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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Divertissement \Di`ver`tisse`ment"\, n. [F.] A short ballet, or other entertainment, between the acts of a play.


n. 1 An entertaining diversion. 2 (context ballet English) A short ballet within a larger work, usually providing a break from the main plot.


Divertissement (from the French 'diversion' or 'amusement') is used, in a similar sense to the Italian ' divertimento', for a light piece of music for a small group of players, however the French term has additional meanings.

During the 17th and 18th century, the term implied incidental aspects of an entertainment (usually involving singing and dancing) that might be inserted in an opera or ballet or other stage performance. In the operas produced by the Académie Royale de Musique, both tragédies lyriques and comédies lyriques, these 'divertissements' were sometimes linked to the main plot, or performed at the close of the performance. (Similar examples during the 19th century include Charles Gounod's opera Faust and Delibes's ballet Coppélia.)

Special entertainments of a similar kind given between the acts of an opera were called ' intermèdes'.

The term is also sometimes used for a ballet suite of loosely connected dances. One 20th-century example is Jacques Ibert's Divertissement. Jean Françaix named four of his compositions Divertissement:

  • for string trio and piano (1933)
  • for string trio and orchestra (1935)
  • for bassoon and string quintet (or orchestra, 1942)
  • for oboe, clarinet and bassoon (1945).

Usage examples of "divertissement".

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For her there was no longer anticipation of joy, or present companionship, or any divertissement in the whole world.

The people are a merrier divertissement than the theatre with its hackneyed stories.

Any divertissement was welcome in what had become an especially boring job.

They were already climbing higher, making a last, halfhearted scan for prey but already thinking of the divertissements that had begun back in the compounds by then.

It was chockablock with salons and saloons, hippodromes and nickel pitches, emporia, divertissements, hijinks, kickshaws, bagatelles, burlesque, and buffoonery.

Given a story about an ambassador's lady addicted to drugs or a wealthy senior bureaucrat who preferred cross-cultural divertissements, his eyes glistened and his cheeks flushed.

As were most adults not wedded to the precept that all things enjoyable were immoral, Matlock was aware that the state of Connecticu% like its sister states to the north, the south, and the west, was inhabited by a network of men only too eager to supply those divertissements frowned upon by the pulpits and the courts.

Another new divertissement, maybe, will be a hippy bus line running up and down Haight Street, housed in a 1930 Fagol bus -- a huge, lumbering vehicle that might have been the world's first house trailer.