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Murder in the Cathedral? Stradella, Musical Power, and Performing the Past in 1830S Paris

Sarah Hibberd
Music & Letters
Vol. 87, No. 4 (Nov., 2006), pp. 551-579
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4140309
Page Count: 29
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Murder in the Cathedral? Stradella, Musical Power, and Performing the Past in 1830S Paris
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Abstract

Romantic fascination with the seventeenth-century composer Alessandro Stradella began in Paris with the performance of a now notorious 'air d'église' at one of François-Joseph Fétis's innovative concerts historiques in 1833. The combination of romantic adventure and musical power embodied by the Stradella legend-in which the beauty of his singing dissuades two assassins from murdering him-was subsequently explored in a short story by Jules Janin for the Revue et Gazette musicale in 1836, and in two theatre works in 1837: a comédie-vaudeville with music arranged and composed by Friedrich Flotow, and a grand opera set by Louis Niedermeyer. Each work effectively reconstructs the myth, presenting an understanding of the power of song that is historically situated, yet aimed at a modern audience. Taken together, they present a complex reception model for early music in the 1830s that illuminates the interaction of modern and (various) historical idioms as well as popular and educated tastes, and literature and music, in a variety of media. They also reveal an increasing interest in imaginative reinterpretation rather than authentic pastiche in historical representation at this time.

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