Deux vies rêvées de femmes

30 + 40 min

Diptych of chamber operas 


6 June 2010


Théâtre de l’Hôpital Bretonneau (Paris)

“I wish to die now, quickly,
before I understand again that I am alone.”


What prompted two male composers as different as Robert Schumann and Darius Milhaud to adapt the texts of two equally male writers into female monologues must have been this astonishing tradition — running from the Song of Songs to naturalistic drama — of men lending their voice to the one half of humanity that rarely had one. The “woman’s voice”, as much as a genre, is then a peculiar instrument, appreciated for its unique colors, but it also serves as a crucible for a certain image of women. Adelbert von Chamisso offers simple, candid phrases to a teenage girl in love with a man, aspiring in equal measure to romantic passion and to bourgeois comfort and marriage (the shared dream of Robert and Clara Schumann).

André Gide, using the same situation as a starting point, imagines in his novel Strait is the Gate the story of a young woman who, more ambitiously, gradually discards the idea of marriage, even one based on love for a brilliant, established cousin who could offer her comfort and security: to happiness, to which we seem condemned to aspire above all else, she prefers the ideal of holiness. From this ambiguous novel, Darius Milhaud wrote a mysterious cantata, as rarely performed as Frauenliebe und ‑Leben is continually: both works raise the question of the male gaze on female intimacy, and staging them as chamber operas allows us to better understand and confront them.

Deux vies rêvées de femmes, created as part of a long-​term residency at the Hôpital Bretonneau in Paris, was the first collaboration between Aleksi Barrière and Clément Mao-​Takacs, and laid the foundations for La Chambre aux échos. It was also Milhaud’s Alissa’s first staging in the work’s history

Part 1: Woman’s Love and Life by Robert Schumann 
(1840, poems by Adelbert von Chamisso)

Part 2: Alissa by Darius Milhaud 
(1913/​1931, based on the novel La Porte étroite by André Gide

Creative Team

Musical Direction & Piano

Clément Mao-​Takacs

Stage Direction & Design

Aleksi Barrière



Marianne Seleskovitch et Sayuri Araida


6 – 9 June 2010

Théâtre de l’Hôpital Bretonneau (Paris)


8 December 2013

Aleksi Barrière and Clément Mao-​Takacs revisited their creative process at the international conference “Milhaud et la voix” (Milhaud and Voice), organized by the Association Les Amis de Darius Milhaud in Aix-​en-​Provence. Aleksi Barrière’s contribution, “Redécouvrir la musique de Milhaud par la scène avec Alissa” (Rediscovering Milhaud’s music with the help of the stage – Alissa), can be found in the published symposium proceedings and on his blog.

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