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Francis Poulenc-mélodies chantées par Régine Crespin

By May 23, 2021March 19th, 2023No Comments

This posting is of several works by Francis Poulenc, the French composer. The first is a famous poem by Louis Aragon. The poem is called “C” because every line of the poem ends in cé in French. The second is called “Fêtes galantes”. Both of these poems were written by Louis Aragon.  The third poem is by Maurice Fombeur, and is called Fêtes galantes. Crespin sings all three.

I have written this in the past, so if you remember it, please skip it. Before introducing Régine Crespin, I want to describe what a Falcon soprano is. The term “Falcon” comes from Marie Cornélie Falcon, a French singer who lived from 1814–1897. Roles that demand a combination of dramatic soprano and dramatic mezzo-soprano are now referred to as “falcon,” a term borrowed from Marie Cornélie Falcon because she sang so many roles that overlapped between the soprano and mezzo-soprano voice.

Ms. Crespin was born on February 23, 1927 and died on July 5, 2007. Crespin made her Lyric and Met debuts in 1962. Substituting for the ailing Renata Tebaldi in the title role of Puccini’s “Tosca” in Chicago, Crespin scored a triumph with the public and press.

Crespin went on to prove her versatility in other parts. Among many other, she sang Amelia in Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera,” Leonore in Beethoven’s “Fidelio” and Elisabeth in Wagner’s “Tannhauser.” She assumed the dual role of the Prima Donna and Ariadne in Strauss’ “Ariadne auf Naxos”.

She well known and admired for her performances in the French and German repertoire, including large, dramatic Wagner roles.


J’ai traversé les ponts de Cé
C’est là que tout a commencé
Une chanson des temps passés
Parle d’un chevalier blessé

D’une rose sur la chaussée
Et d’un corsage délacé
Du château d’un duc insensé
Et des cygnes dans les fossés

De la prairie où vient danser
Une éternelle fiancée
Et j’ai bu comme un lait glacé
Le long lai des gloires fausées

La Loire emporte mes pensées
Avec les voitures versées
Et les armes désamorcées
Et les larmes mal effacées

O ma France, ô ma délaissée
J’ai traversé les ponts de Cé


I have crossed the bridges of Cé
it is there that it all began
a song of bygone days
tells of a wounded knight

of a rose on the carriage-way
and an unlaced bodice
of the castle of a mad duke
and swans on the moats

of the meadow where comes dancing
an eternal betrothed
and I drank like iced milk
the long lay of false glories

the Loire carries my thoughts away
with the overturned cars
and the unprimed weapons
and the ill-dried tears

O my France, O my forsaken France
I have crossed the bridges of Cé

Les gars qui vont à la fête

Les gars qui vont à la fête
Ont mis la fleur au chapeau

Pour y boire chopinette
Y goûter le vin nouveau

Y tirer la carabine
Y sucer le berlingot

Les gars qui vont à la fête
Ont mis la fleur au chapeau

Sont rasés à la cuiller
Sont raclés dessous la peau

Ont passé la blouse neuve
Le faux-col en cellulo

Les gars qui vont à la fête
Ont mis la fleur au chapeau

Y faire danser les filles
Chez Julien le violoneur

Des polkas et des quadrilles
Et le pas des patineurs

Le piston la clarinette
Attendrissent les costauds

Les gars qui vont à la fête
Ont mis la fleur au chapeau

Quand ils ont bu, se disputent
Et se cognent sur la peau

Puis vont culbuter les filles
Au fossé sous les ormeaux

Les gars qui vont à la fête
Ont mis la fleur au chapeau

Reboivent puis se rebattent
Jusqu’au chant du premier jô

Le lendemain on en trouve
Sont couchés dans le ruisseau

Les gars qui vont à la fête
Ont mis la fleur au chapeau.

The lads who are going to the fête

The lads who are going to the fête
Have stuck flowers in their hats

They’re off to drink
And taste new wine

To fire rifles
To suck sweets

The lads who are going to the fête
Have stuck flowers in their hats

They’ve shaved their faces down to the skin
They’ve scraped beneath the skin

And put on new shirts
And detachable collars of celluloid

The lads who are going to the fête
Have stuck flowers in their hats

They’ll dance with the girls
At Julian the fiddler’s

Polkas and quadrilles
And the skaters’ dance

Cornet and clarinet
Move the strong ones

The lads who are going to the fête
Have stuck flowers in their hats

When they’ve drunk they argue
And beat each other up

And go to tumble girls
In the ditch beneath the elms

The lads who are going to the fête
Have stuck flowers in their hats

They’ll drink again and fight again
Till the dawn chorus is heard

The next day some are found
Sleeping in the stream

The lads who are going to the fête
Have stuck flowers in their hats

Fêtes galantes

On voit des marquis sur des bicyclettes
On voit des marlous en cheval-jupon
On voit des morveux avec des voilettes
On voit les pompiers brûler les pompons

On voit des mots jetés à la voirie
On voit des mots élevés au pavois
On voit les pieds des enfants de Marie
On voit le dos des diseuses à voix

On voit des voitures à gazogène
On voit aussi des voutures à bras
On voit des lascars que les longs nez gênent
On voit des coïons de dix-huit carats

On voit ici ce que l’on voit ailleurs
On voit des demoiselles dévoyées
On voit des voyous
On voit des voyeurs
On voit sous les ponts passer des noyés

On voit chômer les marchands de chaussures
On voit mourir d’ennui les mireurs d’œufs
On voit péricliter les valeurs sûres
Et fuir la vie à la six-quatre-deux

Fêtes galantes

You see marquis on bicycles
You see pimps in kilts
You see whipper-snappers with veils
You see firemen burning their decorations

You see words hurled on the garbage heap
You see words praised to the skies
You see the feet of orphan children
You see the backs of cabaret singers

You see cars run on fuel
You see handcarts too
You see sly fellows hindered by long noses
You see unmitigated idiots

You see here what you see everywhere
You see girls who are led astray
You see ruffians
You see Peeping Toms
You see drowned corpses float beneath bridges

You see out-of-work shoemakers
You see egg-candlers bored to death
You see securities tumble
And life rushing pell-mell by.

Régine Crespin

Crespin was a Falcon soprano. She was well known for dramatic opera roles as well as mélodie and Lieder. She was also was a renowned Marschallin in Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavalier,” making her Met debut in that role in 1962 and later recording it under Georg Solti. She also recorded Sieglinde in Wagner’s “Die Walkure” as part of that conductor’s complete Wagner “Ring” cycle for London Decca.

After a series of medical and personal problems nearly ended her career in the early 1970s, she rebuilt her voice from scratch, moving into the mezzo-soprano repertory.

Her primary American operatic bases were the Met and San Francisco Operas, where she gave her farewell performances in 1987. After her retirement from singing, she was widely recognized as a voice teacher.

Born in 1927 in Marseilles, Mme Crespin had a difficult childhood with an alcoholic mother and a perfectionist father. Only because she failed the entrance exams for college at 16 did her father permit her to study voice, eventually at the Paris Conservatory. Prominent successes at regional houses in France led to engagements at the Wagner festival in Bayreuth, Germany, from 1958 to 1960. She died in 2007 in Paris.

Francis Poulenc

Born Jan. 7, 1899, Paris, France—died Jan. 30, 1963, Paris, composer who made an important contribution to French music in the decades after World War I and whose songs are considered among the best composed during the 20th century.

Poulenc was largely self-taught. His first compositions—Rapsodie Nègre (1917), Trois Mouvements Perpétuels, for piano, and Sonata for Piano Duet (1918) and his settings of Guillaume Apollinaire’s poem Le Bestiaire and Jean Cocteau’s Cocardes (1919)—were witty pieces with streaks of impudent parody. Humour remained an important characteristic of his music, as in the Surrealistic comic opera Les Mamelles de Tirésias (1947; The Breasts of Tiresias), based on a farce by Apollinaire.

In 1920 the critic Henri Collet grouped Poulenc with five other young French composers, calling them “Les Six.” The others were Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, Georges Auric, Germaine Tailleferre, and Louis Durey; although they reacted in the same way to the emotionalism of 19th-century Romantic music and the Impressionism of Claude Debussy, they were in fact united by friendship more than by aesthetic ideals. Poulenc studied with the composer and teacher Charles Koechlin from 1921 to 1924. His ballet Les Biches (English title The Houseparty) was produced by Serge Diaghilev in 1924. He composed his song cycles Poèmes de Ronsard and Chansons gaillardes in 1924 and 1926. There followed more than 100 songs, chiefly on poems by Apollinaire (e.g., “Banalités,” 1940), and Paul Éluard (e.g., “Tel jour, telle nuit,” 1937).

In 1934 Poulenc appeared as piano accompanist to the baritone Pierre Bernac in the first of many recitals over several years, an experience that deepened his understanding of the song as an art form. His songs, which range from parody to tragedy, are admired for their lyricism and for their sensitive integration of vocal line and accompaniment. His Concert champêtre for harpsichord (or piano) and orchestra (1928) was written at the suggestion of harpsichordist Wanda Landowska. Like many of his keyboard works, it mingles the light, urbane character of 18th-century French keyboard music with 20th-century harmonies.

During the 1930s Poulenc wrote many religious works, including Litanies à la Vierge Noire de Rocomadour (1936), Mass in G Major (1937), and Stabat Mater (1951). He participated in the French resistance movement during World War II. Figure humaine (performed 1945), a cantata based on poems by Éluard, voiced the spirit of the resistance and was secretly printed during the Nazi occupation. His opera Les dialogues des Carmélites (1953–56, libretto by Georges Bernanos) is considered one of the finest operas of the 20th century. Other widely performed works by Poulenc were the Sextet for piano and wind quintet (1930–32), Organ Concerto (1938), and Oboe Sonata (1962).