In search of a politesse du chant - Rediscovering salon vocal performance practice through the lens of the airs sérieux in the Recueils d’airs serieux et à boire de differents autheurs, 1695-1699
The dissertation of Elizabeth Dobbin examines the airs sérieux contained within the Recueils d’airs serieux et à boire de differents autheurs published by the Ballard printing house in Paris between 1695 and 1699 inclusive. Inspired by the performer’s desire to uncover and to sing this previously neglected yet rich and diverse repertoire, the present study was equally propelled by the researcher’s instinct to investigate the vocal performance practice associated with it. Previous academic writings in this field showed that the airs sérieux of the type published in the Recueils were sung in a variety of fora, notably the seventeenth-century Parisian salon. The vocal practice associated with this sociable institution and its polite modes of conversation and interaction therefore represent the principal focus of this study. In its examination of the nuanced style of singing that was unique to these worldly gatherings, the present study seeks to unveil a politesse du chant. Alongside this focus, however, considerable attention is also accorded to the different modes of performance of this repertoire, and to an evaluation of the extent to which current conventions of French Baroque performance-practice are in harmony with, or divergent from, the historical vocal and aesthetic sources.