Pleasures and Pastimes of the Bourgeoisie


The Opéra and Politics
~ Pre -revolution

~Fashion in Les Mis

~Rise in Popularity
~Economic and Social Symbolism
~Representation in Les Mis

Gardens ~17th Century ~18th Century ~19th Century ~Versailles

Gambling ~Pre-Revolutionary ~Cafés & Cercles

Opéra & Theatre
~The Revolution
~Social Status
~Les Misérables

Etiquette ~Promenade ~Dances ~Dinner ~Casinos and Salons

Bibliography ~Fashion ~Etiquette ~Restaurants ~Opéra ~Picture Bibliography



The Opéra in Politics:

After the initial Revolution, came the Terror, shortly followed by Napoleon. Neither were kind to the new freedom of the theatre and the Opéra. Napoleon implemented strict controls upon the theatre: under his regime, any piece that was to be performed had to be approved by the state as worthy. One can only imagine the number of artists who chose not to write as a result of this law. Napoleon not only limited the repetoire of the theatres and the Opéra, but the theatres themselves: "Napoleon's Decree of 1807 had limited the number of secondary theatres in Paris to four ... After 1815 additional secondary theatres began to open." (Daniels 8) The victims of both these laws: "Dumas, Hugo, and Vigny--the major romantic playwrights--abandoneed the Comédie-Français for the boulevard, where they could work with more sympathetic actors and producers. The boulevard audiences proved to be unresponsive to the generally antisocial or antibourgeois themes of the romantic plays." (Daniels 17)

In addition to restrictions as to which works could be performed, there was police surveillance of theatres and opera houses. Congregations of large people are dangerous, says the new regime; though logic cites that there has never been any riotous problems with theatre crowds. Napoleon wished very much to control the performance art in his regime.

On the more positive side of politics in Opéra, the audience was responsive to any double entendre in a performance. Especially with political double entendre, the show might pause so that the audience may holler or applaud for a certain turn of phrase or gesture. Shouts of approbation for scenes or lines with political double entendre were a common occurrance at the Opéra.

The highlight of any theatrical experience, in the Napoleonic era, was not the famous aria, performed by the famous singer, but the appearance of Napoleon himself at the Opéra. Napoleon was a big Opéra fan, it seems, as he went to the majority of the performances of any season. Yet, Napoleon's seeming love for Opéra may stem from his need of love and approval. Napoleon was never on time to the Opéra; he was always fashionably late. Upon his appearance, the orchestra stopped, as did all acting, dancing, or singing, so that all might stnad and applaud their leader. Napoleon usually left early as well.