In July 1892, Dr. Arthur Chervin (1850–1921), director of the Institut des bègues de Paris, was named physician of the Opéra, thus joining the group of health specialists tasked with the care of artists. A recognized specialist of vocal physiology and speech afflictions, Chervin was also the recent founder and editor of La Voix parlée et chantée, a periodical that straddled the worlds of medicine and lyrical performance. Vocal health and medicine, he and his community argued, were key to the execution of vocal prowess and the successful pursuit of lyrical ambitions for singers. This article explores the relationship of medicine and the burgeoning field of laryngology to the world of lyrical training and performance of the Belle Époque. In particular, we focus on the many roles played by laryngologists and physicians at the Opéra and the Conservatoire as well as in the pages of Chervin’s leading medical-musical journal. We argue that concerns driving the medical innovations of the increasingly sophisticated subfield of laryngology evolved in synergy with concerns about how to meet the demands of the changing world of the second half of nineteenth-century Parisian operatic performance. In so doing, we claim for medicine a key position in Paris’s vibrant world of lyrical performance during the Belle Époque.
Medicine Goes to the Opera: Vocal Health and Remedies for Professional Singers of the Belle Époque
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Kimberly Francis, Sofie Lachapelle; Medicine Goes to the Opera: Vocal Health and Remedies for Professional Singers of the Belle Époque. 19th-Century Music 1 July 2020; 44 (1): 19–35. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ncm.2020.44.1.19
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