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France and Ireland

Notes and Narratives

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Edited By Una Hunt and Mary Pierse

The rich association between Ireland and France is embodied in music, art and creative writing from both countries and this collection provides a tantalising selection of these interweaving influences. The book presents a vivid picture of interactions between composers, performers, poets and novelists on each side of the Celtic Sea. Surprises abound, with music unexpectedly linking Ireland and France through George Alexander Osborne and Frédéric Chopin, through Thomas Moore and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, through Irish-inspired French opera and a French-directed Irish orchestra. Words and music meet in a Kate O'Brien novel, a musical interpretation of Verlaine and a selection of Paula Meehan's poetry, while the encounter between wine and music creates new possibilities for artistic and cultural expression. Exploring the works and influence of a wide range of figures including James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Jacques Derrida, J.M. Synge, Hélène Cixous, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Hector Berlioz, Maurice Ravel, Neil Jordan and John Field, the essays collected here uncover a wealth of artistic interconnections between France and Ireland.
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Gilbert Bécaud’s L’Opéra d’Aran (1962) – A Rapprochement

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In his day, the popular French singer and chanson composer Gilbert Bécaud (1927–2001) was an international celebrity. Somewhat surprisingly, there are hidden Irish connections in his work, ones that conjoin the Aran Islands, twentieth-century opera and Irish cultural history viewed through a French prism. The idea that there could be a 1960s Bécaud opera, in French, and with an Irish locale, would seem improbable, but it happened. The story of how Bécaud came to write his L’Opéra d’Aran merits recording, as does its background and performance history.

Gilbert Bécaud was born as Gilbert François Léopold Silly in October 1927 in the Mediterranean coastal town of Toulon. English-language readers will understand immediately why he needed a stage name for his international career, and the young musician must have been acutely aware of this from early on. The first pseudonym he adopted, from about 1942, was ‘François Gilbert’; then subsequently, in 1952, he decided on ‘Gilbert Bécaud’ –a belated acknowledgement of his true father’s name.1 Unlike most other twentieth-century performers of French chansons, Bécaud enjoyed a ‘classical’ musical education. However, if one tries to establish simple facts such as dates, places and teachers, most available sources yield little, apart from one claim that he was educated at the Conservatoire de Nice and that he studied piano and composition with a certain Tadlevsky, allegedly a pupil of Paderevsky.2 However, the years cited for this study ← 79 | 80 → would...

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