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MUSIC FOR OPERA

HE LEFT HIS MARK ON A WHOLE GENERATION OF COMPOSERS.
HIS UNIQUE, UNFORGETTABLE WORKS HAVE TRAVELLED 
TO THE FOUR CORNERS OF THE WORLD…

Birth of a New Operatic Panorama

Georges Delerue and Boris Vian came to know each other at the Théâtre Babylone in Paris in 1952.Vian, a writer of fiction, poetry, and music, was already a well-known denizen of the intellectual and artistic world of Saint Germain des Près.  In 1953 he presented in Caen a play that was an instant success

 

The Snow Knight.

Marcel Lamy, the director of the Grand Theater in Nancy, intrigued by the work, called Vian and Delerue together in order to urge them to join forces in doing an operatic version of the play. While Lamy tried to raise money for the production with the regional cultural commission, Vian and Delerue went immediately to work in the summer of 1955, with no assurance that what they were writing would ever be produced. With word that, indeed, Lamy had come up with production money, the creative duo continued feverishly at work during several months.

Every new opera work is, anywhere in the world, a huge event. In order to mount such new works immense and varied talents are called into play and usually a great deal of money is risked. This opera was no exception to the rule. The best of talents appeared eminent French opera singers, Dirk Sanders, a superb choreographer,

Jesus Etcheverry the conductor, and Marcel Lamy as director created a beautiful production with two hundred striking costumes. But it was the concept itself that was the most striking.

“This is not at all an opera in the traditional sense, rather a panorama of musical scenes, without an overture, each lasting between six and eight minutes and following one another without any symphonic interludes.”

"Le Chevalier de Neige" is essentially an adaptation of the narrative cycle of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. It is in three acts, with twenty-four scenes. It lasts about four hours and is interlaced with a new kind of orchestration. In addition to a traditional operatic orchestra and a chorus without words, Delerue added an electronic Martenot waves keyboard and several pieces of pre-recorded music.

 

Moreover, a platoon of technicians was deployed to install and operate groups of loudspeakers strategically throughout the auditorium so that the audience would be bathed in sound and, in effect, participate in the musical action of the opera.

 

Les interprétes :

Tenor Jacque Lucionni > Lancelot

Mezzo Jeanne Rhodes> La Fée Morganne

Soprano Andrée Esposito > La Reine Gueniève

Soprano Monique de Pondeau > Passerole

Tenor Xavier Depraz > le Roi Arthur

 

The premiere on January 31, 1957 opened to the praises of the Paris music critics who had journeyed to Nancy for the event. The critics were no less impressed than the many opera fans of the Lorraine region. 

For Marcel Lamy it was the production of a lifetime :

“We worked for a full year on that opera which was in my career perhaps the most joyous, the most relaxed and yet the most extraordinary of collaborations I have enjoyed. Together Boris Vian and Georges Delerue were marvelous.”

 

The production was about to be repeated at the Opéra Comique in Paris in 1960, but unfortunately the rehearsals were interrupted by the civil disturbances that erupted with the Algerian War. Every now and then, there arises interest in reprising this wonderful opera. Perhaps Le Chevalier de Neige will one day grace the stage again.

Actu.

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