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Académie royale de Musique

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Académie royale de Musique

"Opéra National de Paris" redirects here. For the company founded in 1847 by Adolphe Adam, see Opéra-National.

The Paris Opera (French: Opéra de Paris) is the primary opera company of France. It was founded in 1669 by Louis XIV as the Académie d'Opéra, and shortly thereafter was placed under the leadership of Jean-Baptiste Lully and officially renamed the Académie Royale de Musique, but continued to be known more simply as the Opéra. Classical ballet as we know it today arose within the Paris Opera as the Paris Opera Ballet and has remained an integral and important part of the company. Currently called the Opéra National de Paris, it mainly produces operas at its modern 2700-seat theatre Opéra Bastille which opened in 1989, and ballets and some classical operas at the older 1970-seat Palais Garnier which opened in 1875. Small scale and contemporary works are also staged in the 500-seat Amphitheatre under the Opéra Bastille.

The company's annual budget is in the order of 200 million euros, of which 100 million come from the French state and 70 million from box office receipts.[1] With this money, the company runs the two houses and supports a large permanent staff, which includes the orchestra of 170, a chorus of 110 and the corps de ballet of 150.[2]

Each year, the Opéra presents about 380 performances of opera, ballet and other concerts, to a total audience of about 800,000 people (of which 17% come from abroad), which is a very good average seat occupancy rate of 94%.[2] In the 2012/13 season, the Opéra presents 18 opera titles (two in a double bill), 13 ballets, 5 symphonic concerts and two vocal recitals, plus 15 other programmes. The company's training bodies are also active, with 7 concerts from the Atelier Lyrique and 4 programmes from the École de Danse.[3]


The Opera under Louis XIV

Pierre Perrin
The poet Pierre Perrin began thinking and writing about the possibility of French opera in 1655, more than a decade before the official founding of the Paris Opera as an institution. He believed that the prevailing opinion of the time that the French language was fundamentally unmusical was completely incorrect. Seventeenth-century France offered Perrin essentially two types of organization for realizing his vision: a royal academy or a public theater. In 1666 he proposed to the minister Colbert that "the king decree 'the establishment of an Academy of Poetry and Music' whose goal would be to synthesize the French language and French music into an entirely new lyric form."[4] Even though Perrin's original concept was of an academy devoted to discussions of French opera, the king's intention was in fact a unique hybrid of royal academy and public theatre, with an emphasis on the latter as an institution for performance.[5] On 28 June 1669 Louis XIV signed the Privilège accordé au Sieur Perrin pour l'établissement d'une Académie d'Opéra en musique, & Vers François (Privilege granted to Sir Perrin for the establishment of an Academy of Opera in music, & French Verse). The wording of the privilège, based in part on Perrin's own writings, gave him the exclusive right for 12 years to found anywhere in France academies of opera dedicated to the performance of opera in French. He was free to select business partners of his choice and to set the price of tickets. No one was to have the right of free entry including members of the royal court, and no one else could set up a similar institution.[6] Although it was to be a public theatre, it retained its status as royal academy in which the authority of the king as the primary stakeholder was decisive. The monopoly, originally intended to protect the enterprise from competition during its formative phase, was renewed for subsequent recipients of the privilege up to the early French Revolution. As Victoria Johnson points out "the Opera was an organization by nature so luxurious and expensive in its productions that its very survival depended on financial protection and privilege."[7]

Perrin converted the Bouteille tennis court, located on the Rue des Fossés de Nesles (now 42 Rue Mazarine),[8] into a rectangular facility with provisions for stage machinery and scenery changes and a capacity of about 1200 spectators. His first opera Pomone with music by Robert Cambert opened on 3 March 1671 and ran for 146 performances. A second work, Les peines et les plaisires de l'amour, with a libretto by Gabriel Gilbert and music by Cambert, was performed in 1672.[9]

Jean-Baptiste Lully

Despite this early success, Cambert and two other associates did not hesitate to swindle Perrin, who was imprisoned for debt and forced to concede his privilege on 13 March 1672 to the surintendant of the king's music Jean-Baptiste Lully. The institution was renamed the Académie Royale de Musique and came to be known in France simply as the Opéra. Within one month Lully had convinced the king to expand the privilege by restricting the French and Italian comedians to using two singers rather than six, and six instrumentalists, rather than twelve. Because of legal difficulties Lully could not use the Salle de la Bouteille, and a new theatre was built by Carlo Vigarani at the Bel Air tennis court on the Rue de Vaugirard.[9] Later, Lully and his successors bitterly negotiated the concession of the privilege, in whole or in part, from the entrepreneurs in the provinces: in 1684 Pierre Gautier bought the authorisation to open a music academy in Marseille, then the towns of Lyon, Rouen, Lille and Bordeaux followed suit in the following years.

During Lully's tenure, the only works performed were his own. The first productions were the pastorale Les fêtes de l'Amour et de Bacchus (November 1672) and his first tragedie lyrique called Cadmus et Hermione (27 April 1673).[9]

After Molière's death in 1673, his troupe merged with the players at the Théâtre du Marais to form the Théâtre Guénégaud (at the same theatre that had been used by the Académie d'Opéra), and no longer needed the theatre built by Richelieu at his residence the Palais-Royal, near the Louvre. (In 1680 the troupe at the Guénégaud merged again with the players from the Hôtel de Bourgogne forming the Comédie-Française.)[10] Richelieu's theatre had been designed by Jacques Le Mercier and had opened in 1641, and unlike the huge theatre at the Tuileries Palace, which could accommodate 6,000 to 8,000 spectators, was of a size consistent with good acoustics. Lully greatly desired a better theatre and persuaded the king to let him use the one at the Palais-Royal free of charge. The Théâtre du Palais-Royal had been altered in 1660 and 1671, but Lully, with 3,000 livres received from the king, had further changes made by Vigarani in 1674.[10]

The first production in the new theatre was Alceste on 19 January 1674. The opera was bitterly attacked by those enraged at the restrictions that Lully had caused to be placed on the French and Italian comedians. To mitigate the damage, Louis XIV arranged for new works to be premiered at the court, usually at the Chateau Vieux of the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye. This had the further advantage of subsidizing the cost of rehearsals, as well as most of the machinery, sets, and costumes, which were donated to the Opéra for use in Paris.[11] During Lully's time at the Opéra, performances were given all year, except for three weeks at Easter. Regular performances were on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. The premieres presented at court were usually during Carnival and were moved to the Palais-Royal after Easter, where the openings were on Thursdays. About two to three new works were mounted each year. In all, thirteen of Lully's tragédie en musique were performed there (see the list of compositions by Jean-Baptiste Lully).[12]

After Lully
After Lully died (in 1687), the number of new works per year almost doubled, since his successors (Pascal Collasse, Henri Desmarets, André Campra, André Cardinal Destouches, and Marin Marais) had greater difficulty sustaining the interest of the public. Revivals of Lully's works were common. French composers at the Opéra generally wrote music to new librettos, which had to be approved by the directors of the company. The Italian practice of preparing new settings of existing librettos was considered controversial and did not become the norm in Paris until around 1760. One the most important of the new works during this period was an opéra-ballet by Campra called L'Europe galante presented in 1697.[12]

In 1661 Louis XIV, who was a dancer himself and one of the great architects of baroque ballet (the art form which would one day evolve into classical ballet), established the Académie Royale de Danse, intended to codify court and character dances and to certify dance teachers by examination.[13] From 1680 until Lully's death, it was under the direction of the great dancing master Pierre Beauchamp, the man who codified the five positions of the feet.[14] When Lully took over the Opéra in 1672, he and Beauchamp made theatrical ballet an important part of the company's productions. The ballet of that time was merely an extension of the opera, having yet to evolve into an independent form of theatrical art. As it became more important, however, the dance component of the company began to be referred to as the Paris Opera Ballet. In 1713 an associated ballet school was opened, today known as the Paris Opera Ballet School.[15] The Académie Royale de Danse remained separate, and with the fall of the monarchy in 1789 it disappeared.[16]

The company's names after the Revolution

With the French Revolution and the founding of the Republic the company changed names several times, dropping its association with the royal family (see the List of official company names for details), and in 1794 moved into the Théâtre National de la rue de la Loi (capacity 2800)[17] where it took the name Théâtre des Arts.[18] In 1797 it was renamed the Théâtre de la République et des Arts.[18]

Napoleon took control of the company in 1802 and with the declaration of the French Empire in 1804 renamed the company the Académie Impériale de Musique.[19] With the Restoration in 1814, the company was renamed to the Académie Royale de Musique. It became part of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1816. In 1821 the company moved to the Salle Le Peletier, which had a capacity of 1900 spectators and where it remained until the building was destroyed by fire in 1873.

In the second half of the 19th century, with the ascension of Napoleon III in 1851, the name Académie Impériale de Musique was reinstated and after 1870 with the formation of the Third Republic was changed to Théâtre National de l'Opéra.[17] In 1875, the institution occupied a new home, the Palais Garnier.[20]

In 1939 the Opéra was merged with the Opéra-Comique and the company name became Réunion des Théâtres Lyriques Nationaux. The Opéra-Comique was closed in 1972 with the appointment of Rolf Liebermann as general administrator of the Théâtre National de l'Opéra de Paris (1973–1980), but in 1976 the Opéra-Comique was restored.

In 1990 the Opéra moved its primary venue to the new Opéra-Bastille, becoming the Opéra de Paris, although it continued to mount productions, primarily ballet, at the Palais Garnier; and the Opéra-Comique regained its autonomy. In 1994 the Opéra de Paris became the Opéra National de Paris.[21] Regardless of all the changes in its "official" name, the company and its theatres were commonly referred to as the Opéra.

List of official company names

Date Official name Notes Ref
28 June 1669 Académie d'Opéra Perrin granted license by Louis XIV. Some sources give the company name as Académie Royale des Opéra.[22] [9]
13 March 1672 Académie Royale de Musique Lully granted license by Louis XIV [9]
24 June 1791 Opéra Louis XVI flees Paris 21 June. [23]
29 June 1791 Académie de Musique Louis XVI returns to Paris 25 June. [23]
17 September 1791 Académie Royale de Musique Royal family attends opera 20 September. [23]
15 August 1792 Académie de Musique Louis XVI arrested 13 August. [23]
12 August 1793 Opéra Ratification of the Constitution of 1793. [23]
18 October 1793 Opéra National Republican Calendar adopted 24 October. [23]
7 August 1794 Théâtre des Arts Opéra moves to the Salle Montansier. [24]
2 February 1797 Théâtre de la République et des Arts [24]
24 August 1802 Théâtre de l'Opéra [24]
29 June 1804 Académie Impériale de Musique First Empire (Napoleon) (18 May). [24]
3 April 1814 Académie de Musique [24]
5 April 1814 Académie Royale de Musique First Restoration (April). [24]
21 March 1815 Académie Impériale de Musique Hundred Days of Napoleon (20 March). [24]
9 July 1815 Académie Royale de Musique Second Restoration (8 July). [24]
4 August 1830 Théâtre de l'Opéra Charles X abdicates (2 August). [24][25]
10 August 1830 Académie Royale de Musique July Monarchy. [24][25]
26 February 1848 Théâtre de la Nation Second Republic. [24][25]
29 March 1848 Opéra-Théâtre de la Nation [24][25]
2 September 1850 Académie Nationale de Musique [24][25]
2 December 1852 Académie Impériale de Musique Second Empire (Napoleon III). [24][25]
1 July 1854 Théâtre Impérial de l'Opéra Supervision assumed by Imperial Household.[26] [24][25]
4 September 1870 Théâtre de l'Opéra Third Republic. [25]
17 September 1870 Théâtre National de l'Opéra [25][27]
14 January 1939 Réunion des Théâtres Lyriques Nationaux Opéra takes control of Opéra-Comique. [24]
7 February 1978 Théâtre National de l'Opéra de Paris [24]
2 April 1990 Opéra de Paris Move to the Opéra Bastille; the Opéra-Comique regains its autonomy. [24]
5 February 1994 Opéra National de Paris [24]

List of venues

Theatre Dates used Notes Ref
Salle de la Bouteille 3 March 1671 – 1 April 1672 Located on the Rue Mazarine;[28] eventually demolished. [29][30]
Salle du Bel-Air 10? November 1672 – June 1673 Located on the Rue de Vaugirard; also called Jeu de Paume de Béquet;[31] eventually demolished. [31][32]
Salle du Palais-Royal (1st) 16 June 1673 – 6 April 1763 Built 1641; altered 1660, 1671, and 1674;[33] destroyed by fire 6 April 1763. [34]
Salle des Tuileries 29 April 1764 – 1770 Remodeled first to a much smaller theatre by Soufflot.[35] [36]
Salle du Palais-Royal (2nd) 20 January 1770 – 8 June 1781 Destroyed by fire 8 June 1781. [37]
Salle des Menus-Plaisirs 14 August – 23 October 1781 Located on the Rue Bergère; former theate of the Opéra-Comique of the Foire St. Laurent; eventually demolished. [38][39]
Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin 27 October 1781 – 7 March 1794 Built in two months by Samson-Nicholas Lenoir at the request of Marie Antoinette. [38]
Théâtre National de la rue de la Loi 26 July 1794 – 13 February 1820 Montansier's 1793 theatre; street name restored to Rue de Richelieu in 1806; theatre demolished 1820; site now Square Louvois.[40] [18]
Salle Favart (1st) 19 April 1820 – 11 May 1821 Theatre of the Opéra-Comique on the Place Boieldieu; destroyed by fire on 13–14 January 1838.[41] [17][42]
Salle Louvois 25 May – 15 June 1821 Built in 1791; the company performed there 3 times: 25 May, and 1 and 15 June. [42]
Salle Le Peletier 16 August 1821 – 28 October 1873 Built on the Rue Le Peletier as temporary quarters; destroyed by fire 28–29 October 1873. [42]
Salle Ventadour 19 January 1874 – 30 December 1874 Shared the theatre with its long-time occupant the Théâtre-Italien until the Palais Garnier was completed. [20][43]
Palais Garnier 5 January 1875 – 29 June 1936 Designed by Charles Garnier; located at the Place de l'Opéra. [20][43]
Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt 1 August 1936 – 20 November 1936 Performed at this theatre while the Palais Garnier was under renovation. [44]
Théâtre des Champs-Élysées 30 November 1936 – 17 February 1937 Performed at this theatre while the Palais Garnier was under renovation. [44]
Palais Garnier 21 February 1937 – present Reopened at the renovated theatre. [44]
Opéra Bastille 13 July 1989 – present Designed by Carlos Ott; the official opening concert was on 13 July 1989 to celebrate the bicentennial of the French Revolution. [21][45]

List of managing directors

Start date Name[46] Administration
28 June 1669  Pierre Perrin Royal Household
30 March 1672  Jean-Baptiste Lully
27 June 1687  Jean Nicolas de Francine
30 December 1688  Jean Nicolas de Francine, Hyacinthe Gauréaud de Dumont
7 October 1704  Pierre Guyenet
12 December 1712  Jean Nicolas de Francine, Hyacinthe Gauréaud de Dumont
8 February 1728  André-Cardinal Destouches
1 June 1730  Maximilien-Claude Gruer
18 August 1731  Claude Lecomte,(fr) Lebœuf
30 May 1733  Eugène de Thuret
18 March 1744  Jean-François Berger
3 May 1748  Joseph Guénot de Tréfontaine
25 August 1749  Marquis d'Argenson, then François Rebel
and François Francœur
City of Paris
1754  Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace Royer[47]
1755  Bontemps, Levasseur[47]
13 March 1757  François Rebel, François Francœur Royal Household
9 February 1767  Pierre Montan Berton, Jean-Claude Trial(fr)
9 November 1769  Pierre Montan Berton, Jean-Claude Trial,
Antoine Dauvergne, Joliveau
City of Paris
18 April 1776  Direction by the Royal Commissioners Royal Commissioners
18 October 1777  Jacques de Vismes du Valgay(fr)
19 February 1779  City of Paris
19 March 1780  Pierre Montan Berton Royal Accountant
27 May 1780  Antoine Dauvergne, François-Joseph Gossec
8 April 1790  City of Paris
8 March 1792  Louis-Joseph Francœur, Jacques Cellerier(fr)
(under committee headed by J.-J. Leroux)
Paris Commune
17 September 1793  Committee of the Commune (with François Lays)
1 May 1797  Committee of the Commune
12 September 1799 Jacques Devisme (formerly Jacques de Vismes du Valgay),
Joseph Bonet de Treiches(fr)
13 March 1800  Jacques Devisme
25 December 1800  Joseph Bonet de Treiches
19 December 1801  Jacques Cellerier
26 November 1802  Prefect Étienne Morel de Chefdeville, then
Joseph Bonet de Treiches as Director
Prefects of the Palace
1 November 1807  Louis-Benoit Picard Imperial Superintendents
3 April 1814  Royal Superintendents
18 January 1816  Denis Pierre Jean Papillon de la Ferté
30 March 1817  Alexandre Étienne Choron
30 October 1819  Giovanni-Battista Viotti
1 November 1821  François-Antoine Habeneck
26 November 1824  Raphaël Duplantys
12 July 1827  Émile Timothée Lubbert
2 March 1831  Louis-Désiré Véron Franchised entrepreneurship
with state subvention
15 August 1835  Henri Duponchel
15 November 1839  Henri Duponchel, Édouard Monnais
1 June 1840[48] Henri Duponchel, Édouard Monnais, Léon Pillet
1 June 1841[49] Henri Duponchel, Léon Pillet
October 1841[50] Léon Pillet
1 August 1847[51] Léon Pillet, Henri Duponchel, Nestor Roqueplan
24 November 1847[52] Henri Duponchel, Nestor Roqueplan
21 November 1849  Nestor Roqueplan
1 July 1854  Imperial Household
(Civil List)
11 November 1854  François-Louis Crosnier
1 July 1856  Alphonse Royer
20 December 1862  Émile Perrin
11 April 1866  Franchised entrepreneurship
with state subvention
1 October 1870  State administration
28 October 1870  Society of Artists
with state subvention
9 May 1871  Eugène Garnier
3 July 1871  Émile Perrin
9 July 1871  Hyacinthe Halanzier
1 November 1871  Private entrepreneurship
with state subvention
16 July 1879  August Vaucorbeil
1 December 1884  Eugène Ritt, Pedro Gailhard(fr)
1 January 1892  Eugène Bertrand, Édouard Colonne
1 April 1893  Eugène Bertrand, Pedro Gailhard
31 December 1899  Pedro Gailhard
1907  Pedro Gailhard, Pierre Barthélemy Gheusi
1 January 1908  Leimistin Broussan, André Messager
1 January 1915  Jacques Rouché(fr)
14 January 1939  State administration:
Réunion des Théâtres
Lyrique Nationaux
(Opéra and Opéra-Comique
merged under one
administration, RTLN)
1940  Jacques Rouché (RTLN), Philippe Gaubert (Opéra)
1942  Jacques Rouché (RTLN), Marcel Samuel-Rousseau (Opéra)
21 February 1945  René Gadave (interim administrator)
27 June 1945  Maurice Lehman(fr) (RTLN), Reynaldo Hahn (Opéra)
12 May 1946  Georges Hirsch(fr) (RTLN), Henri Büsser (Opéra)
17 November 1951  Maurice Lehman (RTLN), Emmanuelle Bondville (Opéra)
30 September 1955  Jacques Ibert (RTLN), Emmanuelle Bondville (Opéra)
13 April 1956  Georges Hirsch(fr) (RTLN), Emmanuelle Bondville (Opéra)
August 1959  A.-M. Julien(fr)[47] (RTLN), Emmanuelle Bondville (Opéra)
19 April 1962  Georges Auric (RTLN), Emmanuelle Bondville (Opéra)
September 1968  André Chabaud (interim director)
1 October 1969  René Nicoly
23 May 1971  Jean-Yves Daniel-Lesur[47] (RTLN),
Bernard Lefort(fr) (Opéra)
1 January 1972  Rolf Liebermann (Opéra-Comique closed)
7 February 1978  Théâtre National de
l'Opéra de Paris
31 July 1980  Bernard Lefort
September 1982  Interim committee: Paul Puaux,(fr) Jean-Pierre Leclerc,(fr)
Alain Lombard, Georges-François Hirsch(fr)
1 August 1983  Massimo Bogianckino
24 September 1985 
12 February 1986  Jean-Louis Martinoty(fr)
13 July 1989  (Opéra Bastille opens)
1 September 1989  Jean-Albert Cartier
(general administrator of the Palais Garnier)
2 April 1990  Pierre Bergé (president) Opéra de Paris
(Opéra-Comique reopens)
15 May 1991  Georges-François Hirsch(fr)
(general administrator of the Palais Garnier)
1 September 1992  Brigitte Lefèvre(fr)
(general administrator of the Palais Garnier)
5 February 1994  Opéra National de Paris
15 February 1994  Jean-Paul Cluzel (inspector general of finances)
1 August 1995  Hugues Gall(fr)
September 2004  Gerard Mortier[47]
1 August 2009  Nicolas Joel(fr)[47]

See also

Other Parisian opera companies and theatres

In the period from 1725 to 1791 there were essentially four public theatres which were permitted in Paris:[35]

In 1762, the Opéra-Comique merged with the Comédie-Italienne.

In 1791, the laws were changed allowing almost anyone to open a public theatre. This led to rapid growth in the number of theatres and companies and complexities in their naming. Theatres might burn down and be rebuilt using the name of an old or new company or patron. Some of the new theatres that appeared during this period include:[53]

After about 1870, the situation was simpler with regard to opera, with primarily the Opéra and the Opéra-Comique in operation. The naming situation became somewhat confusing after the Opéra-Comique's theater (the second Salle Favart) burned on 25 May 1887, since the company began performing in other locations. Companies other than the Opéra producing operas or operettas at various theatres in this period included:[54]

Other topics

Ballet portal
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Cited sources

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  • Astier, Régine (1998b). "Beauchamps, Pierre" in Cohen 1998, vol. 1, pp. 396–397.
  • Christout, Marie-Françoise (1998). "Paris Opera Ballet" in Cohen 1998, vol. 5, pp. 86–100.
  • Cohen, Selma Jeanne, editor (1998). International Encyclopedia of Dance. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-509462-6 (hardcover). ISBN 978-0-19-517369-7 (2004 paperback edition).
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  • Craine, Debra; Mackrell, Judith (2000). The Oxford Dictionary of Dance. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-860106-7.
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  • Sadie, Stanley, editor (1992). The New Grove Dictionary of Opera (4 volumes). London: Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-56159-228-9.
  • Sadie, Stanley, editor; John Tyrell; executive editor (2001). The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd edition. London: Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-56159-239-5 (hardcover). OCLC 419285866 (eBook).
  • Walton, William (1899). Paris from the Earliest Period to the Present Day, vol. 3. Philadelphia: George Barrie & Son. Google Books.
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Other sources

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  • Gourret, Jean (1982). Dictionnaire des chanteurs de l'Opéra de Paris. Paris: Albatros. WorldCat.
  • Gourret, Jean (1987). Dictionnaire des cantatrices de l'Opéra de Paris. Paris: Albatros. ISBN 978-2-7273-0164-6.
  • Lajarte, Théodore de (1878). Bibliothèque musicale du Théâtre de l'Opéra, volume 1 [1671–1791]. Paris: Librairie des Bibliophiles. Google Books.
  • Lajarte, Théodore de (1878). Bibliothèque musicale du Théâtre de l'Opéra, volume 2 [1793–1876]. Paris: Librairie des Bibliophiles. Google Books.
  • Lasalle, Albert de (1875). Les treize salles de lOpéra. Paris: Sartorius. Google Books.
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External links

  • Official website of the Opéra national de Paris.
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