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La Colombe de Bouddha

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Conte lyrique japonais in one act premiered at the Casino Municipal in Cannes in March 1921.

Given the post of musical director of the Cannes and Deauville Casino opera houses in 1920, Reynaldo Hahn divided his time, during the interwar years, between the Côte d’Azur (winter) and Normandy (summer). Although this dual position gave him the opportunity to experiment with programming choices, which guided his decisions, after the French Liberation, when he became director of the Paris Opéra, it also gave him somewhere to premiere his own works. La Colombe de Bouddha was the first of these: first performed in Cannes in March 1921, it was staged again in Deauville the following August. The form of this conte lyrique in one act for four characters should be understood in the light of three factors: its appropriateness to the economic model for music productions in casinos (borne out by a revival of the work in Aix-les-Bains in 1927), the creative freedom enjoyed by the musical director in his auditoriums and, finally, the need to compose a companion piece for Nausicaa in the programme. “[This latter] work was very successful. People requested it all over the place. […] It would have been staged more often, I was told, if it had been in three acts. Two acts don’t make an evening’s entertainment” (interview with Reynaldo Hahn for Comoedia,19 March 1921). The libretto by André Alexandre tells of the old gardener Kobé, who dies of his love for the young Jonquille, whom he has taken in and adopted, but she prefers a strolling singer to him. The music explores orientalising colours particularly by venturing into whole tone scales: “a very fine melodic score, with colourful, modern instrumentation, in the style of the somewhat grimacing images from Japan” (Le Figaro, 20 March 1921).


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