Un poilu Australien (duos: mezzo-soprano, bass with chamber ensemble)
by Elliott Gyger (2015)
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Jacques Playoust was born in Flanders in 1884, and emigrated to Australia with his family at the age of five. When World War I broke out, he returned to France to fight in the French army. Where the young Australian volunteers enlisted in the service of a mother country most of them had never seen, Jacques was in a very real sense defending his homeland.
In this work the mezzo-soprano sings extracts
from Jacques' letters to his French relatives, written in French,
while the bass sings extracts from those written to his younger
siblings in Australia. While these are mostly in English, here
too Jacques lapses into French, at which points the two voices
sing together. The extracts are arranged chronologically,
sketching out a trajectory from initial patriotic enthusiasm,
through disillusionment and trauma, to moments of despair. The
music draws on two sources: the French national anthem (La
Marseillaise), and a popular World War I song, Australia
Will Be There. Both are used mostly in heavily disguised
form, coming to the surface only rarely.
Instrumentation: Mezzo-soprano, bass, viola, percussion, piano.
Duration: 18 min.
Commission note: Commissioned by Diana Blom.. Commissioned with assistance from the Anzac Centenary Local Grants Program
- Has as subject/About: Commemoration of war
Performances of this work
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