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La dame de Monte-Carlo, FP180

La dame de Monte-Carlo, FP180

First line:
Quand on est morte entre les mortes
April 1961; monologue pour soprano et orchestre; dedicated to Denise Duval
author of text
from Théâtre de poche

Image details:
La dame de Monte-Carlo, illustrated by Jean Cocteau in Théâtre de poche
Pierre Bernac retired from the concert platform in 1959. Soon afterwards Poulenc created a duo with the soprano Denise Duval (born 1921) who was to be his recital partner until his death. Apart from Duval singing the leading roles in the composer’s two operas Les mamelles de Tirésias and Dialogues des Carmélites, Poulenc was to write three works for her: the role of ‘Elle’ in his one-woman ‘tragédie lyrique’, La voix humaine (Cocteau, 1958), the song cycle La courte paille (1960), and La dame de Monte-Carlo, dedicated to Duval, a ‘monologue for soprano and orchestra’, often performed with piano, and with which Poulenc significantly concludes his Journal de mes Mélodies. The poem is taken from Jean Cocteau’s Théâtre de poche, a collection of fourteen small dramas; La dame de Monte-Carlo had been written for the singer-actress Marianne Oswald (1901–1985) and recorded by her in 1936, a mannered recitation where only the ‘Monte-Carlo, Monte-Carlo’ refrain (appearing three times) is sung and accompanied by piano.

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


Poulenc: The Complete Songs
CDA68021/44CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Poulenc: The Complete Songs, Vol. 4
Studio Master: SIGCD323Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available


Track 42 on CDA68021/4 CD3 [7'57] 4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 41 on SIGCD323 [7'23] Download only

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