Beyond Verismo: Massenet’s La Navarraise and ‘Realism’ in Fin-de-siècle Paris

26 Jan 2018

The ‘réalisme’ of Massenet’s La Navarraise divided critics at its belated Parisian première on 3 October 1895. While the opera has typically been read as a straightforward attempt at French verismo, this article suggests a more complex set of ways in which modernity and the modern world shaped critical perceptions of and responses to realism. Placing La Navarraise within its wider cultural and technological contexts, I argue that the critics’ ambivalence to its realism provides insight into the changing and contested nature of critical perception and subjectivity in Paris in the final years of the nineteenth century.