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Eighteenth-Century French and Italian Singing: Rameau's Writing for the Voice

Author(s): Mary Cyr

Source: Music & Letters, Vol. 61, No. 3/4 (Jul. - Oct., 1980), pp. 318-337
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/734573
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The talentsof Rameau,J6lyotteand Fel are worthyindeedof being

will scarcelymentionone
joined together.In all likelihood,posterity
withoutspeakingof the other two.'
THROUGHOUT Rameau's operatic career, two singers reigned
without equal on the Paris opera stage: PierreJelyotteand Marie
Fel. Rameau fashioned nearly all of his leading roles to suit the
specific characteristicsof their unique voices. Studies of these and
other eighteenth-centurysingers have concentrated on their
biographies.2 With the aid of direct evidence from eighteenthcenturyperformers,however, it is possible to recover somethingof
the expressive styleof singingRameau heard and admired. Among
vocal instruction manuals of the period, Jean-Antoine Berard's
L'Art du chantholds particular importance,forBerard himselfsang
in several of Rameau's works. Two new sources, manuscriptcopies
of vocal roles with annotations by singers, amplify Berard's
comments and provide rare insightsabout ornamentationand the
declamation of recitative.
The singingof some French artistswas considerablyindebted to
the Italian style, for Italian music and performers enjoyed
increasing popularity in Paris during the early eighteenthcentury.
French audiences had ample opportunity to hear native Italian
singers at the Concert Spirituel and in other concertsat the homes
of wealthy patrons.3Before thelr performancesbecame popular in
Paris, however, Italian singers had regularly participated in
performancesat court; indeed, theirpresence can be traced back to
the reigns of Louis XII and Francois I. Under the last Valois kings
they became more prominent,and theywere commonly employed
' Louis de Cahusac, 'Chanteur', Encyclopedie,
ou Dictionnaireraisonnedes sciences,des artset

vii (Berne & Lausanne, 1782), 254.

des me'tiers,
Frenchsingersare thoseby
2Among the mostimportantstudiesofeighteenth-century

J.-G. Prod'homme: 'Marie Fel (1713-1794)', Sammelbandeder internationalen

iv (1902-3), 485-518; 'PierredeJelyotte(1713-1797)', ibid.,iii (1901-2), 686-717; 'A Pastel

ix (1923), 482-507. See also MartialTeneo,
by LaTour: Marie Fel', TheMusicalQuarterly,
A valuable
xviii (Paris, 1924), lxxix-lxxxiii.
'Marie Fel', in J.-P. Rameau, Oeuvres
archivaldocumentsis Emil Campardon,
Paris, 1884. The mostthoroughstudyof the singersto date is
de musique,
Arthur Pougin, PierreJeyotte et les chanteursde son temps,Paris, 1905.
fromthe Royal Academyof
3See Lowell Lindgren,'Parisian Patronageof Performers

lviii (1977), 4-28.

Musick (1719-28)', Music & Letters,

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during the early years of the reignof Louis XIV.4 Among those who
gained particular fame during the early eighteenthcenturywere
the castrato Antonio Paccini5 and Hyacinthe [Giacinto?] Mazza,
the two singers for whom Fran?ois Couperin wrote the florid
soprano duet 'Misericordia et veritas' in the motet performedat
Versailles in 1704. Both singers served the court for nearly 30
years. LaBorde praised the extraordinary 'legerete' of Paccini's
Paccini was receivedinto the King's Music at the beginningof this
century.He had a charmingsoprano voice, of an inconceivable
lightness.LaLande composedmostof the recitsin his motetsforthis
musician,who was able to renderthemperfectly.
His great talent,
togetherwithhis good looks,broughthim fortunein morethanone
The pleasure of the young Louis XV at Paccini's performance
assured him a long and successful career, as the Duc de Luynes
later recalled:
14 February[1745], Versailles
Paccini died heretwoor threedays ago. He was Italian and had been
in theKing's Music fora longtime;he was wellknownforthebeauty
ofhis voice. He enjoyedan incomeof5 or 6,000livresforhis serviceto
the king.8
Italian singers found ardent supportersat court. Carlo Broschi,
called Farinelli, later became a favourite of the queen, who
sometimes invited him to performwith her.9The Duc de Luynes,
although not among the admirers of the style, found the Italian
virtuosi at least intriguing:
8 February 1750 [the queen's concert]
Cossoni [Cuzzoni], thefamousItalian singer,was there;she admitsto
being59, yethervoice is stillin tune,agreeableand quite loud-and
she stilltrillstoo. However,one mustadmitthat,althoughbeingin
styleforItalian music,thismannerofsinginghas nothingthatpleases
... Moreover,thosewho heard her 25 yearsago foundlittle,ifany,
change in her voice.
'For detailed accounts of performers and productions by Italian troupes at the
instigation of Cardinal Mazarin, see Henry Prunieres, L'Opera italienen France avant Lulli,
Paris, 1913.
Paccini (not to be confused with Andrea Pacini, called 'Il Lucchesino')
appears in a chalk drawing by Watteau possibly representinga concert at the home of Pierre
Crozat on 30 September 1720; see Lindgren, op. cit., p. 9.
6 Oeuvrescompletes,
xi (Paris, 1932), 138-41.
'Jean Benjamin de LaBorde, Essai sur la musiqueancienneet moderne,
Paris, 1780, iii.524.
8 Norbert Dufourcq, La Musique a la courde Louis XIV et de Louis XV d'apres
les memoires
Sourcheset Luynes,1681-1758, Paris, 1970, p. 85. For an account of Paccini singing in 1722 see
Portraitsintimesdu dixhuitieme
siecle, ed. Edmond & Jules de Goncourt, Paris, 1913, p. 17.
See the memoirs of the Duc de Luynes, 21 July 1752: 'La Reine qui est chez elle a jouer
de clavecin avec Farinelli. . . .' (Dufourcq, op. cit., p. 150).

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9 June 1750
I forgotto note thattwoor threeweeksago an Italian singercame to
Versailleswho used to have a greatreputation;she is namedFaustine.
say thatshe stillhas
She is actually53 or 54. .. Musical connoisseurs
an unusual lightnessof voice for her age, and that in truthshe
surpassesCossoni,ofwhomI have alreadyspoken;someevensay she
surpasses Farinelli.
13 June 1753
Last week Mme la Dauphine heard an Italian singerwho seems to
have a greatreputation.He is attachedto theKing ofthetwoSicilies;
he is named Cafarelli,and seemed to be about 35 or 40; he sings
pleasingly,and has a sweet [douce]voice of a wide range. The
supportersofFrenchmusichave troublebecomingaccustomedto the
styleof Italian music. I have neverheard Farinelli;thosewho have
heard him say that he is much betterthan Cafarelli.
18 July 1758
Mme la Dauphine knew music verywell; she sang and played the
harpsichord,but she knew only Italian music.'"
Farinelli was credited by Burney with the single-handed conquest
of French taste in favour of the Italian style," though, despite the
enthusiasm at court, not all French listenerswere willing to accord
immediate approval to the castrati. Gradually, however, their
unusual timbre converted many listeners. As Charles DeBrosses
wrote during his stay in Italy, 'Il faut etre accoutume a ces voix de
castrats pour les gouter'.
With the increasing popularity of Italian performersin Paris,
the best French singers as well were applauded fortheirability to
sing in the Italian style. This theylearned fromItalian performers
who had settled in Paris, such as Madame Vanloo (Christine
Somis). Daughter of the Italian violinist Giovanni Battista Somis,
she had married the painter Carle Vanloo at Turin and had come
to Paris in 1733. DeBrosses praised particularly her mastery of
expression,'3 and Marmontel later recalled: 'sa voix de rossignol
nous avait fait connaitre les chants de l'Italie'.'4 Among her pupils
was the young Marie Fel.
With its light,agile quality, Marie Fel's voice was well suited to
the florid Italian arias. Although she is not known to have visited
Italy, her mastery of the Italian language and its musical
inflections allowed comparisons with the finest Italian singers.
Recalling a performance of the celebrated castrato two months
' Dufourcq,op. cit., pp. 137, 140-41, 157. For. the earlier French appearances by
Cuzzoni to whichthe firstpassage probablyrefers(and forabortiveplans forothers),see
Lindgren,op. cit., pp. 9 ff.,esp. pp. 22-24; forFaustina in Paris in 1728, ibid., p. 26.
Musical Tour in France and Italy, ed. PercyA.
" Charles Burney,An Eighteenth-Century
Scholes,London, 1959,p. 154. Furtheron Farinelli-inFrance,see Dufourcq,op. cit.,p. 56,
and 'Nouvelles de la cour et de la ville', Recherches,x (1970), 105.
12 Lettresfamilieres
ecritesd'Italie en 1739 et 1740, ed. R. Colomb, Paris, n.d., pp. 318-19.
Ibid., p. 320.
'4Jean-FrancoisMarmontel,Me'moires(Oeuvres completes,Paris, 1819), i.359, 208.

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earlier, one writermused afterher performanceof an Italian air in

November 1736 that 'il semble qu'elle soit animee du gouitet de
l'ame de Farinelli'.'5 Nearly twentyyears later, it seems that her
voice retained this exceptional quality. 'C'est un timbred'argent',
wrote the abbe de la Porte, 'qu'on en juge par ce seul trait: elle
chant Italien et le prononce comme Mlle Faustine quand elle etait
bonne."6 Melchior Grimm praised her clear articulation and wide
range in a letterto the abbe Raynal, editor of the Mercurede France:
When . . . I speak of the mannerin whichMlle Fel sings Italian, I
didn't mean that she had made I-don't-know-what
simplymeant that foreigners*
-among othersmy compatriotMr.
Hasse-find in hersinging,in additionto a verypleasingarticulation
and a veryattractiveexpression,somethingoriginalwhich,without
being exactlyafterthe mannerof our Italian voices,goes verywell
withthecharacterofthismusic;and iftheauthoroftheRemarks
what thisoriginalmannerconsistsof,I shouldsay thatMlle Fel owes
it to hervoice,themostdistinctive
and eventhatI know.Witha voice
of even purityand lightnessshe coverstwo and a halfoctaves; but
naturewho accordedher thisfavourdoes so sparingly,and ordinary
voices are obliged to supplementit by art.7
*That is to say,Connoisseurs;forforeigners
who proceedto speakofmusicaccordingto
[the styJ'p
of] an air, have alreadydecided beforehearingit thata Frenchvoice, and
especiallythe foremostFrenchvoice, will sing Italian musicverybadly. Since in this
case only the name shocks them,we shall call it henceforth,
if theypreferit, the
European voice.

She sometimes performedItalian airs at the Concert Spirituel,

such as Porpora's 'Senza la cara sposa'.8 At a performance of
Mondonville's Carnavaldu Parnassein 1751 a 'grand air italien' was
added, and sung by Mlle Fel:
... it is by Mr. Galappy [Galuppi], a famousItalian composer.This
air was much liked by connoisseursand seems to have made a very
good impressionon thepublic;it is truethatMlle Fel pouredforththe
lightness,ornamentsand precisionthatshe bringsto everything
performs.The foreigners
especially,accustomedonly to thistypeof
music,seemed astonishedat her pronunciationand at the skillwith
whichshe characterizedthe delicatephrasesof the Italian music,at
the same timeavoidingtheexcessofaffectation
charge, even in the best Italian singers.
The perfection
withwhichMlle Fel rendersall therunsin thissort
of music,and the embellishments
whichshe herselfadds to the lines
that she performs,presuppose in a French [singer] the most
unyieldingwork,and an exact and veryextensiveknowledgeof the
subtletiesand of the fundamentals
of the art, as well as a veryrare


' Dufourcq, 'Nouvelles de la cour', p. 105.

Pierre-Louis d'Aquin [de Chateaulyon], Siecle litte'raire
de Louis XV ou Lettressur les
hommesillustres,i (Amsterdam, 1752), 174.
'7 'Lettre de M. Grimm sur les remarques au sujet de sa lettre d'Omphale', Mercurede
France, May 1752, pp. 187-90.
18 Published in Paris in 1737 as Air Italienavecaccompagnement
au concert
des Thuilleries
[sic] et a l'opira par MademoiselleFel (copy in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, Vm' 635).
19Mercure de France, May 1751, p. 185.


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At the same performanceofLe CarnavalduParnasse,as Florine in the

prologue, she sang an ariettewith Italian text whose coloratura
writing must have suited the light, even quality of her voice.
In addition to her ability to performrapid runs, she was able to
vary the timbre of her voice and performItalian music with such
expression that even ardent admirers of the French style were
forced to concede:
. . . she showedprecision,variety-all thosedelicate,livelyrunsthat
are admiredin Italy and thatshe has forcedus to admirein France.
Her voice,likeProteus,changedall at once,and passed fromthelight
succeeded the most
to the pathetic.The most touchinginflections
rapid runs.20
Several composers were inspired to writemusic forher, such as the
Spanish oboist 'Mr Pla', whose Italian air she performedat the
Concert Spirituel in May 1752. Aecompanied by the composer, she
rendered the difficult'traits d'imitation et d'assaut entre la voix et
l'instrument', and the audience found the performance'ravissant
rendus par l'organe le plus sonore, le plus flexible,et par un
hautbois qui rassemble presque a cet organe charmant,et peut-etre
unique'.2' Mondonville's concerto performedat the same concert
attempted a new combination of voices and instruments,and Mlle
Fel's ability to match even the difficultruns executed by a fine
violinist was stunning:
Mr. Mondonvilleimaginedthata concertowouldbe moreagreeable
(since it would be more varied) if to the different
voices thatcorrespond
it wereadded thedifferent
He proceededto givea firstpartto violinand a
to theseinstruments.
second part to a voice capable of imitatingall the instrumental
runs.... One need doubtnothingwithMlle Fel; she has thissingular
precision,and intelligence
type of voice, the secure performance,
necessaryfor such a plan, and Mr. Gavini6s was the most fitting
violinistto accompanyher.... The connoisseurs... affirmed
of Mlle Fel, whose flexiblevoice lends itselfso easilyto
therunsthatuntilthenwere-thoughtto be impossibleforthevoice.22
Rameau responded to the wave of Italianism that swept Paris
during the firsthalf of the eighteenthcentury.The Duc de Luynes,
again showing little enthusiasm for Italian music, nevertheless
recognized Rameau's novel approach:
and it must
Rameau's musicin generalhas a greatmanysupporters,
be grantedthatit is fullofharmony.The followersof Lullyfindthat
Rameau is sometimespeculiar [singulier]and that a numberof his
2uIbid., February 1751, p. 187.

Ibid., May 1752, p. 180. PIa was one of the three brothers (don Manuel, don Juan and
don Jose), all oboists and composzrs. Several of their works survive in the Bibliotheque
Nationale, but the aria for soprano and oboe sung by Mlle Fel is probably lost.
22Mercure de France, May 1752, pp. 182-3.


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worksare in theItalian style:thisis thejudgementthathiscriticshave

expressedabout hisoperaswhichhave appeared;however,no one can
fail to admit that he is one of the greatestmusicianswe have.23
His most thoroughly Italianate writing is found in the ariettes,
which often exhibit long vocalises, a wide range and constant
tripletmotion. Da capo form,three-parttextureand instrumental
ritornellosdominated by a melody in the violins are also usual. He
is known to have set an Italian text only once: the sprightlyair
italien'Fra le pupille', probably performedat a revival of Les Indes
galantes,24whose florid vocal writing culminates in a written-out
cadenza at the end of each section, in imitationof those improvised
by Italian virtuosi.25Another ariette
gaie, fromPlat'e, 'Amour, lance
tes traits',26 first sung by Marie Fel for the celebration of the
marriage of the Dauphin in 1745, amounts to an exaggeration of
the Italian da capo manner, both in its long vocalises (no doubt in
response to the firstline of its text) and in its dimensions (an 'A'
section of 92 bars and a 'B' section of only nine).
The demands of the Italian style upon the performerwere
many: clear articulation, flexibilityin long and difficultvocalises,
wide range, lightness and agility. Writers who compared French
and Italian music, however, usually found the formermore difficult
to sing. De Rochemont emphasized the performer's role in
expressing the meaning of the text and music:
The Frenchmustbe such mastersoftheirsoundsthatthemannerin
which theypass fromone to the other,sustain them,augmentor
diminishthem,may produceand determinetheimpressionthatthey
want to communicate.27
DeBrosses, though a partisan of Italian music, maintained a
preference for the French manner of singing and, like de
Rochemont, stressed its subtle dynamic nuance according to the
meaning of each word:
Italian women's voices are also of a similar type to those of the
castrati:lightand flexibleto thelast degree;in a word,theyhave the
same characteras theirmusic.Don't ask fullness[la rondeur]
theydon't knowwhatit is; don'tspeak to themabout thoseadmirable
sounds of our Frenchmusic: swelled,sustained,swelled again and
diminishedbydegree,on a singlenote;theywouldno morebe capable
of understandingyou than of performing
such sounds.28
Although DeBrosses denies it, we know fromPier Francesco Tosi23
and other Italian writersthat the sonfile or messadi vocewas well
23Dufourcq, Musiquea la cour,p. 107.

vii (1902), 449-58.
Frequentlycriticizedby Frenchwritersfortheirlackofvkariety
and tendencymerelyto
display the range of the singer;see DeBrosses, Lettres,
pp. 334-5.
Oeuvrescompltes,xii (1907), 366-75.
27 Reflexions
Lausanne, 1754,pp. 51-52.
28 DeBrosses, Lettres,
p. 319.
on theFloridSong,trans. LJ.E.] Galliard, London, 1743, pp. 27-28.


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known for its expressive value on long notes. DeBrosses seems to

suggest, however, that the degree of nuance and shading was far
greater in French singing and that the music demanded it. As for
the mysterious 'fullness' that Italian voices lacked, perhaps
DeBrosses was referringto an even tone cultivated by Italian
singers with little if any change of colour between registers; the
range demanded by most French music, on the contrary,was less
great and permittedchanges of colour between registerscombined
with these delicately nuanced sounds. Though perhaps not
exclusive to French music, these subtle dynamic inflections,closely
bound up with the language and the sentiment expressed, were
among the demands the French style of singing imposed. They
were frequentlymisunderstood by foreigners-forinstance even as
late as 1789, when Charles Burney remarkedat the 'vocal outrages'
of Marie Fel's pupil Sophie Arnould as Telaire in a revival of Castor
et Pollux. Most of these were either not notated at all or were
represented merelyby a sign which could be interpretedin several
ways according to its expressive intent.'It is less a question of what
is written',wrote Rousseau, 'than of what is to be sung; this typeof
notation can only be regarded as a sort of abbreviation'.30
Rameau's comments on the expressive value of ornamentation
came in response to Rousseau's sharp critiqueof French music in his
Lettresur la musiquefranfaise.Choosing the famous recitative from
Act II scene 5 of Lully's Armide,'Enfin il est en ma puissance',
Rousseau attacked the declamation as ineffectiveand overcharged
with ornaments, 'les fredons, les cadences, les ports de voix qui
reviennent a chaque instant'.3' He cites in particular trills which
conflictwith the audience's comprehensionand interruptthe flow,
such as the trillon the word 'puissance': 'Voila une trille,et qui pis
est, un repos absolu des le premier vers, tandis que le sens n'est
acheve qu'au second'.32He criticizes the passage phrase by phrase
and finds it 'rempli de sons files,de trilleset autres ornementsdu
chant bien plus ridicules'.33
Rameau countered Rousseau's accusations in his Observations
pourla musique,published the followingyear. He stressed
the significance of harmony as the source of expression and the
dramatic importance of ornamentation. The trill placed on the
accented syllable of 'puissance', according to Rameau, adds
brilliance and forceto the line. Trills should be varied according to
the emotion portrayed.34Italian singers, he comments, usually
mastered wider ranges than French, but he recommends that
singers should practise roulades descending and ascending by halfand whole-tones throughouttheir entire range. To the practice of
30Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Lettresur la musiquefranfaise, Paris, 1753, p. 23.

Ibid., p. 73.


Ibid., pp. 89-90.

32 Ibid., pp.


Observationssur notreinstinctpour la musiqueet sur son principe,Paris, 1754, p. 18.


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these roulades the singer should add the expressive 'shading'

demanded by French music.35He also warns against always placing
an ornament on the finalnote. One must not 'precipitervolontairement un battementde trilleou de port de voix sur la fin',as it loses
its quality. 'Le sentiment,la volonte de finirsuffitpour cet effet.'36
The care with which Rameau notated ornaments in his scores
reveals his regard fortheirexpressive value. In contrastto the large
number of signs in his keyboard music, however,his operatic scores
bear only three differentsigns (see Ex. 1), corresponding to the
three types of ornament mentioned in his Code de musiquepratique
(1 760): (a) the trille(beginning on the upper note); (b) the portde
voixbattuen montant
(a lower appoggiatura followed by a mordent);
and (c) the coule'(an unaccented note usually fillingin the space of a
third descending). The duration and complexityof each ornament
should be determinedby the emotion portrayedand the meaning of
the text; 'ce font les sources de tous les agrements du chant'.37

(a) *V

(b) t>*



The expressive interpretationof these ornaments in differing

contexts is a subject ofJean-AntoineBerard's treatiseL'Art du chant
(Paris, 1755), dedicated to Madame de Pompadour. In a brief
career at the opera Berard had performedseveral minor roles in
Rameau's works. His twenty examples, chosen from works by
Lully, Campra, Mondonville, Rameau and others, hold particular
value for their close relationship to actual performance; all from
new works or recent revivals, they represent a unique surviving
record of renditions by the most famous interpretersof Rameau's
works. Berard divides sounds into two differentclasses, the first
including those that are 'violents', 'entre-coupes', 'majestueux' and
'etouff6s' and the second those that are 'legers', 'tendres' and
'manieres'. He distinguishes between pronun;ciation,
which varies
according to the mood of the text, and articulation,
which furthers
the audience's comprehension of the singer's emotion. Emphasizing the importance of the character of each sound, he attempts to
describe the most important ornaments-twelve in all.
Among Berard's musical examples are three celebrated pieces
fromRameau's works, 'Tristes apprets' fromCastoretPollux,'Lieux
funestes' fromDardanus and the ariette'L'objet qui regne' fromLes
Fetesd'Hebe,originallyfromthe cantata Le Bergerfidele.The
pieces are classed with other laments requiring 'les sons etouff&s'
(stifled or smothered sounds). 'Lieux funestes' was added to
" Code de la
musiquepratique, Paris,



Ibid., p. 20.

1760, p. 18.



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Dardanusat the opening of Act IV when Rameau made substantial

revisions for the 1744 revival. Pierre Jelyotteperformedthe new
monologue and retained the leading role which he had created five
years earlier. Berard himselfperformedthe smaller role of Arcas.
Comparison of Berard's version of 'Lieux funestes' (Ex. 2) with
that of the original printededition reveals several points of interest.

fu - nes


r r

o J S 21i


- re





r |4-g

as-pect in


- spi - re est le moin-dre



em -



Som- bre et cru-el

que vo-treas-pect

l'hor -reur




f 3
1g prr




du d -ses-pouar

hon - te et la dou -leur



tout res










- reur

est le

moin - dre des



qui d -


rent mon


In contrast to numerous trillsand appoggiaturas added by Berard

in other examples, most of those in Rameau's pieces were indicated
by the composer himself.Berard has added only one appoggiatura
to the trills and appoggiaturas notated in the 1744 print. Yet he
marks the accent(Ex. 3a) frequently,a small inflectionor 'caressing'
of the note above, at the terminationof a long note. It frequently
expresses sadness, usually on stressed syllables and on long notes

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followed by another of the same pitch. Long notes also frequently

show a swell, or sonJile(Ex. 3b), in addition to the accent.On the
word 'horreur' Berard first indicates an accentand son demi-file
(half-swell,Ex. 3c), then,when the textrepeats with a more intense
setting, Berard adds an accentand a full swell (son filet. Thus
Berard's version reinforces the heightened emotional intensity
suggested by the composer. Berard's portde voixfeint (Ex. 3d), a
lower appoggiatura followed by a mordent, corresponds to
Rameau's portde voixbattuenmontant
(Ex. Ib), while Berard's portde
voix entier (Ex. 3e) represents simply a lower appoggiatura.
Although in this case Rameau has marked all of the trillshimself,
Berard indicates how these might have been varied by the
performeraccording to the meaning and expression of the text. He
employs in 'Lieux funestes' four differentsigns for trills: a cadence
molle(Ex. 3f), a trillwhich begins slowlywithoutappoggiatura and
ends softly,fortender or sad pieces; a cadencepre'cipitee
3g), a short trill; a cadenceappuye'e(Ex. 3h), a trill with an
appoggiatura of a half or one third the value of the note; a
(Ex. 3i), an appoggiatura and a short, quick trill.
Ex. 3





son demi-file


port de voix feint

pont de voix entier




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(ou jettee)


deni-cadence (oii couip de



Although most of Berard's other examples are taken from

monologues or airs, he also includes an extended scene of recitative
fromAct V of Lully's Atys,in which Atys vents his rage and kills
Sangaride despite the chorus's interjectionsin her favour (Ex. 4).
The passage was a famous one and, as we shall see, was quoted by
other writersas well. It had been many years since it was heard on
the Paris stage, however; the most recent revival prior to the
publication of Berard's treatise was in 1740, when Jelyotte
performed the role of Atys and Marie Fel was Sangaride.38
Berard treatsthe passage in a similar manner to the monologues
which surround it, adding appoggiaturas, trills,and a fewswells on
long notes or occasionally a vibrato (flatte),as on the word 'vapeur'
in bar 1. As in 'Tristes apprets' the firstnote, here an exclamation
('Ciel!'), receives a half-swell (i.e. crescendo) and accent.This
combination seems to be a favouriteone forthe accented opening
note of a phrase or otherimportantlong notes, such as 'sang' in bar
7. Berard has chosen to add the short trill (cadencejetee), always
approached fromabove and frequentlyby leap froma thirdabove
(as on 'fremis' in bar 3 and 'tremble' in bar 4). Later, in an
exceptional case, he indicates the cadencemolleforthe emphatic line
'C'est votre seul peril qui cause ma terreur'. This example also
demonstrates Berard's stress on the prolongation or 'doubling' of
certain consonants for the sake of clarity of articulation.
The passage from Atys was also included in a treatise by
du chant,published some
Raparlier, Principesde musique:les agrements
sixteen years later. Although directed more towards the amateur
38 An anonymous miniature on ivory now in the Musee de Dijon probably depicts
Jelyotte'accompanying himself on the guitar; a score ofAtysstands open on the harpsichord
in front of him. See the exhibition catalogue Jean-Philippe
Bibliotheque Nationale, 1964, item 401.


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Je fri-mis,

- bles,

Tous mes Sens sont trou-



quel - le va-peur m'en-vi- ron - ne!



je fri - son -ne;

Je trem-ble
et tout ?i






deuLr Vient en -tla-ner




fer- na - le ar






than the professionalmusician, Raparlier's work emphasizes many

of the same principles as that of Berard. He describes in rather
general terms the adaptation of tone, articulation and ornamentation to the genre of music to be performed:
The genreof motetsor churchmusic must be simpleand majestic:
swelled sounds, trillsprepared and beaten clearly [les Sonsfiles,les
et bienBattues].The genreof Frenchopera or the
Academie Royale de Musique mustbe noble: appoggiaturasemphasized and sensitive[marques
et sensibles],
ornamentsin an air clean
the words well articulatedby doubling the consonants,
etc... . The genreof Opera-Bouffon
mustbe livelyand light;in that
case roulades,
passagesand tours
de Gosier
are theornamentsmostused.39
In the section dealing with ornamentation ('agrements du chant')
he provides simple explanations forfifteenornaments: the coule,port
de voix, accent,chute,cadence,pince, martellement,

passage,roulade,trait,sonfle and


His final

section, an essay on pronunciation and articulation, is perhaps of

most value for its explanations of how pronunciations may vary
according to contextand typeofpiece, with rules forelisions as well
as specific vowels and consonants.
As an example of the application of proper ornamentation,
articulation and pronunciation, he appends Lully's recitative.
3 Principes de musique,p. 16.
+?Ibid., p. 19.

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Despite numerous similarities between the versions of Berard and

Raparlier, many differencesare found as well. Raparlier, for
example, often fails to add the short trill or appoggiatura in the
middle of a line that Berard does, and he marks the accentless
frequently.He indicates the cadencemolleseveral times, but omits an
ornament altogetherat the point at which Berard had indicated the
cadencemolle.Raparlier also devised a mark to show the appropriate
places to breathe, always at the end of a complete sentence or
occasionally for textual reasons, as at the exclamation 'ah!'.
The application of some of the foregoingprinciplesby singers at
the Opera can be seen in two surviving roles that preserve
manuscript notations dating from eighteenth-centuryrevivals of
Les Fetes d'H6be.4' That of Tirtee in the second entre'ebears
annotations by a performer-perhaps the Mr. Moreau whose name
appears on the firstpage (see Plate I). He has entered numerous
marks of interpretation throughout, adding at the end 'chante
supremement par Mr Gelin, 1756'. He presumably wished to
preserve (and perhaps copy?) the ornaments and expression of the
well-known basse-taillethen at the height.of his career.
Nicolas Gelin (b. 1726) performed many roles in Rameau's
works. He made his debut in 1750 and studied in the early years of
his career with the finebasse-tailleChasse. Aftera performanceby
Gelin at the Concert Spirituel, a reviewer wrote in the Mercurede
France, 'sa voix fut trouvee etendue, sonore, gracieuse, legere'.42
Two years later he was compared favourablywith Chasse, who had
performedthe role of Alcee in an earlier revival of Destouches's
He took part in revivals of Rameau's works during the
1750s and 1760s and lived to sing the role of the High Priest in
Gluck's Alceste(1 776) beforehis retirementin 1779. Although he is
not recorded as having performedthe role of Tirtee in Les Fetes
d'Hebe until the 1764 and 1765 revivals, his performancein 1756,
for which the manuscript annotations survive, was perhaps as a
replacement for Chasse in one or more performances that year.
Some of the indications of Gelin's interpretation show an
annotation characterizing his expression of a phrase (such as
'recitatifmajestueux' for 'Dignes enfants d'Alcide') or a section
marked 'mesure' indicating the end of a previous recitative.44In
several places the singer has added a dot to rhythms notated
equally in the role, and occasionally also added an appoggiatura,
although, as in Berard's examples, most of the appoggiaturas were
already notated by Rameau. At the climactic point in Tirtee's
opening recitative, 'Je saurai par mon art' (see Plate I), with the

The parts are preserved in Paris, Bibliotheque de I'Opera, matiriel.

December 1750, p. 165.
43Mercurede France, May 1752, p. 163.
3 Rousseau (Dictionnairede musique,Paris, 1768, p. 283) writes of mesure:'ce mot repond a
l'Italien a Tempoou a Batuta, et s'emploie sortant d'un Recitatif, pour marquer le lieu oukl'on
doit commencer a chanter en mesure'.


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....... ...






Z .......





.. ....

.e v. .......


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addition of flute and strings at his words 'par mes accords', the
performerhas indicated Gelin's interpretationas 'lent et noble'.
Two bars later the crotchets of 'J'appaisay' are marked 'egalles'
[sic], in contrast to the following ones to which dots have been
added, indicating that they had been performedas inegales.
ofLes Fetes
Another vocal role, that of Sapho fromthe firstentree
d'Hibe, also preserves some annotations by a singer, although the
name of the performerdoes not appear on it (see Plate II). The role
certainly dates from no later than 1765, the year of the last
eighteenth-centuryrevival of this entree.Rameau had taken an
active interestin the 1764 production-only three months before
his death-revising passages and making other changes.45 Some
annotations on the vocal role were added in ink: 'doubled'
consonants, trills and appoggiaturas, a word indicating the
character of a section, a mark indicating the retakingof breath and
a few other signs. Sapho's opening air, 'Bois cheris des amours',
might have been classed with other laments by Berard for its
tender, sighing quality. The performerhas indicated the mood of
the opening 'en tendreregret'.As in Berard's examples, once again
little ornamentation was added beyond Rameau's own indications
(none at all in this air), but the singer has notated how
appoggiaturas and trills might be varied according to context. In
the firstbar, for example, the appoggiatura is indicated with a
small minim at the beginningof the trill,which would probably be
according to Berard's instructions.
continued as a cadenceappuye'e,
Other appoggiaturas are marked with a shortervalue. The unusual
notation of the appoggiatura in bar 5 on 'sombres' may be an
indication of a quick resolution to the consonance, on a stressed
syllable. Similarly, the petite note probably marks an accented
syllable since an appoggiatura would be impossible. A small
vertical stroke,such as that following'amours' in bar 2, indicates a
breath mark, the same symbol used by Raparlier in his treatise. A
tie has been added to the word 'ombres' (bar 7), indicating that the
second syllable should be scarcely pronounced at all. Certain
consonants have been written in, usually those which should
receive extra stress, according to Berard's advice for 'doubling'
consonants forclear diction and to furtherthe expression. For the
middle section of the piece, which turns to a more recitative-like
character, the correspondingchange to speech-like declamation is
indicated with the words 'plus debite', and in the more vivid phrase
'au moment qu'il me donnois sa foy' the word 'saisir' probably
indicates an expressive vocal or perhaps a dramatic gesture. Once
again we find a long appoggiatura notated in bar 24 on the word
'rigueurs'. A final point of interest is the occasional change of
4' Among the numerous surviving parts and scores, both printed and in manuscript,
representing performances of Les Fetes d'Hibe, a printed short score with many manuscript
annotations probably bears many of the 1764 changes: Paris, Bibliotheque de 1'Op6ra,
A. 143a.


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rhythm from even quavers to dotted execution (either way

round-e.g. 'rassembloient' in bar 5, 'trop flatteur'in bar 21) or the
prolongation of a long note, causing a subsequent rhythmic
adjustment ('Quand vos retraites' in bar 4).
The singer's indication of 'plus debite' seems appropriate for
both the character of the text in the middle section and its simpler
accompaniment (continuo only). But the fairlyrapid speech-like
declamation that these words implied had become the subject of
some controversyby the mid eighteenthcentury. De Rochemont
blamed the performer'sdesire to sing continuously rather than
adopt a more declamatory manner when the text demanded it:
One furtherthingruinsour singers,both male and female,namely
theirpassionforelaborationand brilliance[lafureur
brillerleursvoix]. In particular,most of our femalesingersdo not
at all; theyonly sing.'
declaim [dibitent]
According to Rousseau, composers were oftenat faultin recitative
forimposing too wide a range upon a singer, making declamation
difficult.'Le meilleur recitatif',he wrote, 'est celui qui approche le
plus de la parole',47but he found littleevidence of true declamation
in most performances. He also criticized the sort of singer who
'suspend le recit hors de propos pour filerde beaux sons sur des
syllabes qui ne signifientrien et qui ne formentaucun repos dans le
sens . Concluding his critique of the passage fromLully's Armide,
he wrote: 'On n'y trouve ni mesure, ni caractere, ni melodie: si l'on
veut que ce soit du recitatif, on n'y trouve ni naturel ni


Several of Rousseau's supporters voiced similar complaints.
According to Baton lejeune, 'Notre recitatiftienttropde l'air, en ce
qu'il est trop chante et trop rempli d'agrements, ce qui l'empeche
'.50 He did not agree with Rousseau,
d'etre un vrai r6citatif
however, that there ought to be more regularity of pulse in
recitative. On the contrary,he stated, 'Sa mesure n'est ni egale ni
sensible'.5' The excessively slow renditionthat Rousseau criticizes
may have been quite differentfromthe manner in which recitative
had been sung some generations earlier. According to Lecerf de la
Vieville, Lully himselfattempted to prevent singers from adding
additional ornaments in recitative which might interferewith the
speech-like declamation, saying: 'Je ne veux point de broderie,mon
recitatifn'estfaitque pour parler,je veux qu'il soit tout uni'.52Josse

p. 74 n.


Ibid., pp. 89-90.

47 Lettre sur la musiquefranfaise, p. 71.

48 Ibid., p. 73.

2nd edn., Paris, 1754, p. 37 n.

Examen de la lettrede M. Rousseausur la musiquefranfaise,
5' Ibid. Cf. Rousseau, Lettre,p. 74.
52 Lecerf de la Vieville, Comparaisonde la musiqueitalienneet de la musique

edn., Brussels, 1705-6, ii.204.


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de Villeneuve also noted that recitative in the mid eighteenth

centurywas customarilyperformedmore slowly than it had been in
Lully's day.53 Rousseau confirms the same observation:
. . . [Lully's] recitativeis much less mannered[mani6rel
[thanrecitativeis now], and therefore
muchbetterthanoursis: thisis confirmed
was performed
by singersofthatday entirely
fromthewaywe do it today.
It was quicker[plusvif]and less dragging[traznant];
it was sung less
and declaimed [declamoit]more.There are moretrillsand appoggiaturas in ours and it has become more languid; there is scarcely
anythingany more whichdistinguishesit fromwhat we like to call
Some years later Charles Colle recalled that Rameau had offeredto
revise and rewriteLully's works (a project he never undertook,as
far as is known), but he intended to leave the recitative as Lully
wrote it, recommendingonly that 'les acteurs le chantassent moins
lentement'.55Near the end of the century,Ginguene also remarked
in his article 'd6biter'forthe Engyclopedie
that recitativein
Lully's day had been declaimed 'beaucoup plus rapidement' than
in Rameau's.
A few years after his Lettresur la musiquefranCaise,Rousseau
seems to have reversed his position, forin his article 'debiter'forthe
Dictionnairede musiquehe criticizes the performanceof recitativefor
its excessive haste:
Debiter:deliberatelyto hasten the tempo [presser
le Mouvement]
singing and render it in a manner approaching the rapidityof
speech.... Frenchrecitativeis stilldisfigured
Several writerscame forwardto criticizeRousseau's inconsistency.
Cahusac took exception to Rousseau in his article for the
stressingthe necessityfordeclamation combined with
an expressive delivery:
Opera dialogue drags if it is not declaimed [debitee]:no matterhow
well he sings, the singerwho does not declaim at all weakens the
interestand causes boredom. One should beware, however,of
believingthat to delivera role rapidly,withoutadding nuance to it,
withoutputtingstressin it, etc., would be the same as declaiming
it.... To declaim,at theopera,is thusan essentialpartofthesinger's
task,and to declaimis to rendera singingrolerapidly,withprecision,
expression,grace and variety.57
The anonymous author of Suitedeslettres
surla musiqueobserved that
3Lettre sur la michanismede l'opira italien, Naples & Paris, 1756, p. 101.
4 Lettresur la musiquefranfaise,pp. 61-62.
'- CharlesColle,Journal
ed. HonoreBonhomme,Paris,1868,iii.121(January
36 Dictionnaire,p.


5 'Debiter', Encyclopidie,
ed. Diderot & d'Alembert,Paris, 1753 (1778 edn., x.316).


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nuance and expression in declamation can only be present when

the metre is not adhered to strictly:
Recitative,beingonlya declamation,should not be measured;forit
would be ridiculousto reduce to equal beats the manifestation
thoughtsthat followeach other at unequal intervals.58
He cites a well-known passage fromRameau's Les Indesgalantesto
illustratean exception: a recitativewhich ought to be measured. In
Act I Emilie, at the banks of the sea, reflectsupon her fate as she
watches the agitation of the waves beforeher. The tempest,whose
effectis created by the orchestra,remains the principal subject, and
Emilie's thoughts serve as an accompaniment. According to the
author, the piece would be called an air since it is measured, but
should remain declamatory and produce the effectforthe listenerof
With more specificadvice to the performerforestablishingsome
bounds to this freedom of declamation, Lecuyer advises in his
Principesde l'art du chant (1769):
Althoughthe metreshould not be strictin the dialogue and in a
monologue,and thoughit may sometimesbe permittedto linger[se
is stillno less
pavaner]on somesoundsand ornaments,[theperformer]
his singingwell; thatis to say, to make the
obliged to stress[scander]
long and short[syllables]felt,to pay attentionto the rests,and to
and especiallyto go
dwellonlyon verbsthatlack actionor movement,
absolutelyaccordingto the meaningof the words.
et de
As for measured airs and characterpieces [airs mesures
itis neverpermissibleto alterthemetreforwhateverreasons
theremightbe, exceptforthe finalcadence; and whenone wants to
borrowfromone noteto giveto another,thisshouldbe done onlywith
the greatestdiscretion;it would be betterto followliterallythe
composer'sfalsequantitiesthanto takeaway thecharacterofan air.'
(such as 'Lieux funestes' from
Lecuyer's inclusion of the monologue
Dardanus,discussed earlier) in the categoryof pieces whose metreis
less strict is worth noting.
Rameau's recitative has seldom drawn praise from recent
scholars,6'although in the eighteenthcenturyeven some of his most
vehement critics acknowledged his superiority. Since Lully's
recitativeusually formedthe model forcomparison, it was no small
accomplishment when Rameau's was judged to excel. Rousseau,
however, still took a moderate stand:
His recitativeis less naturalbut muchmorevariedthanthatofLully:
else, whichis
admirablein a fewplaces but bad almosteverywhere
perhapsas much the faultof the genreas his own; forit is oftenthe


Suite des lettressur la musique,Geneva, 1754, p. 29.

[Ozy? Fr6ron?J,

Ibid., pp. 29-30.

Principesde l'art du chant, Paris, 1769, pp. 22-23.

See Paul-Marie Masson, L'Opira de Rameau, Paris, 1930, pp. 132-201.


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resultofhavingwantedto servethedeclamationtoo muchthathe has

made his melodystrained[baroque]and his connectionsharsh. If he
had the power to conceivetruerecitative,and withit convincethis
flockof sheep, I thinkhe could have excelled at it.62
D'Alembert was among those who favoured Rameau's recitative
over that of Lully, which he said oftenspanned too great a range for
the voice. In his Melangesde litterature
(1759) he cites as 'le modele
d'un bon recitatif' the scene from the second act of Dardanus in
which Iphise admits to Dardanus her love foranother. D'Alembert
adds directions for performingthe passage:
It seemsto us thatan excellentsingerhavingto recite[declamer]
all this
passage in thescenefromDardanuswouldrenderitpreciselyas it is set
to music.To speak moreexactly,and not to exaggerateanything(for
therecould be severaldifferent
ways,all equally good, 6f expressing
thesentimentcontainedin thesewords),I imaginethatan intelligent
singerdeclaims [debite]the textin the Italian manner,conforming
thenotebutaddingto his declamationtheinflections,
and gradationsofloud and softnecessaryto bringtheexpressionout;
and I believeI can say thatone wouldscarcelybe awareofthesinging
as such, but would simplyhave the impressionof hearinga tragic
scene well delivered.To go further,
I shoulddare to predictthatthis
by an excellentsingerin themannerI propose,
would givemorepleasurethanthesame piece sungin fullvoice by the
same singerwithall possibleperfection.
Singingproperhas contours
[traits]that are more markedand, if one dares to say such a thing,
more coarse than those of simple declamation;in the expressionof
sentimentthe latterhas certaindelicaciesof whichthe voice driven
with more effortis not capable at all.63
Descriptions by d'Alembert and others provide a startingpoint
for recovering a style of singing and declamation which brings
Rameau's works to life. Evidence fromsingers who performedhis
music amplifies these findings,in sources as divergentas Berard's
treatise and annotations on surviving vocal roles used in actual
performances. No one source will solve all the mysteries, but
together they illustrate corntinuoussubtle changes that took place
during the eighteenthcentury,and serve to record in some measure
the manner in which Rameau's music was sung by the finest
performersof his day. To leave the voice without appropriate
ornaments and expression, said Michel Corrette, was to leave a
crude diamond unpolished.P Now that recent research and
performanceshave revealed many gems among Rameau's works,it
remains forus to refineour knowledge of how his music should be


'Lettre a M. Grimm' (1752), p. 24.

Meilangesde litterature,
Amsterdam, 1759, pp. 431-2.

64Le Parfait Maitre a chanter,2nd edn., Paris, 1763, p. 47.


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