The engagement was celebrated with Le Carrousel du Roi, a lavish public extravaganza that involved magnificently costumed processions, wild beasts, giants, acrobats, elaborate floats, numerous court musicians, and an elegant equestrian ballet. Approximately 200,000 people crowded into the Place Royale to watch the spectacle.
This according to “Dances with horses” by Carolyn Miller (Early music America VIII/2 [summer 2002] pp. 30–33). Below, music composed by Lully for a later royal carrousel.
In response to a heightened anxiety regarding the preservation of a pure, authentic French identity and spirit as contacts with exotic cultures increased, the collection and dissemination of French traditional songs blossomed during the 1890s and the 1900s.
With harmonizations employing modal inflections, ambiguous tonalities, and unconventional voice leading, these collections presented traditional songs as historical evidence of a clear progression from provincial folk tunes to the sophisticated musical language of the fin de siècle. These harmonizations offer unique insights into the ways in which the French consciously manipulated how they wanted to be heard and understood during this period.
Music was commonly introduced into French plays at least by the time of Molière, but after Louis XIV gave Lully a monopoly on opera in 1673 this practice was drastically circumscribed. Actors protested politely at first, but Louis did not take the hint, so dramatists began to turn to their sharpest weapon: satire.
Operagoers were depicted as ridiculous losers, and operas as overblown and barbaric. Opera houses were portrayed as venues for illicit flirtation, and opera singers as people with questionable morals. Operas were said to bay at the moon, to have no new airs, and to employ monkeys instead of poets and musicians. While this derision had no apparent effect on the opera world, it gave French comedy a rich new subject.
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