chapter  8
18 Pages

Through-composed drama in the 1680s

The foregoing discussion does not mean to suggest that Jacques Paisible was transformed into the (or even a) leading composer of operatic music at court in the late 1670s. In fact, as we have observed in Chapter 3, the onset of the Popish Plot scare and the subsequent “Exclusion Crisis” in the latter part of 1678 effectively put a stop to a wide range of court entertainments, including “recreational” plays, balls, and masques, to say nothing of French-inspired through-composed productions. Many French and Italian musicians and other artistic figures joined the general exodus of foreign-born Roman Catholics; those who lingered faced legal persecution, or at the very least, like Saint-Évremond (who “ne pouvant retourner en son pais”), were forced to register their places of abode with the authorities.1 It is surprising, in fact, to find evidence that at least four of Charles II’s five remaining French musicians-Paisible, Mariens, Arnould, and Brunot-seem to have stayed on in England through the crisis, despite the inhospitable circumstances.2 Perhaps they clung to a hope of collecting their mounting arrears. By the time the anti-Popish and anti-court fever subsided in the early 1680s, the musical and theatrical landscape had changed: Grabu was gone; Matthew Locke and John Banister, who had driven the emergence of dramatick opera on the public stage, were both dead; the relationship between the king’s musical establishment and the patent theatres had become more tenuous;3 and the tastes of the court were moving away from the unabashedly French forms that had characterized the 1670s. This last development, I have suggested, came about as a consequence of the resurgence of royal absolutism in the wake of Charles II’s hard-won victory

1 For Saint-Évremond and his Flemish valet Gaspard Girrard, see Cooper, ed., Lists of Foreign Protestants, and Aliens, 28.