The turning point of Madame Bovary, which Flaubert memorably set at the opera, is only the most famous example of a surprisingly long tradition, one common to a range of French literary styles and sub-genres. In the first book-length study of that tradition to appear in English, Cormac Newark examines representations of operatic performance from Balzac's La Comedie humaine to Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu, by way of (among others) Dumas pere's Le Comte de Monte-Cristo and Leroux's Le Fantome de l'Opera. Attentive to textual and musical detail alike in the works, the study also delves deep into their reception contexts. The result is a compelling cultural-historical account: of changing ways of making sense of operatic experience from the 1820s to the 1920s, and of a perennial writerly fascination with the recording of that experience.

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