was a place for the bourgeoisie to show off their wealth and high
Loge d'un Theátre. (English title: Second Box
of a Theatre) Monnier. c. 1830.
of the audience members in this scene are looking in the same
direction. None are paying attention to the stage: they are
wrapt up in conversation, or surveying the rest of the audience
for people they might know.
early ninteenth century, "Opéra had again acquired the
aura of wealth and prestige that had enveloped the institution for
most of the 18th century." (Johnson
168) During the revolution, the Opéra had been seen as a
vehicle for aristocratic principles and had been reformed in the
image of the evolving state. This "aura of wealth" had
been revived by the new bourgeoisie of the post-revolution. Their
aim was to imitate nobility, but not to replace it: they desired
to create a world as luxurious as that of the aristocracy, with
the morals and ethics of the bourgeois. And
so the Opéra became a social tool of the bourgeois.
was an undoubtedly social event: people went to see other people,
and to discuss the day's gossip and news. Few, if any, went for
the music or drama. Indeed, in his book Listening
in Paris, James Johnson states that, "to
the majority of spectators at the Opéra ... the chief difference
between a chorus and a solo was how loudly they could talk."
(170) This statement is reinforced by the lithograph at the top
of this page: no one is watching the show, and indeed, if asked
in which direction the stage lies in respect to the people in the
picture, the observer could not guess.
social status was seen in where one sat in the building. The true
music lovers sat directly behind the orchestra, the wealthy had
boxes, or loges, to themselves, and dandies
and diletantes sat in the balconies, in the cheaper seats. Social
status also influenced the theatres one attended. The "theatre-going
was socially structured: popular audiences flocked to the popular,
or "boulevard" theatres, while the aristocracy and the
intelligensia supported the Comédie-Français, the
Odéon, the Opera, and the Comic Opera." (Daniels
used the Opéra to 'strut their stuff,' so to speak.