The Librettos of Étienne de Jouy (1807-1829)
: A Difficult Career During the Napoleonic and Restoration Eras

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


During the reign of Napoleon, the Paris Opéra was placed under the State’s supervisory system
wherein its productions were closely monitored by Napoleon through the intermediary of the
Préfets du Palais, and later, through the office of Surintendant général des spectacles. During
the period, Napoleon intended to capitalise on the institution’s potential for state propaganda.
Étienne de Jouy’s Fernand Cortez was a case in point, as Napoleon hoped to gain support for
his war in the Spanish peninsula. Apart from writing for musical theatre, Jouy worked as a
journalist and as a critic of social themes throughout his literary career. A lifelong admirer of
Voltaire, he inherited the Enlightenment’s claims to social justice, as he demonstrated in a
lecture series of 1822 on socio-political topics.

By focusing on Jouy’s librettos from the Napoleonic period, whose subjects had been the site of
Enlightenment’s debates, and in particular on imperialism, colonialism and the status of women,
I explore his narratives and dramaturgies in relation to the politics pursued by the Napoleonic
state, as it embarked on a series of colonial wars and reintroduced a distinctive patriarchal order.

My thesis also seeks to shed light on Jouy’s activities during the Romantic revolution of the
1820s. On the one hand, he defended some central conventions of eighteenth-century French
opera in his Essai of 1826, such as the concept of the marvellous and a happy ending. On the
other hand, his choice and treatment of the Tell legend itself reveals Jouy’s empathy with the
new wave of liberalism, as it was in the process of sweeping away the Restoration. He also
showed himself under the influence of Anglo-German literature, particularly propagated in
Germaine de Staël’s De l’Allemagne (1814), and of the popularity of Rossini.
Date of Award2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorCliff Eisen (Supervisor) & Michael Fend (Supervisor)

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