Winter 2013 • Vol. XXXV No. 1 NonfictionJanuary 1, 2013 |

Diderot’s Opera with Hardly Any Singing: “Rameau’s Nephew”

In memory of a teacher, Ira Owen Wade, and of a student, Michael André Bernstein   It is the summer of 1963. I am alone in Paris. Less than a year later, on Shakespeare's four-hundredth birthday, after class one afternoon in Princeton, I will marry Jean, my wife and collaborator of some forty-eight years. I will never be alone in Paris again; tant mieux. Devotion to Diderot's little gem of a dialogue-based fiction rooted in history makes me willing to attend, albeit, I confess, against my better judgment, a staged version of this curiously powerful little work, redacted by Pierre Fresnay and Jacques-Henri Duval from the text of this Le neveu de Rameau: satyre seconde, as the author styled it, at the Théâtre de la Michodière, with Fresnay performing the Nephew and Julien Bertheau in the role we think of as that of the philosophe. I was not sanguine as I joined the numerous theatergoers on their dutiful way to Diderot. One of them in particular caught my grumpled eye: an

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