Writing for the Legs: The Role of the Libretto in 19th Century Ballet
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The 19th century marked changes for ballet at the Paris Opera that contributed to its development as a well-regarded independent genre. One such change was the emergence of the librettist who wrote original narratives for ballets, inherently connecting the silent art of ballet with the written word. From choreographers and composers to set designers, many involved in the production of the ballet tended to use the libretto to render the narrative onstage. Spectators, in turn, relied on the libretto to comprehend the narrative content of the dance, whether watching it in the theater or reading the story on its own. In either of these cases, the libretto linked the world of the stage and that of the text, generating meaning across various interrelated media. This thesis delineates the types of language used to appeal to these different constituencies of readers, and it explains how the libretto uses these varying narrative registers to fulfill its role as a hybrid text, intended for both pre- and post-production readings.