PETITGIRARD: The 12 Guardians of the Temple / Poeme / Euphonia
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Laurent Petitgirard (b. 1950)
Les Douze Gardiens du Temple • Poème • Euphonia
Eclectic as a musician, Laurent Petitgirard combines a career as a composer of symphonic and film music with that of a conductor, appearing internationally with orchestras including the Orchestre de l'Opéra National de Paris, Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo, Orchestre National de France, Bamberger Symphoniker, Berlin Symphony, Tonhalle, La Fenice, the BBC, Seoul Philharmonic and the Suisse Romande. He served as Music Director of the Orchestre Symphonique Français from 1989 to 1996 and was appointed Music Director of the Orchestre Colonne in 2004. Laurent Petitgirard's first opera, Joseph Merrick dit Elephant Man, had its première under his direction in Prague, followed by a staging at Nice under the director Daniel Mesguich, issued on CD (Naxos 8.557608-09) and on DVD (Marco Polo 2.220001). In May 2006 it was given a new production by the Minneapolis Opera.
After Le Fou d'Elsa, for contralto and orchestra, his more recent works include Le Plus Ardent à Vivre (septet with harp), Poème for large string orchestra, and Dialogue for viola and orchestra. Les Douze Gardiens du Temple, commissioned by Radio France, had its première in 2006 at the Festival Présences. His second opera, Guru, a state commission, is for the Opéra de Nice 2008-2009 season.
Laurent Petitgirard was awarded the Grand Prix Lycéen des Compositeurs in 2000 and the SACD Prix Musique in 2001. A Commandeur des Arts et Lettres, he was elected a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in December 2000.
If The Twelve Guards of the Temple (2004) were to have a subtitle, it would be 'Journey of Initiation for Full Symphony Orchestra', twelve guards and twelve notes, but no specific system, because there is nothing in this temple to prove that it is not one of tonality. There is no plan, simply a journey. The work uses five ancient Tibetan cymbals, instruments so dear to Claude Debussy, as if this temple had dreamt of sheltering a faun.
Poem, for large string orchestra, was composed in 2002 and had its first performance with the French National Orchestra conducted by the composer. This one-movement piece must be considered as an ellipse, giving the feeling that time passes. This corresponds to a desire for fluidity, after the darkness of the opera Joseph Merrick, called the Elephant Man.
Euphonia is based on a fantastic tale by Hector Berlioz describing a futuristic musical city 'Euphonia' in which a jealous composer sets a musical trap to destroy the woman who spurned him and her lovers. The complete Euphonia ballet had its première in Metz in June 1989.
Xilef, a young composer living in the year 2315 is madly in love with the fascinating Mina, a dancer. Mina and her mother send Xilef a devastating letter of rejection revealing the base character of the woman he loves. The despairing Xilef obsessively goes over the various stages of his love, and then decides to escape to Euphonia, a futuristic city dedicated to the cult of music, inhabited exclusively by musicians, and governed under the dictatorial rule of the great composer Shetland, a friend of Xilef's.
When Xilef arrives in Euphonia, he attends a gala to celebrate Shetland's engagement to Nadira. The masked Nadira performs a highly provocative dance of seduction for the occasion, but when she removes her mask, Xilef recognizes Mina, who pretends not to notice him.
Livid with rage but unable to convince Shetland of Mina-Nadira's perfidy, Xilef employs a mad old scientist to build a musical trap, a dance pavilion whose walls close up in response to the kind of chords characteristic of Shetland's compositions.
During the grand ballroom finale, Shetland conducts his work while Mina-Nadira mocks him behind his back in a wild dance with her lovers. Meanwhile Xilef pulls the lever activating his infernal machine. As the oblivious Shetland continues his performance, the walls of the pavilion move together, crushing Mina, her mother, and the other dancers. When the music stops and Shetland turns from his podium, to his horror he sees Xilef swallowing a fatal draught of poison among the litter of corpses. Wild with pain and grief, Shetland goes mad.