Notes and Narratives
Una Hunt and Mary Pierse
Ireland in the Musical Imagination of Third Republic France
This chapter will examine images of Ireland as evoked in the music of the Third Republic in France with particular focus on the 1924 production of Henri Rabaud’s L’Appel de la mer, addressing its libretto, score, and reception history. The musical adaptation of any literary text will always result in some transformation of the original material but when Rabaud (1873–1949) decided to set John Millington Synge’s Riders to the Sea as a one-act opera, he strove to retain its authentic local colour, natural dialogue, and references to islander rituals, all the while writing with the Opéra-Comique audience in mind. ‘They’re all gone now, and there isn’t anything more the sea can do to me’, laments Maurya towards the end of Synge’s one-act play about a widow from the Aran Islands who loses her husband and each of her six sons to the surrounding North Atlantic ocean. The isolated island, its people, and traditions comprise Maurya’s entire world, one so self-contained and alienated that even the west coast of Ireland seems impossibly distant. How, then, did a 1903 drama about the grinding daily hardship of a tiny fishing village find its way to the cosmopolitan setting of a Parisian opera house in 1924?
A most celebrated Franco-Irish literary and musical connection had been established by Hector Berlioz’s Neuf mélodies irlandaises (published in 1830 and subsequently retitled Irlande).1 Composed nearly a century later, Rabaud’s work is one of the most substantial efforts to unite...
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