BRUCE ALAN BROWN (1–2), PAULETTE LETAILLEUR/R (3), BRUCE ALAN BROWN (with PAULETTE LETAILLEUR), bibliography
(1) Charles-Simon Favart
(b Paris, 13 Nov 1710; d Belleville [now in Paris], 12 May 1792). Librettist, playwright, composer and impresario. He was one of the most highly regarded and prolific librettists of opéra comique during the mid-18th century, which saw both the Querelle des Bouffons and the gradual replacement in the genre of vaudevilles (popular songs) by newly composed, italianate ariettes.
According to his own fragmentary memoirs Favart inherited from his father, a pastrycook, a love of the theatre and of song; his mother encouraged his literary studies. He attended a collège until the death of his father in 1730 necessitated his return to the family business, in which he continued even after his first successes at the fairground theatres of the Opéra-Comique. Many of his early pieces (among them several parodies) were written with others, including his mentor Charles-François Panard, whose allegorical satire he imitated. These nevertheless brought him to the attention of noble patrons, including the Maréchal de Saxe.
Favart’s first masterpiece was La chercheuse d’esprit of 1741 (after La Fontaine), which portrayed the awakening to love of young rustic ingénus (fig.1). It was with this ‘genre galant et comique’ (as Favart called it) that he sought to ennoble the tone of opéra comique, previously prone to gross indecency. Without altogether eliminating double entendre, Favart emphasized comic naivety of utterance with a transparency of sentiment that looks forward to Rousseau. In 1743 Favart joined with Jean Monnet, the new impresario of the Opéra-Comique, in an effort to reform the spectacle both morally and materially. For a salary of 2000 francs, he agreed to write and adapt pieces, recruit and train new actors and supervise rehearsals; Monnet constructed a fine new theatre at the Foire St Laurent, and engaged Jean-Georges Noverre and François Boucher to create ballets and decors respectively. Favart not only collaborated with Boucher; scenes from his pantomime La vallée de Montmorency also inspired a whole series of pastoral paintings (and designs for porcelain or tapestry) by the artist, as was noted by the brothers Parfaict. In 1743 the Foire St Laurent saw the premières of Favart’s Le siège de Cythère (a veiled parody of Quinault and Lully’s Armide) and Le ballet des Dindons (a parody of Fuzelier and Rameau’s Les Indes galantes). During 1745 Marie-Justine Duronceray (as ‘Mlle Chantilly’) made her début in Les fêtes publiques, which celebrated the dauphin’s wedding; by the end of the year she and Favart had married. Also during this year the Comédie-Italienne and the Comédie-Française, jealous of the Opéra-Comique’s success, suppressed all but pantomime entertainments, and then completely shut down the spectacle. At this point Favart secured employment as director of the theatrical company of Maurice, Maréchal de Saxe, commander of French forces in Flanders.
De Saxe told Favart that his troupe entered into his military and political thinking; this manifested itself in the choice of repertory (as in Favart’s reworking of Le siège de Cythère), in such topical compositions as a sung annonce de battaille and, extraordinarily, in the troupe’s performing alternately in allied and enemy camps. During this period the Favarts met the Genoan diplomat Giacomo Durazzo, who as head of Viennese theatres was later to engage Favart as his theatrical agent. The hardships of operating a theatre in wartime were aggravated for Favart by De Saxe’s amorous pursuit of his wife, which provoked her flight to Paris. De Saxe later had her imprisoned in a convent, while Favart fled a trumped-up prosecution for debt. After the marshal’s death in 1750 the couple resumed their careers, working both at the Opéra-Comique (reopened under Monnet in 1752) and at the Comédie-Italienne, where Mme Favart had performed briefly in 1749.
The 1750s saw the creation of some of Favart’s most genial pieces and his reputation at its height. Parodies such as Les amours de Bastien et Bastienne (after Rousseau’s Le devin du village) and Raton et Rosette (after Mondonville’s Titon et l’Aurore) rivalled their models in popularity. Parisian performances of Italian intermezzos by the ‘Bouffon’ troupe between 1752 and 1754 prompted Favart (and others) to insert ariettes from them into new opéras comiques; he also translated several intermezzos, and wrote pasticcios using selections of their ariettes. These transitional genres evolved rapidly into the modern form of opéra comique.
During this period Favart benefited from the patronage of Mme de Pompadour and the court, especially after 1758, when he became a director of the Comédie-Italienne (which merged with the Opéra-Comique in 1762). Beginning in 1756, Favart composed a number of entertainments for the Marquise de Mauconseil and her palace theatre at Bagatelle. He served briefly as ‘Historiographe des Menus-Plaisirs du Roi’, and in 1763 was commissioned by the court to write a comedy, L’Anglais à Bordeaux, celebrating the end of the Seven Years’ War. This work earned him a royal pension of 1000 livres, later increased when he was named compositeur des spectacles de la cour. (The title first appears in the libretto, dedicated to the dauphine Marie Antoinette, of L’amitié à l’épreuve).
In 1759 Favart renewed his contacts with Durazzo, who desired his services as a recruiting agent, adapter, censor and supplier of pieces for the French theatre in Vienna (the Burgtheater), and as a window on the Parisian theatrical and literary scene. Their correspondence, of which portions (some of them tendentiously edited) have been published, shows Favart assuming much the same urbane tone as Friedrich Grimm in his Correspondance littéraire. Favart was originally to have collaborated with Gluck on new works, but did not do so: Durazzo was unable to use a ballet scenario Favart had drafted but sent too late for celebrations of Archduke Joseph’s first wedding in 1760, and later there were misunderstandings concerning some of his other works. Favart helped engineer Durazzo’s dismissal in 1764, although, before this, he had helped considerably in recruiting for the Viennese company, as he and his wife had at their disposal a vast network of theatrical contacts throughout Europe. He had also supervised the first (Parisian) edition of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, thereby greatly enhancing thc composer’s reputation.
During the latter part of his career Favart attempted, with mixed success, to come to terms with the new comédie mêlée d’ariettes, of the sort being written by younger authors such as Sedaine and Marmontel. Soliman second (1761), which did achieve wide and lasting success, is really a verse play interspersed with a few musical numbers and with a closing divertissement. Annette et Lubin (1762, after Marmontel) contains some new music, but many more vaudevilles; in writing the piece (with which the newly reconstituted troupe of the Comédie-Italienne made its début) Favart had aimed to ‘ramener le public à l’ancien goût de l’opéra comique’, and indeed the work was immensely popular. La fée Urgèle (1765, after Voltaire) and Les moissonneurs (1768), both true comédies mêlées d’ariettes, were well received, but Favart’s 1775 recasting of Cythère assiégée as an opéra-ballet was neither a success nor an improvement on his version of 1748. After his wife’s death in 1772 Favart largely withdrew from active work in the theatre to his home at Belleville.
Favart’s fame rests principally on his vaudeville comedies, from La chercheuse d’esprit onward, although these have not been universally admired. Contemporary critics such as Diderot and Grimm saw in Favart’s pieces a false naivety that ill masked their risqué content, while, more recently, Maurice Barthélemy has decried Favart’s betrayal of the carnivalesque humour of the early Opéra-Comique; both complaints are indicative of an antipathy to the galant aesthetic in general. As a parodist Favart was unrivalled, and gentler than most; the playwright La Noue staged Favart’s parody of his own Mahomet II, and sent the poet his compliments. Though honoured still as a literary figure, Favart has yet fully to be rediscovered as a musician. He composed many of the airs in his opéras comiques, mimicking traditional airs and galant modern melodies with equal ease. But his greatest talent lay in the appropriate choice and retexting of popular tunes so as to take full advantage of their salient musical features.
On the whole, Favart was a progressive force in French musical theatre. He and his wife pioneered accurate, historical costume before Le Kain at the Comédie-Française. Favart’s letters to Durazzo are full of derisive comments on the traditional repertory of the Opéra and news of the triumphs of modern opéra comique. Though not entirely able himself to accommodate developments in the new form of the spectacle, he supported its best composers, such as Monsigny, Philidor and Grétry. The most important collection of his works is the Théâtre de M. et Mme Favart, ou Recueil des comédies, parodies et opéras-comiques, published in ten volumes (Paris, 1763–72). Favart’s works were enormously popular abroad, in translations and resettings as well as in their original versions.
Favart: (1) Charles Simon Favart
Paris, Comédie-Italienne (Hôtel de Bourgogne)
Paris, Foire St Germain
Paris, Opéra (Académie Royale de Musique)
Paris, Foire St Laurent
opéra comique par — parody
prologue div — divertissement
first performed in Paris unless otherwise stated; composer and title of parodied works are in square brackets; composers of other works are unknown unless otherwise stated; roman numerals in parentheses refer to volume numbers in the ‘Théâtre de M. et Mme Favart’ (Paris, 1763–72)
opéras comiques and parodies in vaudevilles
Polichinelle comte de Paonfier (par, with Largillière fils, after P. Néricault-Destouches: Le glorieux), marionette theatre, PSG, 14 March 1732
Les jumelles (oc), PSG, 22 March 1734
Le génie de l’Opéra-Comique (prol), PSL, 28 June 1735
L’enlèvement précipité (oc), PSL, 29 July 1735
La répétition interrompue (oc, with C.-F. Panard and Fagan), music partly by Gillier, PSL, 6 Aug 1735; rev. with subtitle Le petit-maître malgré lui, PSG, 14 March 1757 (viii)
Le nouveau Parnasse (prol), PSL, 25 Aug 1736
La dragonne (oc, with Panard), PSL, 25 Aug 1736
Le vaudeville (prol, with Panard), PSG, 3 Feb 1737
Le prince nocturne, ou Le Normand dupé, ou La pièce sans titre (oc, with Panard), PSG, 3 Feb 1737
Marianne (par, with Panard, after P.C. Marivaux: La vie de Marianne), PSG, 3 Feb 1737
L’abondance (oc, with A.J. Le Valois d’Orville and T. Laffichard), PSG, 21 March 1737
Le bal bourgeois (oc), PSG, 13 March 1738; rev. with ariettes, PSL, late Aug 1761 (viii)
La fête de la Halle (La Halle galante) (par, with Carolet and Panard) [Rameau: Les Indes galantes], PSG, 13 March 1738
Moulinet premier (par of La Noue: Mahomet II), PSG, 15 March 1739 (vi)
Les amours de Gogo (par) [Rameau: La poésie, 1st entrée of Les fêtes d’Hébé], 1739, unperf.
Sansonnet et Tonton (par) [Rameau: La musique, 2nd entrée of Les fêtes d’Hébé], 1739, unperf.
Les réjouissances publiques (ambigu-comique), PSL, 19 Sept 1739
Harmonide (par) [J.-N.-P. Royer: Zaïde], PSL, 1 Oct 1739
Arlequin-Dardanus (par, with Panard and Parmentier) [Rameau: Dardanus], PCI, 14 Jan 1740
Pyrame et Thisbé (par) [Rebel and Francoeur: Pyrame et Thisbé], PSG, 3 March 1740
La servante justifiée (oc, with B.C. Fagan), PSG, 19 March 1740 (vi)
La barrière du Parnasse (oc), PSG, 7 April 1740; anon., unauthorized rev., as La parodie au Parnasse, PSG, 20 March 1759 (viii); also as La muse chansonnière
Les recrues de l’Opéra-Comique (prol, with Brou), PSL, 1 July 1740
Les époux (oc, on a plan by Laffichard), PSL, 1 July 1740
Les jeunes mariés (oc, with Parmentier), PSL, 1 July 1740; rev., PSG, Blaise and Rochard, 15 March 1755) (vii)
Les fêtes villageoises (par, ambigu-comique) [Campra: Les fêtes vénitiennes], PSL, 30 Aug 1740
La joie (oc), PSG, 3 Feb 1741
La chercheuse d’esprit (oc), PSG, 20 Feb 1741 (vi)
Farinette (par) [Lully: Proserpine], PSG, 9 March 1741; rev., with M.-J. Sedaine as Pétrine, PCI, 13 Jan 1759 (iv)
Le qu’en dira-t-on (oc, with F.C. Boizard de Pontau and Panard), PSL, 22 July 1741
Le bacha d’Alger (oc), PSL, 11 Aug 1741
La fête de Saint-Cloud (oc), PSL, 10 Sept 1741; rev. as Les bateliers de Saint-Cloud, PSL, 10 Sept 1743 (vi)
Les valets (oc, with Le Valois d’Orville), PSL, 21 Sept 1741
Les vendanges d’Argenteuil (oc), PSL, 9 Oct 1741
Le prix de Cythère (oc, with Marquis de Paulmy d’Argenson), PSG, 12 Feb 1742 (vi)
La fausse duègne, ou Le jaloux corrigé par force (oc, with Parmentier), 28 Aug 1742
Hippolyte et Aricie (par, arr. Blaise) [Rameau: Hippolyte et Aricie], PCI, 11 Oct 1742; rev. 1757 (i)
Le coq de village (oc), PSG, 31 March 1743 (vi)
Prologue pour l’ouverture du nouvel Opéra-Comique (prol), PSL, 8 June 1743
Le pouvoir de l’Amour, ou Le siège de Cythère (par, with Fagan) [Lully: Armide], PSL, 1 July 1743; rev. by Favart as Cythère assiégée (vii); Brussels, 7 July 1748, as Gluck, Vienna and Schwetzingen, 1759 as Cythère assiégée; rev. 1775, as opéra-ballet, Gluck
L’ambigu de la Folie, ou Le ballet des dindons (prol, 4 entrées) [Rameau: Les Indes galantes], PSL, 31 Aug 1743; rev. as Les Indes dansantes, PCI, 26 July 1751 (i)
L’astrologue de village (par, with Panard) [Bury fils: L’astrologie, 1st entrée of Les caractères de la Folie], PSL, 5 Oct 1743
L’empirique (par of Voltaire: Mahomet), PSL, 1743, unperf.
Acajou (par of C. Pinot-Duclos: Acajou et Zirphile), PSG, 18 March 1744; rev. in vaudevilles, PSL, 28 Sept 1744 and PO, Oct 1744 (vii)
L’école des amours grivois (Les amours grivois) (oc, with P. Bridard de La Garde and Le Sueur), PSL, 16 July 1744 (vii)
Le bal de Strasbourg (divertissement allemand, oc, with La Garde and Le Sueur), PSL, 13 Sept 1744 (vii)
L’île d’Anticire, ou La Folie, médecin de l’esprit (oc), PSG, 3 Feb 1745
L’amour au village [Carolet: L’amour paysan], PSG, 3 Feb 1745 (vii)
Thésée (par, with P. Laujon and Parvi) [Lully: Thésée], PSG, 17 Feb 1745 (vii)
Les fêtes publiques (oc, with La Garde and Le Sueur), PSG, Feb 1745
Les nymphes de Diane (oc), Brussels, 1 June 1747; rev. in vaudevilles, PSL, 22 Sept 1755 [written 1741, for PSL] (viii)
Les amants inquiets (par) [Collasse: Thétis et Pélée], PCI, 9 March 1751 (i)
Les amours champêtres (par, pastorale) [Rameau: Les sauvages, 4th entrée of Les Indes galantes], PCI, 2 Sept 1751 (i)
L’impromptu de la cour de marbre (divertissement comique, with La Garde and Dehesse), 28 Nov 1751
Arlequin et Scapin voleurs par amour, ou Les fragments (Italian scenario [PCI, 20 May 1741] with new scenes in French by Favart), PCI, 26 Dec 1751
Fanfale (par, with P.-A. Lefèvre de Marcouville) [Destouches: Omphale], PCI, 8 March 1751 (i)
Tircis et Doristée (par) [Lully: Acis et Galatée), PCI, 14 Sept 1751 (ii)
Raton et Rosette, ou La vengeance inutile (par) [Mondonville: Titon et l’Aurore], PCI, 24 March 1753 (ii)
Les amours de Bastien et Bastienne (par, with M.-J.-B. Favart and Harny de Guerville) [Rousseau: Le devin du village], PCI, 4 Aug 1753 (v)
Zéphire et Fleurette (par, with Panard and Laujon) [Rebel and Francoeur: Zélindor], PCI, 23 March 1754 [written 1745] (ii)
La fête d’Amour, ou Lucas et Colinette (oc, with M.-J.-B. Favart and Chevalier), PCI, 5 Dec 1754 (v)
L’amour impromptu (par) [Rameau: La danse, 3rd entrée of Les fêtes d’Hébé], PSL, 10 July 1756 (viii)
Le mariage par escalade (oc), PSL, 11 Sept 1756 (viii)
La petite Iphigénie (par, with C.-H. Fusée de Voisenon, after G. de La Touche: Iphigénie en Tauride), PCI, 21 July 1757
Les ensorcelées, ou Jeannot et Jeannette (par, with M.-J.-B. Favart, J.N. Guérin de Frémicourt and Harny de Guerville) [Rameau: Les surprises de l’amour], PCI, 1 Sept 1757 (v); also as La nouvelle surprise de l’amour
La noce interrompue (par) [Lully: Alceste], PCI, 26 Jan 1758 (iv)
(b Avignon, 14 June 1727; d Paris, 21 April 1772). Singer, actress, dancer and dramatist, wife of (1) Charles-Simon Favart. After training as a performer at the court of the exiled Polish king Stanisław Leszcziński at Nancy, early in 1745 she joined the Parisian Opéra-Comique troupe, making her début in Favart’s Les fêtes publiques. Later that year she won acclaim in Les vendanges de Tempé, a pantomime produced by Favart in response to a ban on spoken dialogue at the fairground theatres; she married the playwright in December 1745. After the suppression of the Opéra-Comique, Maurice, Maréchal de Saxe appointed her husband director of his theatrical company in the French-occupied Austrian Netherlands, and Mme Favart accompanied him as a member of the troupe. By the summer of 1747 the unwelcome attentions of the Maréchal (which later inspired several fictionalizations) had caused her to flee to Paris; further threats and periods of incarceration or exile largely kept her off the stage for the next several years, although she performed briefly at the Comédie-Italienne in 1749.
Following the Maréchal’s death in 1750, and her husband’s return to Paris, Mme Favart rejoined the Comédie-Italienne, initially as a dancer and singer in divertissements, but from 1752 as a regular member of the company. Her versatility (e.g. in mimicking accents and dialects, and in trouser roles), and the seductiveness, mischievousness and naivety she brought to her roles quickly established her as a favourite with the public. Of her performance in Favart’s Ninette à la cour, the Marquis d’Argenson noted ‘des endroits pathétiques, où elle se montre aussy grande que jolie et naturelle dans le badinage’. Her singing of italianate ariettes (in which she received lessons from the composer Charles Sodi), in translations or parodies of opere buffe, was crucial in establishing the vogue for such music in opéra comique. She was influential also in reforming theatrical dress, starting with her wearing of a simple peasant dress and wooden shoes in Les amours de Bastien et Bastienne of 1753 (fig.2), at a time when operatic shepherdesses routinely wore their most opulent costumes and jewellery. Another of her famous roles was Roxelane in Favart’s Soliman second in which she wore authentic Turkish robes and accompanied herself on the harp.
Mme Favart’s part in conceiving the pieces attributed to her was widely doubted during her lifetime; the issue is even treated humorously in the preface to La fête d’amour. But in a posthumous tribute her husband confirmed her authorship, specifying that she had helped choose subjects, draft scenarios, compose or choose vaudevilles and write couplets; for the most part, she left versification to her husband or other collaborators.
all first performed at the Comédie-Italienne, Paris;
composer and title of parodied musical works are in square brackets
Les amours de Bastien et Bastienne (par, with C.-S. Favart and Harny de Guerville) [Rousseau: Le Devin du village], 4 Aug 1753
La fête d’amour, ou Lucas et Colinette (oc, with C.-S. Favart and Chevalier), 5 Dec 1754
Les ensorcelées, ou Jeannot et Jeannette (par, with C.-S. Favart, J.N. Guérin de Frémicourt and Harny de Guerville) [Rameau: Les surprises de l’Amour], 1 Sept 1757
La fille mal gardée, ou Le pédant amoureux (par, with C.-S. Favart and Lourdet de Santerre) [Mouret: La Provençale, 5th entrée of Les fêtes de Thalie], Duni, 4 Mar 1758
La fortune au village (par, with C.-S. Favart and Bertrand) [Lagarde: Aeglé], Gibert, 8 Oct 1760
Annette et Lubin (comédie mêlée d’ariettes et de vaudevilles, with C.-S. Favart and Lourdet de Santerre), Blaise, 15 Feb 1762
(3) Charles Nicolas Joseph Justin Favart
(b Paris, 17 March 1749; d Belleville [now in Paris], 2 Feb 1806). Dramatist and actor, son of (1) Charles-Simon Favart and (2) Marie-Justine-Benoîte Favart. He made his acting début at the Comédie-Italienne in 1779 as Cassandre in Grétry’s Le tableau parlant, and was admitted as a full member in 1780. He left the theatre in 1796 and took employment in the Tribunat library. He wrote, apart from Revolutionary hymns and patriotic songs, opéras comiques en vaudevilles such as Le diable boiteux (1782) and La sagesse humaine, ou, Arlequin Memnon (1797), some of which were published.
Favart’s son, Antoine Pierre Charles Favart (1780–1867), was also a dramatist. He wrote several comédies avec vaudevilles, including La jeunesse de Favart, a ‘comédie anecdotique’ (1808). He published his grandfather’s Mémoires et correspondance in 1808.
F. and C.Parfaict: Dictionnaire des théâtres de Paris (Paris, 1756/R, 2/1767, with G. d’Abguerbe)
Meusnier: Manuscrit trouvé à la Bastille concernant deux lettres-de-cachet lâchées contre Mademoiselle de Chantilly et M. Favart, par le Maréchal de Saxe (Paris, 1789; another edn, Brussels, 1868)
A.-P.-C.Favart, ed.: Mémoires et correspondance littéraires, dramatiques et anecdotiques de C.-S. Favart (Paris, 1808/R), esp. i, pp.lxxiv–lxxx [incl. historical introduction by H.F. Dumolard]
A.Le Blanc de Ferrière: Favart à Bruxelles (Paris, 1811)
A.Font: Favart: l’opéra comique et la comédie-vaudeville aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles (Paris, 1894/R)
M.Dumoulin: Favart et Madame Favart: un ménage d’artistes au XVIIIe siècle (Paris, 1902)
A.Marandet: Manuscrits inédits de la famille Favart, de Fuzelier, de Pannard, et de divers auteurs du XVIIIe siècle (Paris, 1922)
A.Iacuzzi: The European Vogue of Favart: the Diffusion of the Opéra-Comique (New York, 1932/R)
P.J.Salvatore: Favart’s Unpublished Plays: the Rise of the Popular Comic Opera (New York, 1935/R)
H.Schneider: ‘Zur Gattungsgeschichte der frühen Opéra-Comique’, GfMKB: Bayreuth 1981, 107–16
M.Noiray: ‘Hippolyte et Castor travestis: Rameau à l'Opèra-comique’, Jean-Philippe Rameau: Dijon 1983, 109–25
F.Karro: ‘De la Querelle des Bouffons à réforme de Gluck: les Lettres du Comte Giacomo Durazzo à Charles-Simon Favart Conservées à la Bibliothèque de l'Opéra ’, Mitteilungen des Österreichischen Staatsarchivs, xxxviii (1985), 163–96
B.A.Brown: Gluck and the French Theatre in Vienna (Oxford, 1991)
M.Haine: ‘Charles-Simon Favart à la tête du Théâtre des armées du maréchal de Saxe à Bruxelles (janvier 1746–décembre 1748)’, Grétry et l’Europe de l’opéra-comique, ed. P. Vendrix (Liége, 1992), 281–330
P.Vendrix, ed.: L’Opéra-comique en France au XVIIIe siècle (Liège, 1992)
B.A.Brown: ‘Les Rêveries renouvelées des Grecs: Facture, Function and Performance Practice in a Vaudeville Parody of Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride (1779)’, Timbre und Vaudeville: zur Geschichte und Problematik einer populären Gattung im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert: Bad Homburg 1996, 306–43