Sunday, August 1, 2010

"Le Chant des Girondins"

The words for the verses of "Le Chant des Girondins" (The Song of Girondists), used during the Second Republic, came from the drama "Le Chevalier de Maison-Rouge" by the famous writer Alexandre Dumas with Auguste Maquet. The lines of the refrain were borrowed from "Roland à Roncevaux", a song written in Strasbourg by Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle, the author of "La Marseillaise". The anthem was in use from 1848-1852.

Alphonse Varney (1 December 1811 – 7 February 1879) was a French conductor, mainly of opera. His son was the composer Louis Varney who studied music with his father. He studied at the Paris Conservatoire including counterpoint with Reicha.

Varney conducted the Théâtre de Ghent in 1835, followed by the Théâtre Historique, the Théâtre Lyrique (which he left in 1852 to spend more time composing, and conducting in Ghent), the Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens from 1857 (from 1862-64 he was also director and staged works by Offenbach), the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux from 1865-1878, and the Société Sainte-Cecile in Bordeaux. He was also invited to conduct the 'French Opera Season' in New Orleans in 1844.

Varney composed a well-known Chant des Girondins, written for the play Le Chevalier de Maison-Rouge by Alexandre Dumas. He also composed the music for a drame-lyrique by Alexandre Dumas, fils in 1848 entitled Atala. His opéra comique La ferme de Kilmoor (first performance 27 October 1852 at the Théâtre-Lyrique) was savaged by the critics. Other stage works by Varney include Le moulin joli (1849), L'opéra au camp (1854), La polka des sabots (1859) and Un leçon d'amour (1868). He retired in 1878.

Alexandre Dumas, born Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie (24 July 1802 – 5 December 1870) was a French writer, best known for his historical novels of high adventure which have made him one of the most widely read French authors in the world. Many of his novels, including The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After, and The Vicomte de Bragelonne were originally serialized. He also wrote plays and magazine articles and was a prolific correspondent.
Above is a first day cover featuring the anthem lyricist Alexander Dumas issued on April 11,1970.