La Querelle des Bouffons
Lucie Skeaping looks at the background to the historically significant "musical war" - the "Querelle des Bouffons". On 1st August 1752 a performance of Pergolesi's operatic divertimento, "La Serva Padrona" by an Italian troupe of performers in Paris, sparked a great pamphlet war in the capital about the respective merits of Italian and French opera. The debate became known as La Querelle des Bouffons or the "Quarrel of the Comedians". On the surface, the 'pamphlet war' seemed little more than a debate about two contrasting operatic genres: the established "tragedie lyrique" as created in the previous century by Lully and then practised by such as Jean Philippe Rameau,; and the lighter, comic opera, that was then the rage in Italy. In reality the debate had a crucial subtext - a political, philosophical and aesthetic polarisation of the principles of King of France on one hand, and the Queen on the other; of the traditional ideals of society and thinking against the emerging philosophy of the enlightenment; of the desire to create a more immediate and less rhetorical art form.
At the forefront of the debate was none other than the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
Lucie Skeaping unpicks the story and draws on some of the key music featured in the debate. The programme includes operatic excerpts from works by Pergolesi, Lully, Rameau, Mondonville and Dauvergne - and significantly by Jean-Jacques Rousseau himself.