A central component of the late eighteenth-century search for a nationally significant culture is the concept of the Nation, defined by Patriot writers and critics as a public sphere of civil society distinct from the State. Save for the Mémoires secrets, Patriot writers tended however not to discuss the Opéra in the 1770s, presumably Seeing the close regulation exerted over the institution by the crown as foreclosing any genuine reform of the type which they supported, although I return in Chapter 5 to a late exception. Yet if we focus upon a less antagonistic thread of cultural life, the Quarrel opened a space for alternative sociable practices and approaches to the published debates where the future role of culture, and the identity of France's pre-eminent composer, were to be played out. Salons not only acted as spaces for the discussion of music theatre and the competing philosophies, but also allowed the constitution of rival groups, notably by privately performing operatic works, or segments of them, to friendly audiences, thereby confirming Hennebelle's claim that 'les œuvres qui partaient à la conquête de l'espace public avaient préalablement subi la sélection des milieux aristocratiques' [works that were to gain approval in the public sphere had previously been selected by aristocratic circles]. 1 Published debates in the newly launched daily newspaper Le Jourtml de Paris centred upon the right of individuals to judge music for themselves, and according to their own criteria; they represent an important disciplinary perspective on music as a specific art form irreducible to the concepts employed by men of letters, establishing cultural identities such as 'anonymes', 'ignorants', 'mélophiles', and so on. Contemporary discussions of politesse mean that the Quarrel took on a more self-conscious feel around 1776—77. The Piccinnists developed and extended their claim to artistic refinement, against what they saw as the 'roughness' of Gluckian music, examined in the previous chapter. At stake in all of these cases was the means by which music should be circulated and discussed throughout polite society. So much work has been undertaken concerning the 'public sphere' and 'public opinion' that it may seem unnecessary to return to the issue here. But studies of these concepts have tended to focus upon issues whose political potential would be, to the eyes of modern critics, more immediate; and this chapter attempts to consider the implications for National operatic culture of these sociable practices. In all cases 'talking about opera' raised the question of authority and by implication also cultural 'ownership', whose full implications for the Revolution I have tried to consider elsewhere. 2