In JdmM Poulenc wrote: ‘This monologue delighted me because it brought back to me the years 1923–1925 when I lived, together with Auric, in Monte Carlo, in the imperial shadow of Diaghilev [the composer was there preparing the première of his ballet Les biches]. I have often enough seen at close quarters those old wrecks of women, light-fingered ladies of the gaming tables. In all honesty I must admit that Auric and I even came across them at the pawnshop where our imprudent youth led us once or twice.’ For this portrait of a woman d’un âge avancé, addicted to gambling, down at heel and also fatally down on her luck, Poulenc creates a scène in various sections with a main tempo of Lent et triste—faster, edgier and more nervous at times, but basically sad and pathetic amidst her displays of outrage. The woman is almost stoically set on suicide when there seems to be no other financial option. Poulenc abbreviates Cocteau’s second and third refrains by ignoring the ‘etc.’ written after the words ‘Monte-Carlo, Monte-Carlo’. We might imagine the woman jumping into the sea as she cries out that name, sacred to all gamblers, one last time—the final staccato in the piano signifying a small inconsequential splash. One can certainly see in the background to this choice of scenario signs of the composer’s own depression, his fear that he had written himself out, and that he too was scarcely able to contemplate a future when he was less in command of his powers than he always had been.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2013
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