Jean-Jacques Rousseau's entry for “monologue” in his Dictionnaire de musique (1767) marks the first appearance of the term in French musical lexicography. This definition, which would exert an influence on later discussion of the form, synthesizes principles drawn from poetics and dramaturgy with stylistic arguments developed during the Querelle des Bouffons. The entry powerfully and succinctly conveys an Italianate conception of the form by promoting an idiom (récitatif obligé) associated with Italian practice as the exemplary realization of monologic discourse. This essay places Rousseau's account in the context of French criticism from Le Cerf de la Viéville, writing early in the eigtheenth century, to Pierre Estève, writing in the early 1750s. Treatment of the monologue at mid-century attests not only to a critical interest in exemplary scenes, particularly the famous monologue from Armide, “Enfin il est en ma puissance,” but also to readings of monologues as markers of national musical style. Against Rousseau's identification of monologue with récitatif obligé stands the more pluralistic model of Estève, who described a range of vocal idioms linked to dramatic context and meaning. Moreover, Estève attempted to account not only for newer works of Rameau but also for revivals of the tragédies en musique of Lully and Campra. Consideration of Estève's examples of characteristic scenes illustrates a tendency to equate monologic discourse with effects of interruption and the suspension of dialogue, even when other characters are present onstage.

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