Opéra in Politics:
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)
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.
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.