Music at the court of France, from the status of an instrument of power to that of a pure entertainment tool

Over time, and above all due to lack of means, the practice of music in Versailles slowly withered away. There are shows, of course, but life at court is no longer musically rhythmic, as it used to be. Marie Antoinette will do everything possible to reverse this trend: it is her, who will relaunch certain practices that had been lost since Louis XIV, in particular the use of music during Soupers at the Grand Couvert, with these musicians, placed on the steps around the table and who gave even more splendor to the prestigious meals. Despite Marie Antoinette’s efforts to revive or continue musical life at Versailles, the center of gravity of music in France was to change. It is to Paris that you must go now to see the latest releases and applaud the hottest composers. In Paris, there is the Royal Academy of Music, which will later become the Paris Opera, there is also the Comédie Française, the Opéra-comique and then, of course, the Concerts Spirituels which allow Parisians to take advantage of public concerts of incomparable quality. . in Europe, with twenty musical sessions a year. There is also a new public, essentially bourgeois, often richer than the aristocracy, which begins to play the patron of the most talented composers.

Versailles is losing ground, although the queens and favorites are tuning in to Parisian fashion, but they are still a bit behind. The most eloquent example is that of Mozart, to whom Louis XVI offered the post of organist in the Royal Chapel of Versailles. Mozart will refuse, completely terrified at the idea of ​​finding himself far from Paris, where fashion was made and unmade at that time.

And this little history of music in Versailles will have finally brought us to May 29, 1789, so why this particular date? Because it is on this day that the royal family will unknowingly attend their last show at Versailles. Two operas by the queen’s favorite composer, André-Modeste Grétry, will have been performed there. They were “The Trial of Midas” and “The Talking Picture.” Gretry’s music was to conclude a gigantic royal musical fresco that had begun 125 years earlier with Lully’s “Les Plaisirs de l’île enchantée”. Music, in this space of time, was going to go from the status of an instrument of power to that of a pure entertainment tool.

And that is the story that Vincent Debushaye had to tell you.

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