ELEVENTH BIENNIAL INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON BAROQUE MUSIC
Manchester, 14th-18th July 2004
L’épopée travestie dans le ballet royal: Tasso and Ariosto in France during the reigns of Henri IV and Louis XIII
Two primary sources of the Ballet de la délivrance de Renaud have come down to us. One is Etienne Durand’s Discours au vray du Ballet dansé par le Roy, le Dimanche XXIXe jour de janvier 1617, a detailed prose account of the action, ballet entrees and costumes, complemented with engravings and the music of the vocal pieces. It also contains the gallant and encomiastic verse. The other source appears to have been unknown to the principal historian of the ballet, Margaret McGowan. Almost certainly earlier, this is a separately-issued set of the verse also dated 1617, written for the ballet by its principal poet, René Bordier.
A comparison of these documents indicates that some early decisions as to how Tasso’s famous Rinaldo/ Armida episode was to be represented were overturned en route. Extra participants were added, as well as two large ensemble pieces. An air for Armide in love is replaced by one for Renault, and a despairing chorus is replaced by a militant one.
Comparison of the number and layout of the encomiastic poems as they appear in the two sources spurred a reconsideration of the political ‘message’ the Discours conveys. The exercise suggested that it could not have been published before the coup d’état of 27 April, and a clue provided in Durand’s description of the King’s favourite, Charles Albert de Luynes led to the confirmation of this hypothesis. The conclusion to be drawn, given that the political thrust of the Discours proves to reflect the post-Concini era rather than the period when the ballet was actually performed, is that we can no longer be certain, as McGowan claimed, that the ballet was invented expressly to proclaim the young King’s authority at the expense of his mother.
Last updated on 09 May 2004