Jean-Georges Noverre

Jean-Georges Noverre

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Jean-Georges Noverre'
Start a new discussion about 'Jean-Georges Noverre'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
Jean-Georges Noverre was a French dancer and balletmaster, and is generally considered the creator of ballet d'action
Ballet d'action
Ballet d'action is a ballet movement started by French choreographer Jean Georges Noverre in 1760. It involves expression of character and emotion through dancers' bodies and faces, rather than through elaborate costumes and props...

, a precursor of the narrative ballet
Narrative ballet
A narrative ballet or story ballet is a form of ballet that has a plot and characters. It is typically a production with full sets and costumes.Most Romantic ballets and Classical ballets of the 19th century were narrative ballets...

s of the 19th century. His birthday is now observed as International Dance Day
International Dance Day
International Dance Day has been celebrated on April 29 through promotion by the International Dance Council , an umbrella organization within UNESCO for all kinds of dance....

.

His first professional appearances occurred as a youth in Paris at the Opéra-Comique
Opéra-Comique
The Opéra-Comique is a Parisian opera company, which was founded around 1714 by some of the popular theatres of the Parisian fairs. In 1762 the company was merged with, and for a time took the name of its chief rival the Comédie-Italienne at the Hôtel de Bourgogne, and was also called the...

, at Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau is a commune in the metropolitan area of Paris, France. It is located south-southeast of the centre of Paris. Fontainebleau is a sub-prefecture of the Seine-et-Marne department, and it is the seat of the arrondissement of Fontainebleau...

, in Berlin before Frederick II
Frederick II of Prussia
Frederick II was a King in Prussia and a King of Prussia from the Hohenzollern dynasty. In his role as a prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire, he was also Elector of Brandenburg. He was in personal union the sovereign prince of the Principality of Neuchâtel...

 and his brother Prince Henry of Prussia
Prince Henry of Prussia
Frederick Henry Louis , commonly known as Henry , was a Prince of Prussia. He also served as a general and statesman, and, in 1786, was suggested as a candidate for a monarch for the United States....

, in Dresden
Dresden
Dresden is the capital city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the Czech border. The Dresden conurbation is part of the Saxon Triangle metropolitan area....

 and Strasburg
Strasbourg
Strasbourg is the capital and principal city of the Alsace region in eastern France and is the official seat of the European Parliament. Located close to the border with Germany, it is the capital of the Bas-Rhin département. The city and the region of Alsace are historically German-speaking,...

. In 1747 he moved to Strasbourg where he remained until 1750 before moving to Lyon. In 1751, he composed his first great work, Les Fêtes Chinoises for Marseilles. The work was revived in Paris in 1754 to great acclaim. In 1755, he was invited by Garrick
David Garrick
David Garrick was an English actor, playwright, theatre manager and producer who influenced nearly all aspects of theatrical practice throughout the 18th century and was a pupil and friend of Dr Samuel Johnson...

 to London, where he remained for two years.

Between 1758 and 1760 he produced several ballets at Lyon
Lyon
Lyon , is a city in east-central France in the Rhône-Alpes region, situated between Paris and Marseille. Lyon is located at from Paris, from Marseille, from Geneva, from Turin, and from Barcelona. The residents of the city are called Lyonnais....

, and published his Lettres sur la danse et les ballets. It is from this period that the revolution in the art of the ballet for which Noverre was responsible can be dated. He was next engaged by Duke Karl Eugen of Württemberg
Karl Eugen, Duke of Württemberg
Charles Eugene , Duke of Württemberg was the eldest son of Duke Karl I Alexander and Princess Maria Augusta of Thurn and Taxis .-Life:...

, and later Austrian Empress Maria Theresa, until 1774. In 1775, he was appointed maître des ballets of the Paris Opera at the request of Queen Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette ; 2 November 1755 – 16 October 1793) was an Archduchess of Austria and the Queen of France and of Navarre. She was the fifteenth and penultimate child of Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa and Holy Roman Emperor Francis I....

. He returned to Vienna in Spring of 1776 to stage ballets there but in June 1776 he returned again to Paris. He regained this post until the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

 reduced him to poverty. He died on October 19, 1810, at Saint-Germain-en-Laye
Saint-Germain-en-Laye
Saint-Germain-en-Laye is a commune in the Yvelines department in the Île-de-France in north-central France. It is located in the western suburbs of Paris from the centre.Inhabitants are called Saint-Germanois...

.

Noverre's friends included Voltaire
Voltaire
François-Marie Arouet , better known by the pen name Voltaire , was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, free trade and separation of church and state...

, Mozart, Frederick the Great and David Garrick
David Garrick
David Garrick was an English actor, playwright, theatre manager and producer who influenced nearly all aspects of theatrical practice throughout the 18th century and was a pupil and friend of Dr Samuel Johnson...

 (who called him "the Shakespeare of the dance"). The ballets of which he was most proud were his La Toilette de Venus, Les Jalousies du sérail, La dour corsaire and Le Jaloux sans rival. Besides the letters, Noverre wrote Observations sur la construction d'une nouvelle salle de l'Opéra (1781); Lettres sur Garrick écrites a Voltaire (1801); and Lettre à un artiste sur les flies publiques (1801).

Early life and career


Noverre was born in Paris on 29 April 1727 to Marie Anne de la Grange and Jean Louys, a Swiss soldier. The couple expected their son to pursue a military career but the boy chose dance, studying with M. Marcel and then with the famous Louis Dupré
Louis Dupré
Louis Dupré was a French ballet dancer, ballet master and ballet teacher.-Life:Probably first dancing in child rôles under the name "petit Dupré", he made his official débuts at the Académie royale de musique in 1714 and became its ballet master in 1739. From 1725 to 1730, he regularly put on...

. Noverre's first professional experience probably occurred at the Opéra-Comique
Opéra-Comique
The Opéra-Comique is a Parisian opera company, which was founded around 1714 by some of the popular theatres of the Parisian fairs. In 1762 the company was merged with, and for a time took the name of its chief rival the Comédie-Italienne at the Hôtel de Bourgogne, and was also called the...

 in Paris on 8 June 1743 in Le Coq du village. In his middle and late teenage years, Noverre performed at Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau is a commune in the metropolitan area of Paris, France. It is located south-southeast of the centre of Paris. Fontainebleau is a sub-prefecture of the Seine-et-Marne department, and it is the seat of the arrondissement of Fontainebleau...

, and in Berline before Frederick II
Frederick II of Prussia
Frederick II was a King in Prussia and a King of Prussia from the Hohenzollern dynasty. In his role as a prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire, he was also Elector of Brandenburg. He was in personal union the sovereign prince of the Principality of Neuchâtel...

 and his brother Prince Henry of Prussia
Prince Henry of Prussia
Frederick Henry Louis , commonly known as Henry , was a Prince of Prussia. He also served as a general and statesman, and, in 1786, was suggested as a candidate for a monarch for the United States....

. Appearances in Dresden
Dresden
Dresden is the capital city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the Czech border. The Dresden conurbation is part of the Saxon Triangle metropolitan area....

 and Strasbourg
Strasbourg
Strasbourg is the capital and principal city of the Alsace region in eastern France and is the official seat of the European Parliament. Located close to the border with Germany, it is the capital of the Bas-Rhin département. The city and the region of Alsace are historically German-speaking,...

 followed before his return to the Opéra-Comique. In 1747, Noverre became ballet master in Strasbourg and created his first great success, the exotic Les Fêtes Chinoises
Les Fêtes Chinoises
Les Fêtes Chinoises is an 18th century ballet by Jean-Georges Noverre . The exact date of the ballet's composition is unknown but it was probably created in 1751 for Marseilles where Noverre was ballet master. Revivals followed in Lyon and Strasburg, and the ballet was staged in Paris on Monday,...

. In 1748 in Strasbourg he married the actress Marie-Louise Sauveur. In 1750, he became principal dancer in Lyon
Lyon
Lyon , is a city in east-central France in the Rhône-Alpes region, situated between Paris and Marseille. Lyon is located at from Paris, from Marseille, from Geneva, from Turin, and from Barcelona. The residents of the city are called Lyonnais....

 and created his first ballet-pantomime, Le Jugement de Paris. He moved to Strasbourg for one year in 1754, and returned to the Opéra-Comique where Les Fêtes was staged with great success on 1 July 1754.

In 1755, he went to London with his wife, his sister and brother, and his company. There, he worked with David Garrick
David Garrick
David Garrick was an English actor, playwright, theatre manager and producer who influenced nearly all aspects of theatrical practice throughout the 18th century and was a pupil and friend of Dr Samuel Johnson...

 of the Drury Lane Theatre
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane is a West End theatre in Covent Garden, in the City of Westminster, a borough of London. The building faces Catherine Street and backs onto Drury Lane. The building standing today is the most recent in a line of four theatres at the same location dating back to 1663,...

, learning new concepts of theatre and the then developing natural style of performance. When the London production of Les Fêtes was completely destroyed by rioters on the eve of the Seven Years War, Noverre and his family were forced to go into hiding. He continued to supervise dance spectacles at Drury Lane but without billing. He left London in 1757 wanting to work at the Paris Opéra but realized he would face serious opposition to the expressive style he had developed in London, and chose Lyon instead where he was free to develop new and very different works from the prevailing court ballets. He composed Les Caprices de Galathée, for example, and garbed his dancers in tiger skins and shoes made of tree bark. His naturalist attitude towards costume placed him in the front rank of the French Enlightenment.

Les Lettres sur la danse et sur les ballets



Context


Noverre's treatise on dancing and theater expressed his aesthetic theories on the production of ballets and his method of teaching ballet. Noverre wrote this text in London in 1756 and published it in 1760 in Lyon, France. He began his research for his essays in Drury Lane, London where he choreographed for his own troupe of dancers at the Theater Royal under the direction of David Garrick. It was in David Garrick’s library that Noverre read modern French literature and ancient Latin treatises on pantomime. Noverre was inspired by the pantomimes that he thought stirred up the audience's emotions by the use of expressive movement. He proclaimed in his text that ballet should unfold through dramatic movement and the movement should express the relationship between the characters. Noverre named this type of ballet, ballet d’action or pantomime ballet and produced his first serious pantomime ballet. called Le Jugement de Paris. in 1751 in Marseilles (International Dictionary of Ballet 1032).

Inspiration


Noverre was most immediately influenced by Jean-Philippe Rameau
Jean-Philippe Rameau
Jean-Philippe Rameau was one of the most important French composers and music theorists of the Baroque era. He replaced Jean-Baptiste Lully as the dominant composer of French opera and is also considered the leading French composer for the harpsichord of his time, alongside François...

, Marie Sallé
Marie Sallé
Marie Sallé was a French dancer and choreographer known for her expressive, dramatic performances rather than a series of "leaps and frolics" typical of ballet of her time...

 and David Garrick
David Garrick
David Garrick was an English actor, playwright, theatre manager and producer who influenced nearly all aspects of theatrical practice throughout the 18th century and was a pupil and friend of Dr Samuel Johnson...

. Rameau was a very influential French composer and music theorist and Noverre was inspired by his dance music that combined programmatic and strongly individual elements. Marie Salle and Noverre were both dance students at the Paris Opera Ballet and met early on in their careers. Marie Salle, a Romantic ballerina with expressive qualities, likely influenced Noverre to write about the importance of expression in dance. David Garrick was an actor and theater director at the Theater Royal. Noverre was inspired by his talent for "histrionics."(The Encyclopedia of Dance and Ballet 695).

Content


Noverre's text demanded an end to repressive traditions peculiar to the Paris Opera Ballet, such as stereotypical and cumbersome costumes, and old-fashioned musical styles and choreography. Noverre also discussed the methods for training dancers such as encouraging a student to capitalize on his or her own talents (The Encyclopedia of Dance and Ballet 699). Most of Noverre's criticisms of dance in his book were directed towards the Paris Opera Ballet because he felt the Paris Opera Ballet created ballets that were an isolated event within Opera lacking meaningful connection with the main theme of the Opera. He criticized the Paris Opera Ballet' use of the mask because it restricted the dancer from showing facial expressions that could bear meaning on their characters. Noverre devoted the whole of his Ninth Letter to the subject of masks and wrote, " Destroy the masks and" he argued, "we shall gain a soul, and be the best dancers in the world."
Noverre specifically dealt with seven major points in his treatise:
  1. Regarding the training of dancers, he emphasized that correctness in dance technique as laid down by Pierre Beauchamp and others must be held with sensitivity to the individual's anatomy.
  2. Of Prime concern, the pedagogical
    Pedagogy
    Pedagogy is the study of being a teacher or the process of teaching. The term generally refers to strategies of instruction, or a style of instruction....

     consideration of the dancer's personality and style is prerequisite to artistic development.
  3. Noverre stressed that within a dramatic context, validity and sincerity of gestural expression are of the utmost importance in creating a ballet
    Ballet
    Ballet is a type of performance dance, that originated in the Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th century, and which was further developed in France and Russia as a concert dance form. The early portions preceded the invention of the proscenium stage and were presented in large chambers with...

    .
  4. Noverre called for the logical development of plots. According to Noverre, plots should be thematically integrated with movement. Additionally, all superfluous solos and irrelevant dance techniques should be omitted from the ballet.
  5. Noverre was adamant that music be appropriately suited to the dramatic development of the plot.
  6. He insisted that costumes, décor, and lighting be compatible with the introduction, plot, and climax of each act within the ballet.
  7. With the disappearance of masks in his own ballets, Noverre pronounced his advanced ideas on stage make-up for dancers that would allow for the dancer's expression to be seen rather than hidden behind a mask (Lee 111).

Impact


Noverre's Les Lettres Sur La Danse et Sur Les Ballet had lasting impact on ballet ideology as his text has been printed in almost every European Language and his name is one the most frequently quoted in the literature of dance (Lynham 13). Many of his theories have been implemented in dance classes today and remain a part today's ideology of dance. For example, his idea that a teacher should encourage students to profit from his or her own talents rather than to imitate a teacher or the style of a popular dancer is a present ideology of dance. Noverre did receive criticism from many of his prominent ballet contemporaries, however his theories have survived longer than any of his ballets, which have not been reproduced for at least two centuries (Lynham 127).

Major works

  • Les Fêtes Chinoises
    Les Fêtes Chinoises
    Les Fêtes Chinoises is an 18th century ballet by Jean-Georges Noverre . The exact date of the ballet's composition is unknown but it was probably created in 1751 for Marseilles where Noverre was ballet master. Revivals followed in Lyon and Strasburg, and the ballet was staged in Paris on Monday,...

     (Paris 1754) (mus. Jean-Philippe Rameau
    Jean-Philippe Rameau
    Jean-Philippe Rameau was one of the most important French composers and music theorists of the Baroque era. He replaced Jean-Baptiste Lully as the dominant composer of French opera and is also considered the leading French composer for the harpsichord of his time, alongside François...

    )
  • La Fontaine de jouvence (Paris 1754)
  • La Toilette de Vénus (Lyon
    Lyon
    Lyon , is a city in east-central France in the Rhône-Alpes region, situated between Paris and Marseille. Lyon is located at from Paris, from Marseille, from Geneva, from Turin, and from Barcelona. The residents of the city are called Lyonnais....

     1757) (mus. François Granet)
  • L'Impromptu du sentiment (Lyon
    Lyon
    Lyon , is a city in east-central France in the Rhône-Alpes region, situated between Paris and Marseille. Lyon is located at from Paris, from Marseille, from Geneva, from Turin, and from Barcelona. The residents of the city are called Lyonnais....

     1758)
  • La Mort d'Ajax (Lyon
    Lyon
    Lyon , is a city in east-central France in the Rhône-Alpes region, situated between Paris and Marseille. Lyon is located at from Paris, from Marseille, from Geneva, from Turin, and from Barcelona. The residents of the city are called Lyonnais....

     1758) (mus. François Granet)
  • Alceste (Stuttgart
    Stuttgart
    Stuttgart is the capital of the state of Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany. The sixth-largest city in Germany, Stuttgart has a population of 600,038 while the metropolitan area has a population of 5.3 million ....

     1761 - Wien
    Wien
    Wien is the German language name for Vienna, the city and federal state in Austria.* Wien , in Vienna, Austria* Theater an der Wien, a theater in Vienna located at the former river WienWien may also refer to:...

     1767) (mus. Christoph Willibald Gluck
    Christoph Willibald Gluck
    Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck was an opera composer of the early classical period. After many years at the Habsburg court at Vienna, Gluck brought about the practical reform of opera's dramaturgical practices that many intellectuals had been campaigning for over the years...

    )
  • La Mort d'Hercule (Stuttgart
    Stuttgart
    Stuttgart is the capital of the state of Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany. The sixth-largest city in Germany, Stuttgart has a population of 600,038 while the metropolitan area has a population of 5.3 million ....

     1762)
  • Psyché et l'Amour (Stuttgart
    Stuttgart
    Stuttgart is the capital of the state of Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany. The sixth-largest city in Germany, Stuttgart has a population of 600,038 while the metropolitan area has a population of 5.3 million ....

     1762) (mus. Jean-Joseph Rodolphe
    Jean-Joseph Rodolphe
    Jean-Joseph Rodolphe was an Alsatian horn player, violinist and composer.A pupil of Jean-Marie Leclair in Paris, he travelled to Parma in 1754, to Stuttgart in 1761, where he played in the ducal court orchestra and studied with Niccolò Jommelli There he provided the music for Jean-Georges...

    )
  • Jason et Médée
    Jason et Médée
    Jason et Médée is a ballet d'action choreographed by Jean-Georges Noverre to music by Jean-Joseph Rodolphe. The ballet was first staged in the Stuttgart Opera House on Friday, 11 February 1763, in celebration of the Duke of Württemberg's birthday. The plot follows the myth of Jason and the Golden...

     (Stuttgart
    Stuttgart
    Stuttgart is the capital of the state of Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany. The sixth-largest city in Germany, Stuttgart has a population of 600,038 while the metropolitan area has a population of 5.3 million ....

     1763 - Wien
    Wien
    Wien is the German language name for Vienna, the city and federal state in Austria.* Wien , in Vienna, Austria* Theater an der Wien, a theater in Vienna located at the former river WienWien may also refer to:...

     1767 - Paris 1776 e 1780 - London 1781) (mus. Jean-Joseph Rodolphe
    Jean-Joseph Rodolphe
    Jean-Joseph Rodolphe was an Alsatian horn player, violinist and composer.A pupil of Jean-Marie Leclair in Paris, he travelled to Parma in 1754, to Stuttgart in 1761, where he played in the ducal court orchestra and studied with Niccolò Jommelli There he provided the music for Jean-Georges...

    )
  • Hypermnestre (Stuttgart
    Stuttgart
    Stuttgart is the capital of the state of Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany. The sixth-largest city in Germany, Stuttgart has a population of 600,038 while the metropolitan area has a population of 5.3 million ....

     1764)
  • Diane et Endymion (Wien
    Wien
    Wien is the German language name for Vienna, the city and federal state in Austria.* Wien , in Vienna, Austria* Theater an der Wien, a theater in Vienna located at the former river WienWien may also refer to:...

     1770)
  • Le Judgement de Pâris (Wien
    Wien
    Wien is the German language name for Vienna, the city and federal state in Austria.* Wien , in Vienna, Austria* Theater an der Wien, a theater in Vienna located at the former river WienWien may also refer to:...

     1771)
  • Roger et Bradamante (Wien
    Wien
    Wien is the German language name for Vienna, the city and federal state in Austria.* Wien , in Vienna, Austria* Theater an der Wien, a theater in Vienna located at the former river WienWien may also refer to:...

     1771)
  • Agamemnon vengé (Wien
    Wien
    Wien is the German language name for Vienna, the city and federal state in Austria.* Wien , in Vienna, Austria* Theater an der Wien, a theater in Vienna located at the former river WienWien may also refer to:...

     1772)
  • Iphigénie en Tauride (Wien
    Wien
    Wien is the German language name for Vienna, the city and federal state in Austria.* Wien , in Vienna, Austria* Theater an der Wien, a theater in Vienna located at the former river WienWien may also refer to:...

     1772) (mus. Christoph Willibald Gluck
    Christoph Willibald Gluck
    Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck was an opera composer of the early classical period. After many years at the Habsburg court at Vienna, Gluck brought about the practical reform of opera's dramaturgical practices that many intellectuals had been campaigning for over the years...

    )
  • Thésée (Wien
    Wien
    Wien is the German language name for Vienna, the city and federal state in Austria.* Wien , in Vienna, Austria* Theater an der Wien, a theater in Vienna located at the former river WienWien may also refer to:...

     1772)
  • Acis et Galathée (Wien
    Wien
    Wien is the German language name for Vienna, the city and federal state in Austria.* Wien , in Vienna, Austria* Theater an der Wien, a theater in Vienna located at the former river WienWien may also refer to:...

     1773)
  • Adèle de Ponthieu (Wien
    Wien
    Wien is the German language name for Vienna, the city and federal state in Austria.* Wien , in Vienna, Austria* Theater an der Wien, a theater in Vienna located at the former river WienWien may also refer to:...

     1773 - London 1782)
  • Alexandre et Campaspe de Larisse (Wien
    Wien
    Wien is the German language name for Vienna, the city and federal state in Austria.* Wien , in Vienna, Austria* Theater an der Wien, a theater in Vienna located at the former river WienWien may also refer to:...

     1773)
  • Les Horaces et les Curiaces (Wien
    Wien
    Wien is the German language name for Vienna, the city and federal state in Austria.* Wien , in Vienna, Austria* Theater an der Wien, a theater in Vienna located at the former river WienWien may also refer to:...

     1774 - Paris 1777)
  • Renaud et Armide (Milan
    Milan
    Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

     1775 - London 1782)
  • Apelle et Campaspe (Paris 1776 - Lyon
    Lyon
    Lyon , is a city in east-central France in the Rhône-Alpes region, situated between Paris and Marseille. Lyon is located at from Paris, from Marseille, from Geneva, from Turin, and from Barcelona. The residents of the city are called Lyonnais....

     1787)
  • Les Caprices de Galatée (Paris 1776 - London 1789)
  • Annette et Lubin (Paris 1778)
  • Les Petits Riens (Paris 1778) (mus. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart , was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music...

     e al.)
  • Les Amours d'Énée et de Didon (Lyon
    Lyon
    Lyon , is a city in east-central France in the Rhône-Alpes region, situated between Paris and Marseille. Lyon is located at from Paris, from Marseille, from Geneva, from Turin, and from Barcelona. The residents of the city are called Lyonnais....

     1781)
  • La Fête du Sérail (Paris 1788)
  • L'Amour et Psyché (London 1788) (mus. Jean-Joseph Rodolphe
    Jean-Joseph Rodolphe
    Jean-Joseph Rodolphe was an Alsatian horn player, violinist and composer.A pupil of Jean-Marie Leclair in Paris, he travelled to Parma in 1754, to Stuttgart in 1761, where he played in the ducal court orchestra and studied with Niccolò Jommelli There he provided the music for Jean-Georges...

    )
  • La Fête de Tempé (London 1788)
  • Admète (London 1789)
  • La Bergère des Alpes (London 1794)
  • La Vittoria (London 1794)
  • Windsor Castle (London 1795)