A Year of Dance: 1697

The Treaty of Ryswick, signed on 20 September 1697, ended the Nine Years’ War in which Louis XIV had faced a ‘Grand Alliance’ of European powers including Great Britain. As part of the terms of the treaty, the French King finally recognised William III as King of England (although he continued to shelter William’s predecessor James II). Just a few months after the treaty, on 6 December 1697 (N.S.), Louis’s eldest grandson the duc de Bourgogne married the twelve-year-old Marie Adelaïde de Savoie, to ensure the French Catholic succession. In England, the protestant succession was undermined by the two miscarriages suffered by the heir to the throne Princess Anne in March and December 1697.

In London, both the treaty and William III’s birthday were celebrated at court on 4 November 1697 by a performance of Europe’s Revels for the Peace, a musical work with a libretto by Peter Motteux and a score by John Eccles. The fierce rivalry between the Lincoln’s Inn Fields company led by Thomas Betterton and the Drury Lane company managed by Christopher Rich continued. Betterton’s company included the French fair dancer Joseph Sorin, who was billed in a short-lived piece called The Novelty, given at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in June 1697. Sorin presumably made other appearances, but records of performances are too few to confirm this.

There were a number of successful operas in Paris. Desmarets’s Vénus et Adonis was given on 28 July 1697 (N.S.). Campra’s L’Europe galante, which would enjoy widespread success, was given on 24 October 1697 (N.S.) with Blondy, Balon and Mlles Subligny and Dufort among the dancers. Balon and Mlle Subligny were also prominent among the dancers in Destouches’s pastoral opera Issé given at court on 17 December 1697 (N.S.). Dance music from all of these operas would make its way onto the London stage in later years.

More newsworthy, perhaps, than anything happening at the Paris Opéra was the suppression of the Comédie-Italienne on 14 May 1697. There had been an Italian commedia dell’arte troupe in Paris since the 1640s and they had enjoyed conspicuous royal favour for much of that time. The conventional explanation for the turn-about, apart from Louis XIV’s increasing piety, was the performance of a new play that satirised the King’s morganatic wife Mme de Maintenon. Modern commentators have suggested other reasons, including the machinations of their rivals at the Comédie-Française and even the King’s indebtedness to the Italian troupe. Whatever the cause, there would be no Comédie-Italienne in Paris for nearly 20 years. The out-of-work players were forced to find entertainment elsewhere.

Watteau Departure of the Comedians

Louis Jacob after Antoine Watteau, Depart des Comédiens Italiens en 1697, 18th century

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s