Poulenc’s “Dialogues des Carmélites”: “Salve Regina,” An Ode to Martyrs

Francis Poulenc’s 1957 opera, Dialogues des Carmélites, tells the story of the Martyrs of Compiègne, sixteen Carmelite nuns who were executed at the guillotine during the final days of the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror. Driven from their convent and arrested, the nuns elected to take a vow of martyrdom rather than renounce their vocation. One of opera’s principal tragic heroines is Blanche de la Force, a woman from an aristocratic family who enters …

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Stravinsky, Hindemith, and Poulenc: Three Twentieth Century Pastorales

With roots in the Baroque period, the musical pastorale evokes a serene, bucolic landscape. Often, it rolls along in a gentle 6/8 time and suggests the simple, free-floating melodies and drones of a shepherd’s bagpipes. J.S. Bach’s Pastorella In F Major, BWV 590 for organ, the final movement of Corelli’s “Christmas” Concerto, and the Pastoral Symphony from Handel’s Messiah are famous examples. The sound world of the twentieth century was dominated by …

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Debussy’s “L’Isle Joyeuse,” Pascal Rogé

The 1717 painting L’embarquement pour Cythère by Jean-Antoine Watteau depicts a merry party of lovers arriving on (or departing from) the Mediterranean island of Cythère. In ancient mythology, Cythère was known as the birthplace of Venus, the goddess of erotic love. The version of the painting which hangs in the Louvre shows the revelers flanked by bright dancing cupids and a serenely gazing statue of Venus. Watteau’s painting served as an inspiration for Claude Debussy’s …

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