Le May, a Pantomime Ballet by Dehesse (1751)

Le May, a Pantomime Ballet by Dehesse (1751)

 

The pantomime ballet Le May (‘The Maypole’) was created by the choreographer and dancer Jean-Baptiste François Dehesse (1705-1779) and premiered at the Comédie-italienne in Paris on the 18 May 1751. A scenario was published in the Mercure de France (June 1751: 2/160-66), and parts from the score (vln I, vln II and basso), written by Robert des Brosses (1719-1799), were also published. The Mercure de France noted that “Monsieur Dehesse’s imagination continues to be lively, tasteful and fecund. His two last ballets (Les vendanges and Le may) have the same merit as his other creations. The music of the latter ballet, which is by Monsieur des Brosses, was universally found to be lively and charming. The musette in particular, with text by Monsieur [Pierre-Augustin Lefèvre] de Marcouville, was greatly to taste.”

Below are presented both the original music and the summaries corresponding to each scene from the Mercure de France. The recordings are MIDI mockups, computer-generated using the playback software NotePerformer and performed as the music is written. To play the music, click the white arrowhead on the left in the black bars below.

 

SETTING

Le Théatre représente un Village, dans le fond duquel on voit une maison plus apparente que les autres; elle est précédée d’une avenue d’arbres, qui forme une place destinée à planter le mai. Le Ballet commence à la pointe du jour. (‘A village; at the back, a house more noticeable than the others; a tree-lined avenue leads up to it, and this is the place for the maypole. Daybreak.’)

 

First Entrée (No. 1)

Plusieurs garçons du Village arrivent avec un troupe de symphonistes à leur tête, ils portent le mai, le plantent en face de la maison, & au bruit des instrumens qui les accompagnent. (‘A number of village lads come on led by a group of musicians. They carry the maypole, which they set up in front of the house, to the sound of the instruments which accompany them.’)


(MIDI mockup of no. 1, Entrée en Rondeau)

 

Second Entrée (Nos. 2-3)

Un Paysan niais, portant un mai sur son épaule, une vielle à la ceinture, une lanterne à la main, se dispose à planter le mai, vis-à-vis la porte d’une femme qu’il aime. Un autre paysan lui dérobe le mai, & en fait la galanterie à sa maîtresse; le niais trompé, donne sa serenade à une fenêtre pour un autre; . . . (‘A country simpleton, with a [small] maypole on his shoulder, a hurdy-gurdy at his belt, and a lantern in his hand, gets ready to set up the maypole over against the door of a woman with whom he is in love. Another peasant steals the maypole from him [without the latter noticing] and gallantly presents it to his own mistress [at another window, evidently while the simpleton is occupied and inattentive]. The mistaken simpleton performs a serenade at someone else’s window; . . .’)


(MIDI mockup of no. 2, Air Niais en Rondeau)

 

. . . celle à qui cette fête étoit destinée, voyant que la fête est pour sa voisine, sort de chez elle furieuse, & se venge sur le niais. La maîtresse du paysan, fachée de ce que la serenade est troublée, descend à son tour; la dispute augmente; le paysan craignant de recevoir quelques coups, charge le niais sur son dos, se sauve, & poursuivi par les deux femmes. (‘. . . The one woman for whom this to-do was meant sees that it is for her neighbour, comes out of her house furious, and vents her spleen on the simpleton. The [other] peasant’s mistress, put out that the serenade has been interrupted, comes down in her turn. The squabbling intensifies. Fearing that he might be the recipient of blows, the peasant takes the simpleton up onto his back and runs off, pursued by the two women.’)

 

TO BE CONTINUED