Opera & Politics
In the 1860's, to maintain the grand opera works in the repertoire, the opera administration searched for composers outside of France. This policy was strongly criticized by the press. The administration felt the Opera was the nation's stage and they had no interest in the musical works of France's younger composers. Prior composers such as, Bellini and Rossini, were considered to have lost their popularity in the 1850's. In the 1860's, Bellini's Romeo et Juliette and Rossini's Semiramis were translated into French.
The opera administration considered Giacomo Meyerbeer and Giuseppe Verdi as members of the nation's Legion of Honor. Meyerbeer, a German composer, lived in Berlin and wrote for France. Verdi, an Italian composer, wrote for France while living in Busseto, Italy, Paris during the 1850's and later in Genoa, Italy. Although, composers such as Charles Gounod and Felicien David were allowed to perform at the Opera, their work was described as being more suited for the Theatre-Lyrique.
Richard Wagner, a German composer,
was controversial. Wagner was supported by Napoleon III. During this time,
Wagner had lost support from the Republicans who viewed him too closely
associated with Napoleon III. In 1860, Wagner was banned from Germany.
In 1891, Peter Gailhard, the Opera Director, presented Wagner's Lohengrin.
The audience and the "abonnees" reacted badly by throwing stinkbombs.
The "abonnees" were influential in causing France to become the
first country to reject Wagner's Ring and Strauss's Elektra.
The Ring, composed in 1857, was not performed until 1911; and the
Elecktra, written between 1908 - 1909, was performed in Paris in