Mercoledi Musicale

A French stamp issued in 1946 to commemorate François Villon.  A highly fictionalized portrait of the poet by Albert Decaris.

As often happens what I intended to post today is going by the wayside for another time.  In response to yesterday’s post where I quoted from the French poet François Villon my friend Yvette sent along a link to a musical version of the ballade where the line is found.  The poem appears simple as Ballade in  Villion’s Le Testement, a collection of ballades and rondeaux that was first published in 1461.  In a 1533 edition it was renamed by Clément Marot and became known as Le Ballade des dames du temps jadis (The Ballad of the Ladies of the Bygone Times).

Mais où sont les neiges d’antan! That famous last line is best known in English in the Dante Gabriel Rossetti transliteration as “where are the snows of yester-year”.  However it also appears in paraphrase in several other works.  As my friend David mentioned yesterday Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmanssthal’s Marschallin wistfully – and also a little ruefully – expresses the sentiment in Der Rosenkavalier.  Bertolt Brecht and Hanns Eisler have a hard-bitten prostitute express the same thought coldly in Leid de Nana from Die Rundköpfe und die Spitzköpfe.

And Yvette introduced me to this version of the complete poem by singer-songwriter Georges Brassens – a performer unknown to me until today.  Many thanks for the introduction to this fascinating man and performer Cara.

The text with translation can be found here.

There have been many other paraphrasings, adaptations, and references to Villion and his work in popular novels, plays, TV series (Downton Abbey, go figure), poetry and music.  In 1925 composer Rudolf Friml and playwright Brian Hooker turned If I Were King, a popular play of the period, into an operetta.  The Vagabond King, a fictional account of a Robin Hood-like Villion’s day as king of France and wooing of a noble lady, played over 500 performances on Broadway and spawned two movie versions.  It is highly romanticized and being an operetta has some rousing drinking choruses, jaunty comedy numbers and of course several love songs.

As a belated Valentine’s Day present here is the unmatchable Jussi Bjorling singing the best known number from Friml’s opus:  Only A Rose.

On this day in 1954: Canada and the United States agree to construct the Distant Early Warning Line, a system of radar stations in the far northern Arctic regions of Canada and Alaska.


Author: Willym

A senior with the heart of a young'un

One thought on “Mercoledi Musicale”

  1. Sometimes a rare sparkle lits our boundaries and opens up our sight. I enjoyed reading read David’s note and your entire post on Villon’s echos out of France! I was ignorant of all these echos you explained so well. “Only a rose” is just fantastic” (a discovery also).

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