The “book” or “libretto” is the written basis of any music for voice. From a French point of view—from the birth of opera in the 17th century on—the written word still takes pride of place over music. Which explains why “books” or libretti back then were considered to be objects of art in their own right and were printed, sold and collected separately from the scores that actually recorded the music. It also explains why Beaumarchais, Hugo, Mistral and Zola had no qualms about writing “books” for major Paris operas. When it comes to researching an opera, cantata or oratorio, the relative importance afforded the libretto doesn’t mean that other complex questions regarding literary sources should be overlooked. In many cases, the printed libretti do not exactly match—in some cases not at all—their correspondent music, their authors bent on seeing their work into print in its virgin form, unsullied by the many alterations it underwent when set to music. The “books” and libretti to be found in this section are therefore more often than not multiple versions of the same work and need to be considered in terms of scores or other libretti available on the Internet or in international libraries. Worth special notice is the significant collection of texts to Prix de Rome-winning cantatas presented here for the first time and more or less complete.


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