The Woman Singer and her Song in French and German Prose Fiction, from Goethe to Berlioz
Chapter 6: Realistic Divas: The Singer in the Works of Balzac and Sophie Ulliac-Trémadeure
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‘Qu’est-ce qu’un chanteur? Un seul corps qui doit donner des âmes à ceux qui n’en ont pas’.1
Following on from the German Romantics and, in particular, from E.T.A. Hoffmann’s legacy of the music novella and the musical fantastic, French music culture during the July Monarchy period was a frenzied mass vogue, a genuine socio-cultural and literary ferment2 that gave birth to a reformulation of the musical-literary discourse between the negotiation of emancipated artistic genius and the pronounced social agenda that sought to shape contemporary society.
In that regard, French literature treating music between 1830 and 1848, as compared to earlier German texts, widens its reflection on song and the singer by placing the figure of the musician at the centre of its narratives, and, in doing so, raising the question of the artist in society. Although music became as much a societal spectacle in French culture and literature as a power shaping important artistic discourses, French musical narratives of the 1830s and 1840s, embracing tendencies of both Romantic and realist aesthetics, put the question of the singer and her status as woman and artist forward with renewed vigour. The resultant new discussions of this evolving female artist, together with the rise of opera in the nineteenth century, rendered her one of the iconic figures of the century.
The political, economic and socio-cultural caesura of 1830 in France marked the start of a new type of musical-literary discourse, and writers...
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