The fortunes of war, cultural politics and musical utopia through the prism of Les ‘Aragon’ by Michaël Levinas

Edward Campbell

Abstract


Michaël Levinas’s Les ‘Aragon’ for mezzo-soprano and instrumental ensemble sets three poems by Louis Aragon – Les Yeux d’Elsa, C and Elsa-Valse. It is a gathering of multiplicitous forces, containing within itself reference to multiple aspects of the French past and present. Its resonances range from the middle ages, the origins of the French language and the world of the troubadors and trouvères through the shameful humiliation faced by France in the ‘phoney war’, the painful war-time history of the Levinas family and the Jewishpeople to the crises of the arts in France in the 1990s and their implications for musical composition. Confronting all of this is the great hope summed up for Aragon in the situation of wartime France in the image of his wife Elsa’s eyes and by Levinas at the end of the century in the surreal, transgressive and utopian possibilities offered by new music.

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ISSN 1755-4934