One of the most acclaimed French poets from the turn of the eighteenth century and one of the rare women of the time to achieve recognition at court, Louise-Geneviève Gillot de Sainctonge was France's first female librettist. The current volume provides not only the most in-depth biography of her ever published, but also the first appearance of any of her work in English. It features her two tragic opera libretti, both of which were set to music and staged at the Opéra, a spoken play that constitutes an important precursor of tearful comedy, and a small sampling of her poetry. The three dramatic works give thoughtful portrayals of women of high rank who exemplify traits such as fidelity, integrity and forthrightness, only to find themselves powerless in a misogynist society, where the male heroes turn out to be inglorious.
Norris Professor of French, Oklahoma State University
Louise-Geneviève Gillot de Sainctonge was the first woman to write libretti performed by the Paris Opéra. She wrote entertainments for the courts of King Louis XIV, the Duke of Lorraine, and King Philip V of Spain, as well as poetry, narrative prose, and theatre in the three genres: comedy, tragedy, and pastoral. Most of her work was reprinted during her lifetime; yet very little has been written about it. This volume presents translations of her libretti on Dido and Circe and her play on Griselda, all of which rework their source material in striking ways. Introductions set forth what can be known about her life, as well as her connections with composers, patrons, and advocates for her work, and offer an analysis of these three dramatic texts in relation to their sources.
JANET LEVARIE SMARR is a professor in the Ph.D. program in Theatre at the University of California San Diego. She has published numerous articles on Italian and French women writers of the sixteenth century, and a book-length study, Joining the Conversation: Dialogues by Renaissance Women (2005).
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