Review of Backstage at the Revolution: How the Royal Paris Opera Survived the End of the Old Regime
Author(s)Ravel, Jeffrey S.
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The question at the heart of Victoria Johnson’s book is an intriguing one: how did the Paris Opera, or the Academie royale de musique as it was known during the Old Regime, avoid disbandment during the French Revolution? If any prerevolutionary institution exemplified the luxurious consumption and aristocratic privilege decried by the revolutionaries, the Opera was it. Yet the Paris Commune, which took over governance of the Opera from the Maison du roi in February 1790, worked hard to reorganize the institution for the glory of the new regime, and Maximilien Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety, in the midst of the Terror in the spring of 1794, approved the troupe’s relocation from a venue on the outskirts of town to a more commercially viable site in the heart of the city. Although they agreed on little else, almost all political partisans during the revolutionary decade believed that the government needed to sustain the Paris Opera because of its importance to the vigorous cultural nationalism of the period; in 1804, Napoleon recast the institution as the Academie imperiale de musique, restoring most of the privileges the company had enjoyed before 1789.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Humanities. History Section
Journal of Modern History
University of Chicago Press
Johnson, Victoria. "Backstage at the Revolution: How the Royal Paris Opera Survived the End of the Old Regime." Review by: By Jeffrey S. Ravel, The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 82, No. 4, Science and the Making of Modern Culture (December 2010), pp. 950-952.
Author's final manuscript