Paris: Christophe Ballard, seul Imprimeur du Roy pour la Musique, ruë Saint Jean de Beauvais, au Mont-Parnasse ... Avec Privilege de Sa Majesté, 1693.
Oblong quarto. Contemporary full dark tan mottled calf with coat of arms of the G-.G. Baron de Pavée gilt to both upper and lower, raised bands on spine in decorative compartments gilt, mid-tan title label gilt, red speckled edges. 1f. (recto title, verso blank), 1f. (recto table of contents, verso contents and "Extrait du Privilege"), 108 pp., 1f. (blank). First Edition. Antine, p. 191. Hirsch II, 188. Not in Sonneck. RISM D1769 (no copies in the U.S.).
Symphonies de la Tragedie de Didon, Mise En Musique Par Monsieur Desmarests[!], Pensionnaire ordinaire du Roy. Paris: Christophe Ballard, 1693. 1f. (blank), 1f. (recto title, verso blank), 60 pp., with "Extrait du Privilege" to final page. First Edition. Hirsch II, 188. RISM D1770 (no copies in the U.S.).
From the library of the politician and government official Guillaume-Gabriel Baron de Pavée de Vendeuvre (1779-1870). Early circular bookplate to front pastedown overlaid with blank paper.
Binding very slightly worn, rubbed, and bumped. Occasional light browning to several leaves including title of the "Symphonies." In very good condition overall.
Didon, in a prologue and five acts to a libretto by celebrated female author Louise-Geneviève Gillot, Dame de Saintonge, was first performed in Paris at the Opéra on 11 September (?5 June) 1693. The libretto was Gillot's first published work; it was well-received by the court and Louis XIV himself requested that she present him with a copy.
The publication of the vocal airs and instrumental music separately reveals publisher Ballard's marketing strategy: consumers who wished only to sing could purchase the airs, those who wished only to play could purchase the symphonies, and those who could both sing and play might purchase both, perhaps having them bound together as in the present copy. In any case, these publications do not represent the complete opera; rather, they are a selection of highlights that the publisher or composer thought might most appeal to the public.
The instrumental music includes an "Air pour les Peuples de Carthage," a "Prelude pour la Magicienne," a "Sarabande pour les Plaisirs," and a "Gavotte pour les Nymphes." The music is primarily printed in grand staff but sometimes expands to three parts (the three-part arrangements are generally given for passages of paired thirds or imitative music).
The vocal music contains some recitative, but focuses mostly on airs for one, two, and three voices. Pieces for three voices plus basso continuo are printed in a smaller, condensed type.
"Little is known of [Desmarets's] early musical life other than that he was one of the boy pages of Louis XIV’s musical establishment. There, directly under the influence of Pierre Robert and Henry Du Mont at an important period in the development of the grand motet, he probably also encountered Lully, who used the chapel pages to augment his performances. In 1680 Desmarets was referred to as an ‘ordinaire de la musique du Roy’." Caroline Wood in Grove Music Online
As an operatic composer, Desmarets lived under the shadow of Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687). Lully exercised a monopoly over all of French opera, and Desmarets was able to mount his operas only after the older composer's death. Desmarets's first opera, Endymion (1686), was performed privately in the King's apartments; his second opera, Didon (1693), was performed publicly and was a great commercial success.
Sainctonge and Desmarests have both been subjects of recent attention in the opera world: Desmarests's Circé (also to a libretto by Sainctonge) was mounted by the Boston Early Music Festival in 2023; the festival's theme being "A Celebration of Women."
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