Backstage at the Revolution
How the Royal Paris Opera Survived the End of the Old Regime
Sifting through royal edicts, private letters, and Revolutionary records of all kinds, Johnson uncovers the roots of the Opera’s survival in its identity as a uniquely privileged icon of French culture—an identity established by the conditions of its founding one hundred years earlier under Louis XIV. Johnson’s rich cultural history moves between both epochs, taking readers backstage to see how a motley crew of singers, dancers, royal ministers, poet entrepreneurs, shady managers, and the king of France all played a part in the creation and preservation of one of the world’s most fabled cultural institutions.
“Backstage at the Revolution is one of those rare books masterfully combining historical detail with an engrossing theoretical narrative. Victoria Johnson has unearthed a prodigious amount of evidence about why the Paris Opera survived a revolution meant to eliminate any vestiges of privilege and grandeur. In terse prose, she demonstrates the power of sociology when it comes to explaining institutional persistence. A soaring achievement, one that will likely spur a new wave of historical research in organizational sociology and beyond.”
“In her compelling and beautifully illustrated Backstage at the Revolution Victoria Johnson updates classical institutional theories of organization to answer the question: Why did revolutionaries intent on destroying realms of privilege spare the royal Paris Opera? Its founders had imprinted the opera with the mark of a national treasure. For some revolutionaries it was a unique French accomplishment to be sustained, a hybrid of royal academy and public theater that was the height of artistic achievement, rather than a symbol of the Old Regime to be destroyed. This meticulously researched and colorfully presented study challenges the old regimes in organizational analysis and political studies to see their domains differently.”--Frank Dobbin, Harvard University