Composers Datebook®

with host John Zech

Tuesday, August 8

Poulenc's "Model Animals"

Synopsis

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 in Paris on this date in 1942. The city was occupied by German troops, and the World War had several more dismal years to grind on. Courageous acts of overt resistance to the occupation did occur occasionally, but might cost you your life.

But if you were in Paris on today's date in 1942, you could have visited the Paris Opera for the premiere performance of a new one-act ballet by the French composer Francis Poulenc. The ballet was 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 in music some of the quiet desperation the French must have felt under 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, cond. London 452 937

Additional Information

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