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Track(s) taken from A66149

La coccinelle

First line:
Elle me dit: «Quelque chose»
author of text

The Songmakers' Almanac, Richard Jackson (baritone), Graham Johnson (piano)
This recording is not available for download
Recording details: May 1984
Art Workers Guild, Queen Square, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Martin Compton
Engineered by Antony Howell
Release date: December 1986
Total duration: 4 minutes 30 seconds

Cover artwork: Noah's Ark from The Peaceable Kingdom (1846) by Edward Hicks (1780-1849)
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania, USA

Other recordings available for download

Ann Murray (mezzo-soprano), Graham Johnson (piano)


'Graham Johnson once again demonstrates his skill in programme-building in this latest anthology of his, an ingenious collection of songs about the animal kingdom (and mankind's reactions to it) that takes account of such factors as key-sequence and contrast of pace and mood' (Gramophone)
With La coccinelle we move to the year 1868 which ushers in the second important period of mélodie composition. This song has already been mentioned as an example of the composer’s ability to ‘stage’ a lyric. We only have to compare Saint-Saëns’ shorter and drier setting (it has the advantage of an acerbic brevity not inappropriate to the strictures of the ladybird) to realize how Bizet, time and time again, revelled in the characters of real people – particularly if they were representative of a type he understood from life. In remarkably few bars he creates for us the character of a stumbling, gauche youth, over-sexed and inexperienced, who loses his chance to steal a kiss (and perhaps more) by not seizing it at exactly the right moment. The mournful refrain ‘J’aurais dû!’ which closes the song seems to have been composed with the rueful smile of a man looking back to his own youth. The whole scene is played out at a ball, and Bizet establishes this with the minimum of difficulty – a few strokes of the pen and the curtain is made to rise on a little operatic scene in waltz time. Bizet also revels in something that could not have worked on the opera stage – a malicious solo aria for the ladybird itself (‘Fils, apprends comme on me nomme’). The singer is surely allowed to invent a suitable voice for the horrible little party-pooper. The pun on ‘bête’ (‘creature’) and ‘bêtise’ (‘stupidity’) plays on the French nickname for this insect, ‘La bête au bon Dieu’.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1998

La coccinelle nous entraîne en 1868, année qui inaugure la seconde période majeure dans la composition des mélodies. Cette chanson a déjà été assez longuement évoquée pour illustrer la capacité de Bizet à «mettre en scène» un poème lyrique. Il n’est que de la comparer avec la mise en musique plus brève et plus sèche de Saint-Saëns (qui a l’avantage d’une brièveté acerbe convenant aux critiques sévères de la coccinelle) pour réaliser combien Bizet révéla, à maintes et maintes reprises, les caractères des gens, surtout s’ils étaient représentatifs d’un type qu’il avait compris d’après nature. En fort peu de mesures, il crée pour nous le personnage d’un jeune homme trébuchant et gauche, porté sur le sexe et inexpérimenté, qui perd sa chance de voler un baiser (voire plus) en ne la saisissant pas au moment exactement voulu. Les gémissements lugubres («J’aurais dû») qui concluent la chanson semblent avoir été composés avec le sourire chagrin d’un homme regardant sa propre jeunesse. Toute la scène a lieu lors d’un bal, ce que Bizet établit sans peine – quelques coups de plumes et le rideau se lève sur une petite scène d’opéra.

extrait des notes rédigées par Graham Johnson © 1998
Français: Hypérion

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Bizet: Songs
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