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E. Pankina, A. Privalova

“The Judgment of Paris” by Thomas Augustine Arne: between masque and opera

The article is devoted to a representative of the history of the English musical and theatrical genre of the 18th century work “The Judgment of Paris” – the one-act masque on libretto by William Congreve (1742), composed by one of the most significant composers in the history of theatre music in England Thomas Augustine Arne (1710–1778). The aim of the article is to examine the “The Judgment of Paris” from the standpoint of the work’s correspondence to the genre tradition dating back to court theatre and professional theatrical performances of the 16th century, and its interpretation by the composer of the middle of the 18th century. “The Judgment of Paris”, once staged as a divertissement to Handel’s oratorio “The Feast of Alexander” and an inter-act performance for Arne’s masque “Alfred”, it contains a number of features essential for the tradition of the English theatrical masque: a mythological plot; thematic and compositional autonomy in relation to the main performance; interlude character; scenes which function as masques and anti-masques; musical and stylistic heterogeneity of the material. At the same time, this composition is a completely musical performance without spoken scenes typical of the masque genre. Stylistically, the music of this masque can be related to the Italian vocal tradition, which is normal for the London theatre composer of that time. The majority of scenes are composed in the forms of recitatives (secco and accompagnato) and arias; ensembles are rare, but in the second half of the masque there are more choir scenes. Solo and ensemble musical statements of the characters are full of expressive intonation and rhythmic formulas, virtuoso episodes, which are due to the composer’s aim to create individualized imagery. Apparently, the author did not intend to include instrumental dance music in the performance the only instrumental scene of the masque is an overture of the French type. Distinctive features of “The Judgment of Paris” allow us to conclude about the inter-genre nature of the work, which is closer in structure and musical content to the opera than to the masque per se.

Key words

Thomas Augustine Arne, English music of the 18th century, national musical theatre, masque, opera, divertissement.

For citation

Pankina E., Privalova A. “The Judgment of Paris” by Thomas Augustine Arne: between masque and opera // South-Russian Musical Anthology. 2021. No. 3. Pp. 42–52.