George Sand © Bettmann/CORBIS
George Sand © Bettmann/CORBIS

« Consuelo » of George Sand : The classical music for initiatory guide

France Musique took a look back on « Consuelo » by George Sand. This novel that tells the musical route of an opera singer, Consuelo, is above all a story of adventures filled with classical music where we discover the European artistic universe of the 18th century.

We are in 1842. While she shares a passionate love with Chopin, George Sand writes Consuelo. Close to many composers and especially friends with Liszt, Meyerbeer or the singer Pauline Viardot (to whom the novel is dedicated), George Sand most certainly found her inspiration of the musical universe in which she developed to give birth to the main character Consuelo, a Italian opera singer of Spanish descent who performs at the Ospedale dei Mendicanti under the conducting of master and composer Porpora

Regarded as one of the major fiction pieces of George Sand, Consuelo is both a novel of adventures and an historic story, but also a novel about classical music that summons the Age of Enlightenment of the 18th century as its decor. 

Through the eponymous main character of Consuelo - a wonderful Italian singer gifted with an extraordinary voice at the Opera in Venice - the novel alludes to the musical universe of the time and dependency of the artists towards the powerful ones. We follow the character from her birth and all the way of her singer career that goes back and forth from success to misery.

On this road that looks like a rite of passage, Consuelo meets many people: the composers Porpora and Haydn, the fictional character of the castrato Antonio Uberti called Porporino or the Italian librettist and poet Metastase in the three high places of music at the time: Venice, Vienna and Berlin.

The piece refers to many musical pieces and confesses the passion George Sand had for the arts, and most of all for music that she describes as the expression of the sublime. The writer said:

« It has been said with reason that the aim of music was emotions. No other form of art can wake in such a magnificent way the human feeling hidden in the human depths" 

Through Consuelo's adventures, we guess a more important goal: to create music. With that goal, the author offers us an outstanding documentation on the music world of the Age of Enlightenment.

Consuelo crosses many steps: singer at first, she will become a composer facing an often unjust world in which music is her only landmark. The tale is above all a story about a woman's voice and destiny in the cosmopolitan Europe of the 18th century whose dream is solely to make sure her art will be understood and appreciated.

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