(b Aix-en-Provence, 23 Nov 1748; d Paris, 10 May 1785). French composer. He studied in the maîtrise of St Sauveur at Aix and began his career by writing sacred music. He had motets performed at the age of ten, and a mass when he was 12. He was in Paris by 1767 and soon gained recognition, having sacred and secular works performed, such as his motet Deus noster refugium in 1769, and attracting aristocratic patronage. His first theatrical work, L’union de l’Amour et des arts, staged at the Opéra in 1773, is a ballet-héroïque with three independent entrées. In a period when tragic opera was languishing it won general approval; Floquet was the first composer to be called on stage after a performance at the Opéra, and the work was given 60 times up to January 1774. The following year Floquet joined the Opéra orchestra, playing the viola; and Gluck began to distract attention from native talent. Floquet’s second ballet-héroïque, Azolan, was performed between Orphée and the revival of Iphigénie en Aulide. Its comparative failure (it was performed 20 times but never revived) was attributed to Gluckist intrigue: it soon acquired the sobriquet ‘désolant’. Nevertheless, Floquet had faithful supporters (self-styled ‘Floquetistes’) who joined the cabal against Gluck’s La Cythère assiégée in 1775.
Meanwhile, possibly on the advice of Grimm, Floquet went to Italy. He studied composition with Nicola Sala in Naples and counterpoint with Padre Martini in Bologna. When he returned in 1777, Piccinni was Gluck’s established rival, and the Opéra showed little interest in native composers. He composed his first tragédie, Hellé, to a libretto previously declined by Mondonville, and his first opéra comique, La nouvelle Omphale; they waited until 1779 and 1782 for performance. Hellé had only three performances; Floquet had been offered a greatly increased fee if it was successful. Its failure was attributed to Laguerre’s poor performance in the title role, but Floquet was outstripped in the Italian style by Piccinni and in dramatic strength by Gluck. La nouvelle Omphale was well received, as was Le seigneur bienfaisant, which deals with the joys and mishaps (righted by the benevolent lord) of ordinary people. Although it was cordially despised by Gluck and his followers, its considerable charms attracted the public and it remained in repertory until 1787.
Floquet determined to try another tragic subject, a revision of Quinault’s Alceste (Le triomphe d’Alcide). Both subject and occasion were unpropitious. Recent resettings of Quinault, by Philidor and Gossec, had failed; Gluck’s Alceste was well known; and Piccinni had just triumphed with Didon. Alceste was rehearsed and provisionally accepted by the Opéra committee but it was never performed. Floquet was already in poor health, perhaps as the result of loose living; the disappointment with Alceste may have hastened his early death. He left two unfinished operas; one, Alcindor, was completed by Dezède and performed in 1787.
Floquet’s talents suited the pastoral, the picturesque and sentimental, required of him in Le seigneur bienfaisant, rather than tragedy or real comedy. His early works show fashionable interest in Italian music, while remaining within the bounds of French taste. His adoption of an Italian style, fostered by his studies there, was never more than skin-deep. In Hellé, his most ambitious and most uneven work, the choruses are reminiscent of an older French style but several of the arias are italianate, particularly the florid piece for Legros (Neptune), with two obbligato clarinets. Of Alceste only the opening scenes survive; they suggest that Floquet, perhaps trying to imitate Piccinni, had fallen into prolixity.
first performed at the Paris Opéra unless otherwise stated
L’union de l’Amour et des arts [Bathilde et Chloé: Théodore; La cour d’Amour] (ballet héroïque, 3, P.R. Lemonnier), 7 Sept 1773 (Paris, ?1773)
Azolan, ou Le serment indiscret (ballet-héroïque, 3, Lemonnier), 22 Nov 1774, Acts 1 and 2 F-Po, excerpts pubd
Hellé (tragédie lyrique, 3, Lemonnier and La Boullaye), 5 Jan 1779, Po, excerpts pubd
Le seigneur bienfaisant (op, 3, M.-A.-J. Rochon de Chabannes), 14 Dec 1780 (Paris, ?1780); rev. (4), 23 Dec 1782 (Paris, 1782)
La nouvelle Omphale (cmda, 3, Beaunoir [A.L.A. Robineau]), Versailles, 22 Nov 1782 (Paris, ?1782)
Grisélidis, 1783 (oc, 3), unperf.
Le triomphe d’Alcide [Alceste], 1783 (tragédie lyrique, 5, P.-A. Razins de Saint-Marc, after P. Quinault), unperf., frags. Po
Les françaises, ?1784 (oc, 1, Rochon de Chabannes), unperf.
Alcindor, 1785 (opéra-féerie, 3, Rochon de Chabannes), completed by N. Dezède, perf. 17 April 1787 (Paris, 1787)
La chasse, 1785 (Razins de Saint-Marc), inc.
unpublished and lost unless otherwise stated
Sacred vocal: Motet à grand choeur, 1758; Motet pour la semaine sainte, c1760; Messe solenelle, c1760; Deus noster refugium, motet, Paris, Concert Spirituel, 1769; La gloire du Seigneur [from Ps xlvii], Paris, Concert Spirituel, 1769, F-Pn; Messe des morts, Paris, 1771; Messe de requiem, Paris, 1772; Te Deum, 2 choirs, 2 orch, Naples, 1776; Cantate Dominum canticum nouum, Bologna, 1777 I-Baf; 42 lezioni di contrappunto, 4–5vv, Bologna, 1777, I-Bc; Crucifixus, Bologna, 1777, I-Baf; Dixit, motet; In exitu, motet; Magnificat
Secular vocal: Les amans seroient charmans, air, in Mercure de France (March 1774), extant; 9 fugues on themes of G.B. Martini, 4–5vv, Bologna, 1777; La constrainte du silence, ariette, S, 2 vn, va, b (Paris, n.d.), extant
Inst: Chaconne, 2 vn, va, b, before 1774, later arr. in L‘union de l’Amour et des arts, many arrs. pubd, extant
ES (M. Briquet)
De Charnois: Obituary, Mercure de France (Aug 1785), 35
Castil-Blaze: Théâtre lyriques de Paris: l’Académie impériale de musique de 1645 à 1855, i (Paris, 1855)
A.Pougin: Floquet (Paris, 1863); orig. in Revue et gazette musicale de Paris, xxx (1863), 193, 209, 234, 244, 265
G.Desnoiresterres: La musique française au XVIIIe siècle: Gluck et Piccinni (Paris, 1872/R, 2/1875)
J.-G.Prod’homme, ed.: Ecrits de musiciens (XVe–XVIIIe siècles) (Paris, 1912/R)
M.Briquet: ‘A propos de lettres inédites d’Etienne-Joseph Floquet (1748–1785)’, RdM, xx (1939), 1–6, 41–7
M.Briquet: E.-J. Floquet (diss., U. of Paris, 1953)
M.Briquet: ‘L’Alceste de E.J. Floquet’, Mélanges d’histoire et d’esthétique musicales, offerts à Paul-Marie Masson, ii (Paris, 1955), 19–29
J.G.Rushton: Music and Drama at the Académie Royale de Musique, Paris, 1774–1789 (diss., U. of Oxford, 1970)