Notes and Narratives
Una Hunt and Mary Pierse
Gilbert Bécaud’s L’Opéra d’Aran (1962) – A Rapprochement
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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