M. Scott: The Record of Singing, ii (London, 1979), 42–4
Jouy, Etienne de [Victor-Joseph Etienne]
(b Versailles, 19 Oct 1764; d Saint Germain-en-Laye, 4 Sept 1846). French librettist. The first 30 years of his life provided stories that he would embroider for the next 50. He joined the army at the age of 16 and spent time in French Guyana (1781–4) and India (1786–90) before the Revolution brought him home. After a brief foray into writing, he continued his army service for the Revolutionary forces and was rapidly promoted, but in 1793 was suspended and narrowly avoided capture and execution. He fled back to Paris before moving into exile in Switzerland where, despite his later glorification of the Swiss in Guillaume Tell, he found them the most inhospitable and egotistical people in the world. After the death of Robespierre (July 1794) he returned to Paris and briefly rejoined the army before turning decisively to a writing career. In the next five years he collaborated on eight vaudevilles, one of which (La prisonnière, 1799) used original music by Boieldieu and Cherubini, and another (Le tableau des Sabines, 1800) helped rescue the Opéra-Comique from bankruptcy. His first attempt at grand opera in La vestale (1807) was an enormous success, but Fernand Cortez (1809), his next work with Spontini, was less well received. Intended as propaganda for Napoleonic imperialism, its political message was perhaps not transparent enough, a problem he overcame in his final Spontini collaboration, a pièce de circonstance written to celebrate the restoration of the Bourbons in 1814: Pélage, ou Le roi et la paix. In reward for such ready royalism he gained entry into the Académie Française, but on Napoleon's return he quickly reverted to his previous allegiance, and was named Commissaire Impérial of the Opéra-Comique. After the second restoration of Louis XVIII (after the 100 days) he was understandably passed over and so became a stalwart of the liberals, editing a succession of opposition papers. Despite submitting a series of librettos to the Opéra in the 1820s (many of which are now lost), he had nothing more performed there until 1827, when his rewriting of Rossini's Mosé in Egitto (with Balocchi) was followed two years later by Guillaume Tell.
By the time of Tell Jouy was seen by the younger generation as a ‘vieille perruque’, one of the outdated classicists to be swept away in the Romantic revolution. In his plots, however, a traditional framework was transformed by exotic settings (Mexico in Fernand Cortez, India in Les bayadères), vast forces and melodramatic stage effects, in a way that grand opera would eagerly adopt in the 1830s. His Essai sur l'opéra français (Paris, 1826) shows a similar dichotomy between tradition and innovation, breaking up an elaboration of familiar 18th-century operatic aesthetics and defence of French tradition with a call for works based on national history, careful attention to historical costume and a more musical approach to verse-writing.
Edition: V.-J. E. de Jouy: Oeuvres complètes (Paris, 1823–8) [xix: opéras; xxi: opéras comiques]
Milton (with A.M. Dieulafoy), Spontini, 1804; La vestale, Spontini, 1807; Le mariage par imprudence (oc), P. Dalvimare, 1809; Fernand Cortez, ou La conquête de Mexique (with J.P. d'Esmenard), Spontini, 1809, rev. 1817; Les bayadères, Catel, 1810; Les amazones, ou La fondation de Thèbes, Méhul, 1811; Les aubergistes de qualité (oc), Catel, 1812; Les abencérages, ou L'étendard de Grenade, Cherubini, 1813; Pélage, ou Le roi et la paix, Spontini, 1814; Zirphile et fleur de myrthe, ou Cent ans en un jour (opéra-féerie, with N. Lefebvre), Catel, 1818; Les courses de Newmarket (oc, with J. Merle), J. Strunz, 1818; L'amant et le mari (oc, with J.-F. Roger), Fétis, 1820; Möise et Pharaon [after lib. for Mosé in Egitto] (with L. Balocchi), Rossini, 1827; Guillaume Tell (with H.-L.-F. Bis and others), Rossini, 1829