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The Comédie en vaudeville was a theatrical entertainment which began in Paris towards the end of the 17th century, in which comedy was enlivened though lyrics using the melody of popular vaudeville songs.

Evolution

The annual fairs of Paris at St. Germain and St. Laurent had developed theatrical variety entertainments mixing plays, acrobatic displays, and pantomimes, typically featuring vaudevilles. Gradually these features began to invade the professional stage. The Querelle des Bouffons (War of the clowns), a dispute amongst theatrical factions in Paris in the 1750s, in part reflects the rivalry of this form, as it evolved into opéra comique, with the Italian opera buffa. 'Comédie en vaudeville' also seems to have influenced the English ballad opera and the German Singspiel. Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail can be considered a vaudeville opera.

The 'vaudeville finale'

One feature of the comédie en vaudeville which gravitated to opera generically was the 'vaudeville finale' in which the characters assemble at the end of the piece and each sing a verse, sometimes interspersed with dances. This became a common feature of the earlier opéra comique and can be discerned in many later operas, from Mozart's Don Giovanni to Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress.

References

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