Personalities | Philippe Quinault | Early & Middle Baroque | Opera
Philippe Quinault was a well-known playwright when he decided to switch to the writing of opera libretti. The techniques of plays and operas – spoken and sung drama – diverged considerably, but Quinault succeeded in transferring his skills from one genre to the other. It was risky, but the star prize was collaboration with Lully, the progenitor of French opera and protégé of the mighty Louis XIV. Although Quinault developed the tragédie lyrique for Lully and so later influenced French grand opéra, there were certain restraints. Libretti had to contain formal scenes, stereotyped sentiments and the required references to royal glory and eminence. Emotion was always under control, heroes attained their objectives without undue strain and love was idyllic rather than passionate. Pantomime, dance and spectacle were regular ingredients. King Louis had to approve of everything, so that both Quinault and Lully planned their operas with royal tastes in mind.
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