Amadis de Gaule: plot and libretto
The order to write a libretto based on the story of Amadis came directly from Louis XIV. Its author, in 1684, was the playwright Philippe Quinault (1635-1688), and the work was to be set by Jean-Baptiste Lully. Understandably at that time in France’s history, the subject was not much to the poet’s liking. Amadis was the archetype of the chivalric romance, a category invented by the theorists of the Classical age with an undisguised pejorative intention: that of eradicating all medieval and Renaissance influences, considered unreasonable, though pleasant, from literature of the early modern period. Belonging to the early modern period, and a contemporary of those theorists of the Classical age, who included Boileau, as well as being a member of the French Academy since 1670, Quinault had every reason to have reservations about such a subject. Amadis belonged to another age, that of the Renaissance. The Spaniard Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo (d. 1504) had arranged the modern version of the anonymous fourteenth-century chivalric romance, and that had in turn been ‘Gallicised’ by Nicolas Herberay des Essarts in 1540, whose version was greeted with such enthusiasm at the Valois court that historiographers began to refer to the ‘Amadis phenomenon’. It was also a favourite work of Henri IV, successor of the Valois kings and grandfather of Louis XIV, so much so that it came to be known as ‘Henri IV’s Bible’. However, after being such a source of delight to a Mannerist world on the decline, Amadis inevitably appeared dated to the following generation. Only Louis XIV’s (unusually outmoded) taste for the work explains its adoption at that time as the subject for a tragédie lyrique.
CD-Book Johann Christian Bach. Amadis de Gaule (2012). Translation: Mary Pardoe.
Johann Christian BACH/
Alphonse-Marie-Denise DEVISMES DE SAINT-ALPHONSE
publication date : 13/01/24