First performed at the Paris Opéra in 1828, La Muette de Portici was an opera-ballet with music by Daniel Auber, choreography by Jean-Louis Aumer, a singing hero (the fisherman Masaniello), and a dancing heroine (the mute Fenella). The work, set in Naples during a seventeenth-century revolt against the Spaniards, capitalized on the Romantic era's fascination with local color, evident in the treatment of Fenella's costume. Many French works of the Romantic period had Italian settings and featured classicized versions of Italian folk dances. [...]
The history of grand opéra begins with La muette de Portici. The characteristics of the genre include a new degree of magnificence in the sets and sensationally dramatic technical stage effects, the culmination of each act in a large tableau and ingeniously staged crowd scenes. The opera provided new opportunities for the director, librettist, set designer and costume designer to work together, and they made a careful study of the historical background of the Neapolitan revolt. The climax of the final scene with the eruption of Vesuvius was a sensation, and its influence was felt in grand opéra from Meyerbeer and his contemporaries to Wagner's Götterdämmerung. The work's connection with the Belgian revolution of 22 August 1830 made it a general symbol of revolutionary ideas.




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