… or, The last season
It is impossible to imagine two composers more different than Stravinsky and Henri Rabaud (1873-1949), who was known for his tirades against modernism.
The phrase “Stravinsky and Rabaud”, and the other way round, does not appear on the internet.
Yet the two notable operatic premieres in Paris in the last season before the outbreak of the Great War were oriental fairy-tales by them. Rabaud’s five-act Mârouf, savetier du Caire was performed at the Opéra-Comique on May 15. Stravinsky’s Debussyan three-scene Le rossignol at the Palais Garnier on May 26.
The Rabaud, which was revived at the Opéra-Comique last year, was based on The Arabian Nights, with a libretto by Lucien Nepoty. The Stravinsky, which is set in ancient China, on Hans Christian Andersen, with a libretto by the composer and Stepan Mitussov. Stravinsky had begun working on it in 1908, but put it aside to work on the three Diaghilev ballets.
The premiere of The Rite of Spring (surely the most overrated work of the twentieth century) had taken place at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées on May 29 1913.
The two operas do not inhabit entirely different worlds. Music has become marooned in a kind of static orientalism. Charles Friant, tenor, Dans le jardin fleuri, from Mârouf, a beautiful example of a style of French singing, now lost, which gives meaning to an opera like this:
Le rossignol, scene 1, performers not stated:
Géori Boué (still living), soprano, 1948, Pourquoi ces mots inattendus, from Mârouf (will open in a new window):
André Gaudin, tenor, 1930, A travers le désert, from Mârouf (will open in a new window):