Massenet (1842-1912) - Ballet Music from 'Le Cid'
audiences certainly liked their ballet, to the extent that they insisted
all their operas include a ballet-divertimento (presumably to relieve the
tedium?). Even Wagner was expected to comply. This obligation, for the
Paris performance of Tannhäuser, he met by revising the end
of the overture, and thereby preserving unrelieved the succeeding three
hours of tedium.
opera, of 1885, was based on Pierre Corneille's tragedy recounting the
story of “Le Cid”, the nickname of a famous Twelfth Century Spanish warrior
(whose real name, I seem to recall, was Charlton Heston). Massenet, of
course, placed his ballet-divertimento slap-bang in the middle of the opera.
The scene is a gathering of people in the Great Square of Burgos, providing
the flimsy excuse for an utterly irrelevant celebration of the diversity
of Spanish provincial dances. Among the titles, (Castillane - Andalouse
- Aragonaise - Aubade - Catalane - Madrilène - Navarraise),
only “Aubade” seems to lack any provincial connotation, largely on account
of its being a “morning dance”.
is extremely beautifully crafted, capturing the vibrant sensuality of Spanish
folk styles as convincingly as any non-Spaniard (even Ravel!). Packed with
mesmerising rhythms, lustrous colour, and some absolutely peachy tunes,
this music is sheer delight from first to last.
© Paul Serotsky
29, Carr Street,
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