I had a first-time try last Friday at singing some of the songs from Hector Berlioz’ song cycle Les Nuits d’Eté (Summer Nights) the texts for which came from six poems composed by Theophile Gautier.
I’ve had a CD for some years of the song cycle recorded by the late great Janet Baker, so I was not entirely unfamiliar with it. I never thought at the time that I’d one day be singing it.
The theme of the cycle is love, its progress from innocence to loss and renewal. The second song of the cycle, Le Spectre de la Rose, began as a work for piano – Afforderung zum Tanz (Invitation to the Dance) – written, in 1819, by Carl Maria von Weber.
In 1841, Hector Berlioz orchestrated Afforderung. This version of the music was used for a short ballet in Weber’s opera Der Freischütz at the Paris Opera. It was the Berlioz version of the original piano piece that was used for a ballet, Le Spectre de la rose – a Diaghilev Ballets Russes production – which premiered in Monte Carlo in 1911, with Nijinsky in the role of the rose. Nijinsky’s spectacular leap through a window at the end of the ballet became famous, though I read that it was a bit of a stunt and that behind the set Nijinsky leapt into the arms of four men who then wrapped him in warm towels.
There were no men waiting outside the music room with warm towels when I sang Spectre last Friday. I wouldn’t have protested if there had been. 🙂
I do love researching songs and composers.