Romance in the Belle Epoque
5 pages
English
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Romance in the Belle Epoque

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5 pages
English

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Romance in the Belle Epoque

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Nombre de lectures 73
Langue English

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Romance in the Belle Epoque Notes on the Program By Steven Blier The three decades preceding World War I, known as the Belle Epoque, witnessed an explosion of music, art, and literature in France. French composers finally seemed to stabilize themselves after the shock of hearing Wagner’s operas for the first time, and took pride in a new Gallic spirit – whenever they found themselves in the Wagner controversy. A century of political and creative revolution culminated in the flourishing of a new French school, free from the domination of German models. And it was in the Belle Epoque that the French art song sprang into flower, as the great composers lavished the same harmonic and emotion complexities on their mélodies as they did on their chamber and orchestral pieces.
 Francein the Belle Epoque was governed by a newly formed republic, representing a triumph over the power of royalty and the church; the leaders sought to create large, democratic festivals as a way of uniting a deeply divided populace. Although the Belle Epoque has come to be known as an era of joyous celebration, banquets, fairs, and leisure time, it was in fact riddled with labor disputes, poverty, religious conflict, and anarchist threats to the Republic itself; the Dreyfus case polarized public opinion to the point where civil was seemed imminent. Yet popular entertainments became the emblem for this period, whose ambiguous pleasures were portrayed by Toulouse-Lautrec, Seurat, and Renoir, among many others. The Republic increased many liberties , including new laws permitting divorce, and the relaxation of press censorship. A sympathy for pleasure was actively promoted by journalists. And as amnestied revolutionaries returned to France with their old dreams of liberty re-kindled, one soon read of “the right o be lazy” in 1883, advocated by Paul Lafargue, “the right to integral passion” and “the liberty of the body” promoted by Georges Chevrier. Spectator sports like rugby, and participant sports like bicycle racing appeared for the first time in France; the Wax Museum, the Moulin Rouge, music halls, café concerts, ice-skating rinks, and World’s Fair celebrations of legendary proportions sprang up starting in 1880. This new era of amusement led to a new era of alcohol consumption; what we call “social drinking” became a pastime, with a record number of cafes, wineshops, and cabarets. While the poor were unprotected by even minimal labor laws until 1906, when employers were finally required to give workers one day off a week and the twelve-hour work day became illegal, the idea o enjoying life, rather than struggling virtuously, was in the air. Hedonism had come out of the closet.
The songs on today’s program emerge from a wide variety of artistic creeds; it is therefore all the more striking that so many of them have to with the outdoors. They paint