Wednesday, June 30, 2010

For the French Romantics, theatre tended to be Very Serious Business indeed. The Battle of Hernani was, indeed, the flowering of the Romantic decision that in the debate of whether art reflects, or life reflects art, the answer is 'art is life'.

Certain Romantics were so dedicated to certain performers, plays or ensembles that they reserved the same seats for every performance, every evening at a given venue. For example, at the Théâtre-Italien, Ernest Legouvé reported that there were about sixty or so men of different ages and professions (though mostly lawyers, magistrates and writers), formed a sort of Romantic phalanx whose only law was to never miss a performance. They generally arrived an hour early, to discuss the upcoming performance and compare it with past ones that they had seen, and acted as a sort of jury, leading the rest of the audience in applause or silence.

If someone was so gauche as to start up a round of applause when the Romantic Regulars did not think an actor had merited one, an appointed spokesperson would say, quite sharply, "Is that one of the regulars of the Théâtre-Italien?"

At that point, the applause usually stopped.

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