French Music

During the later Middle Ages France led in the development of European music in all its forms. Some of the earliest manuscripts containing organum (the earliest form of polyphony) are found from the 10th century in Chartres, Montpellier, Fleury, Tours, and other French cities. Especially important was the group of musicians active during the 10th and 11th centuries at the Abbey of St. Martial in Limoges. In the late 12th century a brilliant group of composers emerged who were associated with the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. The most notable of these were Leonin and Perotin. From this group came some of the earliest motets as well as a number of theoretical treatises on music.
Opera originated in Florence toward the close of the sixteenth century. A band of composers, enthusiastic, intellectual, aimed at reproducing the musical declamation which they believed to have been characteristic of the representation of Greek tragedy. Their scores were not melodious, but composed in a style of declamatory recitative highly dramatic for its day. What usually is classed as the first opera, Jacopo Peri’s "Dafne," was privately performed in the Palazzo Corsi, Florence, in 1597. So great was its success that Peri was commissioned, in 1600, to write a similar work for the festivities indidental to
the marriage of Henry IV.

The turmoil of the Revolution and the Napoleonic wars did not encourage artistic activity. Nevertheless, during this time the Paris Conservatory and the national Opera were established. In the early 19th century, Paris was a center for musicians from other countries, such as Frederic Chopin and Franz Liszt. Music by French composers consisted mostly of inferior operas or empty, virtuosic salon pieces. A notable exception were the works of Hector Berlioz, the greatest of the French Romantics, who expanded the orchestra and whose grand style influenced Richard Wagner.
opera school

In the French school of opera the instrumental support of the voice is far richer and the combination of vocal and instrumental effect more discriminating than in the old school of Italian opera. A first cousin of Italian opera, the French, nevertheless, is more carefully thought out, sometimes even too calculated; but in general, less florid, and never indifferent to the librettist and the significance of the lines he has written and the situations he has evoked. Massenet is, in the truest sense, the most recent representative of the school of Meyerbeer and Gounod, for Bizet’s "Carmen" is unique, and Debussy’s "Pélleas et Mélisande" a wholly separate manifestation of French art for the lyric stage.
                                    Images of opera House

French Cuisine
The cuisine of France is remarkably varied with a great many regional differences based on the produce and gastronomy of each region.

Cullinary traditions that have been developped and perfected over the centuries have made French cooking a highly refined art.

This is true of even the simplest peasant dishes, which require careful preparation and great attention to detail.

Of course, the secret to success in a French kitchen is not so much elaborate techniques as the use of fresh ingredients that are locally produced and in season.