grand opera

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grand opera

an opera that has a serious plot and is entirely in musical form, with no spoken dialogue
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Grand Opera


(1) A type of opera that took shape in 19th-century France and is most fully represented in the works of G. Meyerbeer. It is characterized by monumentality of form (having five acts, as a rule), a large cast of performers (soloists, chorus, and orchestra), and the standard inclusion of ballet numbers. Highly dramatic subjects, usually taken from history or legend, predominate; grand opera is characterized by suspenseful action, heroics, romantic exultation and magnificence, musical and scenic splendor, and ornamentation.

(2) The leading musical theater of Paris (“Grand-Opéra”).

Grand Opéra


(official name. National Academy of Music and Dance), state opera theater in Paris. The largest center of the music theater in France, the Grand Opéra was founded by the composer R. Cambert and the poet P. Perrin, who were issued a royal patent in 1669 for the organization of a permanent opera theater. It opened in 1671 under the name of the Royal Academy of Music and Dance, but its name was changed several times. In the 17th through the 19th century performances took place in different theater buildings. In 1875 a new building with 2,156 seats was built (architect, C. Gamier: rebuilt in 1936), and in the same year the theater was given the name Grand Opėra. In the 17th and 18th centuries the Grand Opėra was involved in the development of two genres of national opera—lyric tragedy and ballet-opera. The theater staged works by J. B. Lully (head of the theater, 1672–87), A. C. Destouches, A. Campra, and J. P. Rameau, as well as Gluck’s reformist operas. Performing during this period at the Grand Opėra were well-known singers such as M. S. Arnould. L. R. Dugazon, and J. B. Martin and outstanding ballet dancers, including M. A. Camargo, M. Sallé, and M. M. Guimard. Among the ballet masters who worked at the Grand Opėra were P. Beauchamps. G. Vestris. J. G. Noverre, and J. Dauberval.

At the turn of the 19th century, works were performed at the Grand Opėra that were imbued with the idea of combating tyranny (the so-called rescue operas). Among them were works by F. J. Gossec. A. E. M. Grėtry, E. N. Mėhul, J. P. Lesueur, and L. Cherubini. At the end of the 1820’s a new genre developed—grand opera. Operas were staged at the Grand Opéra on historical patriotic and heroic subjects, including The Mute Girl From Portici by Auber (1828), William Tell by Rossini (1829). The Huguenots by Meyerbeer (1836), and The Cardinal’s Daughter by Halėvy (1835). Among the composers whose works were presented at the theater in the second half of the 19th century were A. Thomas, C. Gounod, L. Delibes, C. Saint-Saëns, and J. Massenet.

In the 19th century outstanding singers performed at the Grand Opéra, including M- Malibran, P. Viardot-Garcia, G. Grisi, M. C. Falcon, A. Nourrit, G. Duprez, and M. J. D. Artôt. Among the ballerinas who performed there were M. Taglioni, F. Elssler, C. Grisi, and F. Cerito, and the ballet masters J. Perrot, S. Taglioni, and L. Petipa worked there.

In addition to world classics, the works of modern composers hold a substantial place in the repertoire of the 20th-century Grand Opéra. Among these works are R. Strauss’ Salomé, Stravinsky’s The Nightingale, G. F. Malipiero’s Seven Canzones, Ravel’s Bolero, Honegger’s Amphion, and Milhaud’s Maximilien. Also part of the Grand Opéra’s repertoire are G. Enesco’s Edipe, A. Sauget’s The Charterhouse of Parma, F. Poulenc’s Exemplary Beasts and The Human Voice, L. Dallapiccola’s Night Flight. A. Berg’s Wozzeck, and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet.

Well-known singers have appeared and still appear at the Grand Opéra, including M. Journet, G. Lubin, G. Thill, R. Crespin. A. Lance, and G. Bacquier. Among the distinguished ballerinas who have performed there are L. Darson-val, Y. Chauviré. and L. Daydé. Ballet masters who have worked there include L. Staats. S. Lifar. M. Descombey, and R. Petit, and outstanding conductors who have appeared there include A. Messager, P. Monteux. and R. Desormière. In 1958 and 1970 the Grand Opėra ballet troupe toured the USSR.


Bouvet, C. L’Opéra. Paris, 1924.
Wolff, S. L’Opéra au Palais Gamier, 1875–1962: Les Oeuvres, tes interprètes. Paris. 1962.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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