Thursday, August 04, 2005

Ooh la la!

Back from Nice, which lived up to its name. Didn't get much proof-reading done...

Speaking of France, now I'm reading up about Sacha Guitry, for reasons which I'll explain in due course. I'd be very interested to hear from anyone who knows anything more about the following: it seems that this 'French Noel Coward' (should one add 'heterosexual French Noel Coward'?!?) wrote a number of 'comedies musicales' with Andre Messager, the conductor, opera house director and much-underrated composer who as a youth shared a flat with my beloved Monsieur Gabriel in Paris - they'd been students together at the Niedermeyer School and later joined forces to write the most glorious piano duet skit on Wagner's Ring Cycle entitled 'Souvernirs de Bayreuth' (hear it and die laughing!).

One of Messager's last works was a comedy, with Guitry's words, entitled 'Deburau'. It is dedicated to the memory of Gabriel Faure.

When I came across a reference to this, I pulled up short: Deburau was the surname of the hero of 'Les Enfants du Paradis', my favourite film EVER. And Messager's 'comedy' is dedicated to the memory of my favourite composer?!? In 'Les Enfants du Paradis' - made in the forties, during the war - the 19th-century genius mime actor Baptiste Deburau is played by Jean-Louis Barrault and the free-spirited woman he loves, Garance 'comme la fleur', by Arletty.

It seems a film was made of Guitry's comedy 'Deburau' in 1951, using Messager's music (sadly it seems it's now not available on video or DVD). An outline of ir that I found on the internet tells me that we are indeed talking about the same Deburau as 'Les enfants' - but the woman that Deburau loves is none other than La Dame aux Camelias, Marie Duplessis. (Camelias - comme la fleur???)

I know woefully little about Guitry, though now I've ordered some books (including a translation of 'Deburau', which is on its way from the States). What I'd like to know is: a) Did Guitry's play spark the idea for 'Les Enfants du Paradis'? It seems that he knew both Jean-Louis Barrault and Arletty quite well... b) Why was Messager's version dedicated to Faure's memory? Was it merely that Faure had recently died (1924) and this happened to be the next thing that his old friend wrote? Or was there more to it than that? Had Faure had any particular interest in Deburau, the Funambules theatre, the story...? Could the pair of them perhaps have gone to the Funambules and seen the real Deburau together?!?

This kind of thing ZAPS me. Here's the subject of a film that changed my life when I was 14 or so, being linked directly with a composer who has changed my life again and again and is still doing so. It seems uncanny and I need to know more! Any leads would be greatly appreciated!