Ballet Comique de la Reine

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Engraving of the first scene of the Ballet Comique de la Reine. Click to enlarge.

The Ballet Comique de la Reine (at the time spelled Balet comique de la Royne) was an elaborate court spectacle performed on October 15, 1581, during the reign of Henry III of France, in the large hall of the Hôtel de Bourbon, adjacent to the Louvre Palace in Paris.[1] It is often referred to as the first ballet de cour.[2]


The Ballet Comique de la Reine was created under the auspices of Henry III's mother, the dowager queen Catherine de' Medici, as part of the wedding celebrations for the Duke de Joyeuse and Queen Louise of Lorraine's sister, Marguerite de Vaudemont.[3] The ballet was choreographed by Balthasar de Beaujoyeulx and was the first piece to combine poetry, music, design and dance according to the rules of Jean-Antoine de Baïf's Académie de Poésie et de Musique. The ballet was inspired by the enchantress, Circe, from Homer's Odyssey. The pricey production lasted five and half hours and the Queen and King both participated in the performance. The Queen, along with a group of lady court dancers arrived on a fountain that was three tiers high dressed as dryads. The dancers were entering and exiting from both sides of the set, which was unusual for previous court ballets. The ballet was also made in hopes of bringing resolution to the religious hardship that caused the French people to separate. Circe was a symbol of civil war, while the restoration of peace at the end of the ballet represented the country's hopes for the future.[4][5]

Nicolas Filleul de La Chesnaye, the King's almoner, wrote the text, sets and costumes were designed by Jacques Patin.[6] The music was provided by Jacques Salmon, maitre de la musique de la chambre de Roi, and a certain "Sieur de Beaulieu." This composer was identified as "Lambert de Beaulieu" by Fétis' in his Biographie universelle, following a probable error in a letter by Rudolph II, Holy Roman Emperor, but is today identified with the bass singer Girard de Beaulieu who with his wife, the Italian soprano Violante Doria themselves sung the airs to Circé.[7]


The final nine measures of the first ballet, labelled "Le Son de la clochette auquel Circé sortit de son jardin" (the sound of the bell at which Circe leaves her garden), contain a tune that forms the basis of a nineteenth-century arrangement by Henri Ghys, which the latter mistakenly attributed to the air "Amaryllis" composed by Louis XIII.[8] In Japan, this arrangement was given Japanese lyrics and introduced as "Amaryllis" on NHK's Minna no Uta series in 1968. The tune has since become well known as a French folk song there, and its melody can be heard today as a chime signaling the hour over the PA systems of some schools and rural municipalities.

Likely as a result of its popularity in Japan, it was selected as the tune that plays when a Zojirushi rice cooker finishes its job.[9]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Anthony 1997, p. 41, and Lawrenson 1986, pp. 182–184, both identify the location of the performance as the Petit-Bourbon (known as the Hôtel de Bourbon at the time), and Lawrenson reproduces the engraving shown here. Lacroix 1876, p. 506 (the source of the image) identifies it as the "Gallery of the Louvre", and McGowan 1998, p. 275, gives "Salle de Bourbon of the Louvre". Brette 1902, pp. LIV–LXIX, discusses the history of the confusion of the location of this room in the Petit-Bourbon with the Louvre in great detail.
  2. ^ Yates 1988, p. 236.
  3. ^ Anthony 2001. Marguerite de Vaudemont, also known as Marguerite of Lorraine, was the queen's half-sister, daughter of the queen's father Nicolas, Duke of Mercœur, and his second wife, Joanna of Savoy.
  4. ^ McGowan 1998, p. 275.
  5. ^ Thames & Hudson, 1988 p.14[full citation needed].
  6. ^ Kasey Marie Mattia, Crossing the channel: Cultural identity in the court ... 2007 Duke University Page 11 "Beaujoyeulx had ultimate control over the ballet, but was assisted by Lambert Beaulieu and Jacques Salmon who composed the music, La Chesnaye who wrote the text, and Jacques Patin who designed the stage sets and costumes.
  7. ^ Aercke 1994, p. 27 "... Balthasar Beaujoyeux (actually Baltazarini), with music by Lambert de Beaulieu and Jacques Salmon on a text by La Chesnaye and painted scenery by Jacques Patin (who also designed the costumes), it is the earliest such ballet of which .."
  8. ^ Arvey 1941, p. 80.
  9. ^ Zojirushi: Design Explained – Our Signature Tune!


  • Aercke, Kristiaan (1994). Gods of Play: Baroque Festive Performances As Rhetorical Discourse. Albany: State University of New York Press. ISBN 9780791420492.
  • Anthony, James R. (1997). French Baroque Music from Beaujoyeulx to Rameau, revised and extended edition. Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press. ISBN 9781574670219.
  • Anthony, James R. (2001). "Ballet de cour" in Sadie 2001. Also at Oxford Music Online (subscription required).
  • Arvey, Verna. (1941). Choreographic Music for the Dance. New York: E. P. Dutton & Company, Inc. OCLC 5030498; 2007 reprint: ISBN 9781406758474.
  • Brette, Armand (1902). Histoire des édifices où ont siége les assemblées parlementaires de la Révolution française et de la première République, tome premier. Paris: Imprimerie Nationale. OCLC 457140401. View at Google Books.
  • Cohen, Selma Jeanne, editor (1998). International Encyclopedia of Dance (6 volumes). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-509462-6 (hardcover). ISBN 978-0-19-517369-7 (2004 paperback edition).
  • Graafland, Arie (2003). Versailles and the Mechanics of Power': The Subjugation of Circe. Rotterdam: 010 Publishers. ISBN 9789064504921.
  • Lacroix, Paul (1876). Manners, Customs, and Dress during the Middle Ages, and during the Renaissance Period. London: Chapman and Hall. View at Google Books.
  • Lawrenson, T. E. (1986). The French Stage and Playhouse in the XVIIth Century: A Study in the Advent of the Italian Order, second edition, revised and enlarged. New York: AMS Press. ISBN 9780404617219.
  • McGowan, Margaret M. (1982). Le Balet Comique by Balthazar de Beaujoyeulx, 1581: A Facsimile, With an Introduction. Binghamton, New York: Medieval and Renaissance Texts. ISBN 9780866980128.
  • McGowan, Margaret M. (1998). "Balet Comique de la Royne, Le" in Cohen 1998, vol. 1, pp. 275–277.
  • Preston, VK (2015). "How do I Touch this text?: Or, the Interdisciplines Between: Dance and Theatre in Early Modern Archives", pp. 56-89, in George-Graves, Nadine. "The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Theatre." Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0190698072.
  • Sadie, Stanley, editor (2001). The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd edition. London: Macmillan. ISBN 9781561592395 (hardcover). OCLC 419285866 (eBook).
  • Sharp, Cecil (1924). "The Dance, an Historical Survey of Dancing in Europe". London: Halton & Truscott Smith. OCLC 335923.
  • Yates, Frances (1988 [first published 1947]). "Chapter XI. The Academies and Court Entertainments: The Ballet comique de la Reine", pp. 236–274, in Yates, Frances. The French Academies of the Sixteenth Century. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 9780415002219.

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