Albert Giraud’s Pierrot Lunaire
Date November 2002
Title Albert Giraud’s Pierrot Lunaire
Subtitle. 50 Rondels Bergamasques (Giraud’s subtitle)
Music Roger Marsh
Poems Albert Giraud
Translator Kay Bourlier
Category Staged song cycle in two acts
Director Roger Marsh
Musical director John Potter
Vocal Coach Anna Maria Friman
Assistant director Morag Galloway
A wide platform, with outlying raised platforms. A short ramp projected forward from the centre of the stage into the first few rows, allowing characters to walk right into the audience. Various moon effects were created with lighting, including a ray of moonlight which at one point ‘bowed’ a violin suspended above the stage.
Albert Giraud’s Pierrot Lunaire (1884) is a collection of 50 poems, all in the strict Rondel form. Announcing at the outset his dream of a chamber theatre, peopled by the characters of the Commedia dell’arte, with backdrops by Brueghel and Watteau, Giraud proceeds to present us with a series of images and scenes connected by the main themes and characters: Pierrot, Colombine, Harlequin, old Dr Cassander, the setting sun and, especially, the Moon.
In 2001/2 I set all fifty poems to music. All the settings are vocal – ranging from pieces for one, two or three voices, to full choral numbers, and there are instructions for staging them as a music theatre piece. In most cases the poems are set in the original French, with new English translations by Kay Bourlier embedded in the setting. The first part (1-21) was written for, and first performed at, the Hilliard Ensemble summer school in Germany in 2001. Following that I completed the set and the full piece (Part 1 and Part 2) became the Practical Project for 2002. The great merit of the piece, as a practical project, is that its modular nature and flexible ‘narrative’ allow for numerous ensembles to come to the fore at different times, while there are a few numbers for mass choir in which all participants can be involved. It also offered a chance for individual numbers or sequences to be directed by different student directors. There were very few opportunities for instrumentalists, but as I pointed out, all musicians have a voice.
(by Edward Jessen)
Score Mycaenas; later Peters Edition, London