1894.

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