Chamber opera diptych (2010)
Frauenliebe und -leben by Robert Schumann
(1840, poems by Adelbert von Chamisso)
+ Alissa by Darius Milhaud
(1913/1931, after André Gide’s novel La Porte étroite)
Sopranos Marianne Seleskovitch & Sayuri Araida
Musical direction and piano Clément Mao-Takacs
Stage direction and lighting Aleksi Barrière
Duration: 30’ + 40’
Premiered on June 6th, 2010 at the Théâtre de l’Hôpital Bretonneau in Paris
What inspired two male composers as different as Robert Schumann and Darius Milhaud to set to music texts by two equally male writers, and make them female monologues, is probably this surprising tradition –running from the Song of Songs to Naturalistic drama– of men giving the floor, through art, to that half of mankind that seldom had a public space of expression. The « female voice » became, as much as a genre, a specific instrument, sought after for its special nuances and timbre quality, but also the bearer of the male vision of feminity. Adelbert von Chamisso put simple and candid sentences in an enamoured teenager’s mouth, expressing contradictory hope for both sentimental passion and middle-class comfort and marriage (a dream shared by Robert and Clara Schumann).
André Gide, from the same starting point, wrote in Strait Is The Door about a young woman who, somewhat more ambitiously, is brought to discard the very idea of a (love) marriage with a brilliant and successful cousin, an embodiment of comfort and security: over happiness, that seems to be our mandatory aspiration, she chooses the ideal of sanctity.
From this ambiguous novel, Darius Milhaud composed a mysterious cantata, as seldom performed as A Woman’s Love And Life is continuously: these two pieces, far less «feministic» than we could think, nevertheless ask the question of female intimacy; to stage them together as chamber operas is a way for us to better understand and compare them.
Program notes [FR]
Extracts on YouTube (10’) [English titles available]