Dear Mr. Puppy,
What was musical life like outside the theatre Feydeau?
On the 19th of January 1795, I was at the Café de Chartres with the citizen players of the Opera William Tell when they decided to perform the song Réveil du people. This was the piece that the actor Gaveaux from the Feydeau had composed on the words by Jean-Marie Souriguière. The success of this impromptu song was so great that the Café quickly became a kind of club where people congregated to applaud the performance of patriotic hymns. Next the political activists of the Café demanded with great enthusiasm that this song be sung in all the theatres of Paris. This imbecilic idea took on a life of its own and many performances of all kinds were interrupted by incessant cat calls from the audience demanding it be sung. Once it was started the whole crowd would break into a rousing chorus, not letting the performance start again until they were satiated. One day they even forced the famous singer Garat to descend from his box to the stage to perform it. These partisan demands were matched by the Royalists amongst us who demanded for their part, the singing of the Marseillaise, while those indifferent to the political battle would take the part of the common people and cry out in opposition, “some bread! Some bread”! This mayhem continued for almost a year until a decree was passed on January 6th 1796 that prescribed the playing of patriotic hymns only before curtain-up. The musicians as a protest refused to tune their instruments until after the opening patriotic songs.
*Ask Mr. Puppy aka Giuseppe Puppo, an 18th-century concert violinist, answers our questions about his career and times.*