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Association Française pour le Rayonnement du Théâtre du Château de Drottningholm

Aesthetics 2002 Pierre Corneille
Forecasted description of the project 07/2002

Project : "Les parties intégrantes" of the classical drama: Keys to the aesthetics of contemporary production

Laureate: Collective

The project aims to explore answers to the question of how to perform a baroque opera today. This may be the first step leading to the question of why performing it.

The performance of an opera written in the Eighteenth Century requires both to understand the conditions of production of the piece, and to take into consideration the conditions of its reception by the audience. None of those requisites can be, nowadays, fully obtained, the first one (production) because historical sources are always insufficient to give a full picture of the process of production, the second one (reception) because the audience has, irreversibly, changed.

Many conventions of the baroque representation, which were significant for an audience of the time, are “lost” and remain away from understanding for the audience of today. The link between a symbolic representation on stage and its dramatic meaning is broken, and no one can hope now to show simultaneously the “lettre” and the “esprit” of the original. The performers of the 21st century need then to find substitutional strategies; It seems more important to look for alternative processes which concentrate on the meaning of the original piece, rather than its exterior aspect.

But in order to explore this meaning and be able to re-interpret it, performers may have benefit to circumscribe it by the use of intellectual categories which led to its birth. For this purpose, the reading of the piece could be done by using its own structuring lines, which define its internal and contextual relations, otherwise there is a risk to alter its significance. It is necessary, first to identify and implement reading tools that were the ones of the authors; only after can transpositions occur.

Authors have often anticipated our needs in this field and many of them have left theoretical writings which underlie, explain, and describe their own creative process. One of the most important (and most often quoted by his contemporaries) theoretical apparatus describing the constitution of a drama is the one of the Parties intégrantes, which Pierre Corneille develops in the foreword of the edition of 1660 of his Théâtre. These intellectual categories, found in Aristote’s Poétique are quoted by several other authors in Europe.

There are six Parties intégrantes: the Sujet ou Fable or subject / plot, which is the story told; the Mœurs or customs / mores, which is the contextual frame in which the story is taking place; the Sentimens or feelings / events, which are both the feelings of the characters and those inspired in the audience by the dramatic situations created; the Diction or declamation / style / gestures, which means the art of the actors rendering the situations; the Musique (music); and the Décoration du théâtre (scenography).

This intellectual typology can be used to develop the analysis and understanding of operatic pieces, for the conception of performances and the preparation of them. This reading process could structure the work of both researchers and practitioners, and also develop individual approaches of performing processes.


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