Personalities | Jean-Jacques Rousseau | Classical Era | Opera
Best known as the Swiss political philosopher with a crucial influence on Romanticism and the French Revolution, Jean-Jacques Rousseau was also a composer, author and musicologist. In his most famous work, Le devin du village (‘The Village Soothsayer’, 1752), Rousseau’s small talent confined him to simple melodies with simple accompaniments. What was really important was the way his liberal outlook in politics coloured his plot and its characters. Le devin du village demonstrated how simple, honest, virtuous, country folk overcame the corrupt, cynical aristocracy – an idealized, sentimental but recognizable metaphor for the revolution of 1789. In addition to Rousseau’s influence on the cast list of operas, in which simple folk were given more prominence, he was partly responsible for the increasing importance of the orchestra in early Romantic opera, where the instrumentalists were able to depict natural events – storm, rain, wind – when they were part of the plot.
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