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Voix et geste au XIXe siècle : un langage de convention ?

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In 17th-century Florence, when opera suddenly appeared on the scene as a “new” genre, it drew its inspiration from the combined use of voice and movement assumed by musicians-humanists to have been employed by ancient actors in Greek tragedies during the Classical period. This innovative style helped to enhance the value of the text in comparison to the music: movement preceded and added emphasis to the words. The prefaces to the first operas therefore bore witness to the importance accorded to the acting technique of these early opera actors cum singers. However, from the mid-17th century onwards, theoretical writings became increasingly rare. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, the treatises devoted to vocal art in fact made practically no mention of movement. The development of virtuoso vocal techniques, later identified as belcantist, relegated the use of movement to the background. Burney (1789) described the leading virtuoso castrato, Farinelli, when singing as “completely motionless, like a statue”. It was not until the decline of the belcantist period that there was a surge of renewed interest in the use of movement.


publication date : 26/09/23