Just about any time is a good time to be in Paris, but chances are, given your druthers, you wouldn’t have chosen to be there in 1942. The city was occupied by German troops, and World War II had several more dismal years to grind on.
But if you were in Paris on today’s date in 1942, you could have visited the Paris Opera for the premiere of a new ballet by the French composer Francis Poulenc called “Les Animaux modeles” or “The Model Animals,” with a scenario based on animal fables by the French writer La Fontaine.
Some 20 years earlier, in happier times, Poulenc had made his name with another one-act ballet. That 1924 work was titled “Les biches” or “The Does” and was written for the Ballets Russes of Monte Carlo. That work’s scenario described the flirtations and seductions of some bright young things at a house party in the country. “Everything was simple and carefree, sunshine and good humor,” as Poulenc himself put it.
Not surprisingly, Poulenc’s 1942 ballet was a darker, often grimmer affair, expressing perhaps the quiet desperation of the German occupation, mingled with a fervent hope for better days to come.
Music Played in Today's Program
Francis Poulenc (1899 – 1963) Les animaux modeles French National Orchestra; Charles Dutoit, conductor. London 452 937
On This Day
1857 - French composer Cécile Chaminade, in Paris;
1905 - French composer André Jolivet, in Paris;
1938 - Canadian composer Jacques Hétu, in Trois Rivières, Quebec;
1950 - Russian composer Nikolai Miaskovsky, age 69, in Moscow;
1967 - Czech-born composer Jaromir Weinberger, age 71, commits suicide at his home in St. Peterburg, Florida (where he settled in 1939); Weinberger had composed one very popular work, his 1927 opera "Schwanda, the Bagpiper," but was reportedly despondent that he was unable to produce any other equally successful works;
1882 - Tchaikovsky: "1812 Overture," in Moscow (Gregorian date: Aug. 20);
1942 - Poulenc: ballet "Les Animaux modèles" (The Model Animals), at the Paris Opéra;
1943 - Piston: “Prelude and Allegro” for organ and strings, on a CBS radio broadcast by organist E. Power Biggs with Arthur Fiedler conducting;
1976 - David Del Tredici: first version of “An Alice Symphony” (after Lewis Carroll) in San Francisco; See also Aug. 7, 1991;
1984 - Berio: opera "Un re in ascolto" (A King Listens), at the Salzburg Festival in Austria;
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About Composers Datebook®
Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.
He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.