Tag Archives: Jean Favier

Le Triomphe de l’Amour

The ballet de cour came up in a recent email exchange about dance history. I haven’t written anything on this for a long time, but my thoughts quickly turned to Le Triomphe de l’Amour of 1681. It is usually associated with the introduction of female professional dancers to the stage of the Paris Opéra, but here I will concentrate on its first performances at the court of Louis XIV.

Le Triomphe de l’Amour was intended to celebrate the marriage of Louis XIV’s eldest son the Dauphin Louis (1661-1711), known as Monseigneur, to Marie Anne Christine de Bavière (1660-1690).

Their wedding had taken place on 7 March 1680, but the ballet in which he and the new Dauphine were to dance had been delayed by Monseigneur’s illnesses. Rehearsals finally began in December 1680 – there were 39 during December and January 1681. Le Triomphe de l’Amour was given its first performance on 21 January 1681, in the Salle de Comédie at the Château of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. There would be 29 performances in all, running until 18 February 1681. It was so successful that it became the first ballet de cour to transfer to the public theatre and it was given at the Paris Opéra by a wholly professional cast in May 1681. Among those professional dancers were Mlles de La Fontaine, Pesant, Carré and Leclercq – the first female dancers to appear on the Opéra stage.

At court, Le Triomphe de l’Amour was the first ballet to be given since Les Amants Magnifiques in 1670 (current scholarly opinion is that Louis XIV did not dance in that ballet). It was a large-scale work with 64 dancers, 48 singers and 75 or 76 instrumentalists. Among the dancers were 13 professionals, who appeared alongside 25 male and 22 female members of France’s royalty and nobility. There were also four dancers for whom I have not been able to ascertain their status – the ‘Sieurs’ Huet, Courcelles and Chalons were listed as ‘Petits Danceurs’ in Entrée V, while Jobelet joined them among the Jeux in Entrée XX – they may have been the children of the professional musicians employed by the court.

There were twenty danced Entrées in all, each of which had between one to four musical airs for the choreography. These Entrées are numbered in the livret published to accompany the court performances in 1681, although the ballet is not otherwise divided into acts or scenes. The following analysis of the structure of Le Triomphe de l’Amour is based on the appearance of successive deities and love stories.

This just one among many different approaches to the structure of this ballet.

Monseigneur made his first appearance in Entrée III as a Plaisir, his second in Entrée XIV as an Indien de la Suite de Bacchus and his last as Zephire in Entrée XIX, but for each of his appearances in the ballet the livret names another dancer with whom he alternated. These were, in turn, Lestang l’aîné, Lestang le cadet (both professionals) and M. de Mimurre. The Mercure Galant for January 1681, which provided a review of Le Triomphe de l’Amour, explained that ‘Monseigneur le Dauphin ne dança point le premier jour du Balet, mais on fut agreablement surpris quand on le dança  la seconde fois’, adding that his appearance was ‘une preuve de l’entier rétablissement de sa santé’ and that ‘Il a résolu de se donner le divertissement de son Entrée une fois chaque semaine’.

The Dauphine appeared first as the Première Nymphe de Diane in Entrée IX and then as Flore, alongside Monseigneur, in Entrée XIX. Marie Anne Christine de Bavière surprised everyone during the run of court performances of Le Triomphe de l’Amour, as the Mercure Galant recorded.

‘Madame la Dauphine qui s’estoit fait admirer dans toutes les siennes par sa justesse à la dance, s’attira de nouvelles acclamations le second jour qu’elle parut. Aussi fit-elle une chose assez extraordinaire. Madame la Princesse de Conty estant malade, & n’ayant pû dancer ses Entrées, le Roy dit deux heures avant le Balet, qu’il falloit que Madame la Dauphine en dançant quelqu’une. Son dessein n’estoit pas que ce fust dés ce jour mesme. Cependant cette Princesse apprit sur l’heure une grande Entrée toute remplie de figures, & dans laquelle il y a plus de douze reprises. Ainsi toute la Cour fut fort étonnée de luy avoir vû faire en moins de deux heures, ce qu’une Personne moins intelligente n’auroit pas appris en quinze jours.’

This story is perhaps less well known to dance historians than it deserves.

The Princesse de Conti, Marie-Anne de Bourbon (1666-1739), was the daughter of Louis XIV and Louise de la Vallière and (despite her tender age) recently married to the Prince de Conti. She danced as a Nereïde in Entrée VI and as Ariane in Entrée XIII. Louis XIV’s insistence on the Dauphine dancing in place of the Princesse de Conti was perhaps to do with the appearance of Monseigneur among the Indiens de la Suite de Bacchus in Entrée XIV, which included a chaconne which is likely to have been performed by all the dancers in this scene.

Other royal dancers in Le Triomphe de l’Amour were Mademoiselle, Anne Marie d’Orléans (1669-1728) the daughter of the King’s brother Philippe and his first wife Henriette Anne. She was the first among the three Graces who appeared in the very first Entrée of the ballet.

The final Entrée of Le Triomphe de l’Amour was for La Jeunesse, performed by Mlle de Nantes the seven-year-old daughter of Louis XIV and Mme de Montespan. The Mercure Galant declared ‘Mademoiselle de Nantes dance seul. Elle s’en acquitte avec tant de grace, de legereté, & de justesse, qu’elle enchante tout le monde. Aussi n’a-t-on jamais vu personne qui eust l’oreille plus fine, ny plus d’agrément pour toute sorte de Dances’.

Another of the noble female dancers was Marie Antoinette de Béthune, Duchesse de Sully (1643-1702) who appeared as a Nymphe de Diane in Entrée IX, a Fille Grecque de la Suite d’Ariane in Entrée XIV and a Nymphe de Flore in Entrée XIX. She was an experienced participant in ballets de cour, for she had danced in place of the first Madame, Henriette Anne, in the title role of the Ballet de Flore in 1669. I have not been able to find a portrait of her.

Notable among the noblemen were the Comte de Brionne, the nineteen-year-old Henri de Lorraine (1661-1712), who danced as a Plaisir in Entrée III, a Dieu Marin in Entrée VI and as Bacchus in Entrée XIII and M. de Mimurre, who danced alongside Brionne in Entrées III and VI, as an Indien de la Suite de Bacchus in Entrée XIV and as Zephire in Entrée XIX when Monseigneur did not take the role.

The professional dancers had more to do individually than the nobles, for most of them danced three or four roles apiece. One exception was Pierre Beauchamps (1631-1705), who took only the role of Mars in scene 2 – he is also credited with creating the choreography for Le Triomphe de l’Amour. Beauchamps was supported by courtiers as his Guerriers, together with more courtiers as Amours as well as the ‘Petits Danceurs’ mentioned earlier. The livret’s description hints at pantomime well as dancing and action in this scene. Mars appears armed among his Guerriers showing that he loves only ‘les Combats, le sang, & le carnage’ – which suggests that Entrée IV was a form of Pyrrhic Dance. He is disarmed by the Amours, who chain him with garlands of flowers before dancing to celebrate their victory over the god of war. This design by Berain is either for Mars or a Guerrier.

Borée and Orithye in scene 4 were both performed by professional dancers. Guillaume-Louis Pecour was Borée with Faüre as Orithye – all the female roles in this scene were danced by men en travesti. The livret’s description of the scene again suggests some pantomime as well as dance and mimed action. Borée watches Orithye from a distance and when he approaches her is overcome with love. Orithye is frightened by him and her companions the Filles Athéniennes try to defend her but ‘les vents qui suivent Borée escartent les Athéniennes, & donnent moyen à Borée d’enlever Orithye’. The following designs by Berain are for the Followers of Borée and Orithye.

In scene 5, devoted to Diane and Endymion, the professional dancer Favier l’aîne was Endymion. Jean Favier is well-known for his 1688 mascarade Le Mariage de la Grosse Cathos, recorded in his own system of dance notation. This scene brought together noble and professional dancers, with the Dauphine and noblewomen as the Nymphes de Diane, noblemen as Songes and finally professional dancers as the Peuples de Carie (who were also represented by a chorus of singers as they called upon the goddess to return to the night sky). This engraving shows Berain’s design for Endymion.

The god Apollon made his appearance in scene 8, danced by Lestang le cadet, followed by Lestang l’aîné as Pan. Apollo’s followers – Bergers héroïques – were all professional dancers, as were the Faunes that accompanied Pan. This was the last scene with professional dancers, although Le Triomphe de l’Amour closed with a ‘Danse generale’ by Apollon and his Bergers héroïques, Pan with his Faunes, Zephirs, Nymphes de Flore and the Jeux bringing a total of 27 dancers onto the stage. The livret makes no mention of Zephire, Flore or La Jeunesse, so presumably these royal dancers did not take part in the ballet’s finale.

Despite the scale of the performance, Le Triomphe de l’Amour had only one set throughout ‘un Lieu magnifique orné, & que l’on a disposé pour y recevoir l’Amour qui doit y venir en triomphe’, shown in this engraving from the livret.

There is far more to be said about Le Triomphe de l’Amour both at court and at the Paris Opéra and I may well return to this ballet in due course. In the meantime, here are some of the modern sources I have used in putting together this post.

James R. Anthony. French Baroque Music from Beaujoyeulx to Rameau (Portland, Or, 1997)

Barbara Coeyman, ‘Lully’s influence on the organization and performance of the “Ballet de Cour” after 1672’ in Jean-Baptiste Lully. Actes du Colloque … 1987 (Laaber, 1990)

Jérôme de La Gorce, Berain, dessinateur du Roi Soleil (Paris, 1986)

Jérôme de La Gorce, Féeries d’opéra (Paris, 1997)

Rebecca Harris-Warrick, Dance and Drama in French Baroque Opera (Cambridge, 2016)

Philippe Quinault, Le Triomphe de l’Amour in Benserade. Ballets pour Louis XIV, ed. Marie-Claude Canova-Green. 2 vols. (Toulouse, 1997), volume 2

The ‘Z’ Figure of the Minuet: Taubert and Tomlinson

I am not going to undertake a lengthy and exhaustive investigation of the ‘Z’ figure of the minuet. My aim is simply to discover the origins of the version I originally learned. Here, I will look at two sources in particular, and glance at some others.

The earliest notated source for a minuet comes from Jean Favier’s notation for Le Mariage de la Grosse Cathos of 1688. This minuet is for four dancers and was performed within an entertainment given by professional dancers at the court of Louis XIV. It thus falls outside my present topic. Details can, of course, be found in Musical Theatre at the Court of Louis XIV: Le Mariage de la Grosse Cathos by Rebecca Harris-Warrick and Carol G. Marsh, a study published in 1994 which includes a facsimile reprint of the manuscript.

The treatise by I.H.P. ‘Maître de danse, oder Tantz-Meister’, published in Glueckstadt and Leipzig in 1705, contains the ‘Menuet d’Anjou’ a ballroom duet for a couple. This is a choreographed dance rather than a conventional ballroom minuet, so it too falls outside my topic. The dance and its notation, together with a translation of the treatise can be found in Barocktanz / La Danse Baroque / Baroque Dance, edited by Stephanie Schroedter, Marie-Thérèse Mourey and Giles Bennett and published in 2008.

The next treatise to deal with the ballroom minuet, and apparently the earliest to look at the basic form of this dance, is Gottfried Taubert’s Rechtschaffener Tantzmeister published in Leipzig in 1717. This valuable treatise is now available in an English translation by Tilden Russell published in 2012. Taubert turns to the minuet in chapter 30 of his second book. After a lengthy discussion of the various minuet steps, he discusses the ‘principal figure of the minuet’ in chapter 33. He gives a short history of the ‘Z’ figure and identifies three versions currently in use – a reversed ‘S’, a ‘2’ and the ‘Z’. For the reversed ‘S’, Taubert prescribes sideways pas de menuet for the first semi-circle and forward pas de menuet for the second. For the ‘2’ he suggests various combinations of sideways and forwards pas de menuet, but he also says:

‘Some use only side steps throughout, in this way: three or four to the left, bringing them down to the beginning of the straight line, along which they turn and make one or two side steps to the right, thus using no forward steps in the principal figure, which I find displeasing. Also it should be remembered that nowadays many do not make the turn to the left [at the straight line], but instead, after having passed by the woman with side steps, always keeping her before their eyes, they dance backward, and then sideways to the right.’ (p. 640 original text, p. 529 translation)

So, we have another backwards step – although Taubert’s sequence is not the same as Rameau’s.

For the ‘Z’ version of the figure, Taubert says ‘Two side steps to the left are made along the upper horizontal line, two or three forward steps along the long middle line, and another one or two side steps to the right along the lower horizontal line’ (p. 640, p. 529. Taubert is describing the figure as danced by the man). He adds ‘Recently it was reliably reported to me that two royal personages were seen dancing this figure with nothing but side steps from right to left, circling round each other at the same time; but I would never lightly advise anyone to try this’. Taubert also notates the ballroom minuet – the ‘Z’ figure looks like this (p. 658, p. 541):

As you can see, there are two pas de menuet à trois mouvements to the left, two more forward and two pas de menuet à deux mouvements to the right having turned around the left shoulder. The half turn is divided into two quarter-turns performed over the final demi-jeté of the fourth pas de menuet and first demi-coupé of the fifth.

In Le Maître a danser, some eight years later, Rameau explained that Guillaume-Louis Pecour had been responsible for changing the original reversed ‘S’ to a ‘Z’ figure (chapter 22, p. 84).

In his Trattato del Ballo Nobile published in Naples in 1728, Giambatista Dufort has a second section devoted to the minuet and looks at the ‘Z’ figure in chapter 5. Essentially, he prescribes two pas de menuet to the left, two more to cross and then two to the right. He does not mention any backwards steps.

Kellom Tomlinson published The Art of Dancing in London in 1735 (although he claimed to have completed the work in 1724, before Rameau published Le Maître a danser). He provides a detailed account of the steps and figures of the minuet in book two, reaching the ‘Figure of S reversed’ in chapter 7. Tomlinson uses eight pas de menuet for the figure. He begins with four pas de menuet à trois mouvements sideways – two to the left and two on the diagonal to meet in the middle – followed by four pas de menuet (‘one and a fleuret’) forwards to complete the ‘S reversed’. He adds that the last of the eight pas de menuet may be made sideways. Like Taubert, Tomlinson includes a notation for his ballroom minuet with two ‘S reversed’ figures in which he varies the last step.

Tomlinson also includes several engravings showing couples dancing the minuet. In this one they are about to begin the ‘S reversed’ figure.

Not only does the ‘Z’ figure include a pas de menuet backwards, in more than one treatise, but the type of step as well as the number used varies according to the different dancing masters who wrote about it in the early 1700s. I wish I had known this when I was learning the dance. The version I learned most closely resembles Taubert’s notation, although I do not remember him ever being cited as the source. I am not going to take this particular line of enquiry any further, at least for the time being, but I think there is ample material for some practical research by those who would like to get a little closer to how the minuet might have been danced at balls and assemblies in the 18th century.