The dancers of the Opéra-Comique in 1744 and 1745, according to a little known archive: the troupe, salaries, regulations

The Bibliothèque de l’Opéra in Paris holds a box of papers formerly belonging to Favart (Carton Favart I), which reveal valuable information about the theatre company and performances at the Opéra-Comique during the 1740s. The accounts kept by Favart, the manager at that time, also give us details about the dance troupe for the two years 1744 and 1745. These accounts have sometimes been cited, but never transcribed, presented, or analysed.  In that sense this paper offers new research.

Dancers played an important role at the Opéra-Comique: their numbers (between 11 and 16), their salaries, which were comparable to those of the Paris Opéra, and their organisation, demonstrates both professional management and the life of a company devoted to high-quality spectacle. Moreover, Favart has recorded the material condition of certain performers, such as the allowances for costumes or accessories. In these accounts one find the names of rising young stars like Mlles Puvigné and Lany (the younger sister of Jean-Barthélémy Lany of the Opéra) alongside that of Jean-Georges Noverre, right at the beginning of his career as a dancer. In 1745 comes the turn of Justine Duronceray, the future Mme Favart, taken on as a dancer at the Opéra-Comique.

Moreover, from these accounts, already a mine of information, may be added the regulations drawn up by Favart, in which he recorded the fines for lateness, absence or other examples of poor professional conduct. These archives throw a new light on a hitherto little-studied troupe, the dancers of the Opéra-Comique. The documents reveal how important a contribution this troupe made to the choreographic art and its interpreters, almost since its formation at the beginning of the eighteenth century.

Bertrand Porot
Symposium Title: 
Living, dancing, travelling, dying... 2013
Author affiliation: 
Université de Reims, Co-directeur du GRIMAS, Université Paris-IV Sorbonne