With his three books of airs de déévotion (1656, 1658, 1662), Father Franççois Berthod offered singers the best of two worlds: newly-written sacred texts set to preexisting love songs by prominent French composers. In his dedications, he indicates that his parodies were written for women, enabling them to sing passionate melodies while maintaining their ““modesty, piety, and virtue.”” Inspired by the adopted musical settings, Berthod retained the provocative language of the original texts but directed expressions of concupiscent love toward Jesus in lieu of mortal man. Drawing on church documents, devotional treatises, and introductions to sources of sacred music, it can be shown how Berthod's devotional airs——a repertory virtually ignored by scholars——were part of a Catholic campaign to convert female aristocrats from a life of frivolity and immorality to one of religious devotion. This study examines Berthod's choice of airs, his organization of topics, and his parodic procedures as representations of religious ““conversions.”” Also addressed is the debate surrounding his textual transformations, for some questioned whether women could enter into the spirit of the devotional text without thinking about its ““sinful”” version. The airs, in fact, embody a central, yet controversial, interpretation of post-Tridentine doctrine: In order to know what is good one must know what is not. Ultimately this study reveals that Church leaders believed that by singing airs de déévotion, a woman, even if married with children, would transcend worldly desire, fantasize amorous conversations with Jesus, and express her love for him ““as her true husband.””
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