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ClassicsOnline Home » PETITGIRARD, L.: Little Prince (The) [Ballet] (Budapest Studio Choir, Honved Male Choir, Hungarian Symphony Orchestra Budapest Soloists, Petitgirard)
The prizewinning French composer Laurent Petitgirard has earned acclaim for his unusually powerful theatrical imagination. His strikingly creative ballet score for Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) was first performed at the Avignon Opera in May 2010. Petitgirard centres his score around a chorus, alternating instrumental sonorities to remarkable effect, and evoking the essence of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s text in its movement from dream to reality, and from mystery to innocence.
By Steven A. Kennedy
By David Denton
Laurent Petitgirard (b. 1950)
The Little Prince (2010)
Suite for mixed choir, clarinet, harp and percussion
Born in 1950, Laurent Petitgirard studied the piano with Serge Petitgirard and composition with Alain Kremski. He is an eclectic musician whose career as a composer of operas, symphonic music and film music is matched by his activity as a guest conductor the world over (Paris Opera Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, Orchestre National de France, Orchestre National de Lyon, de Bordeaux, de Lille, Bamberger Philharmoniker, Berliner Symphoniker, Orchestras of the Tonhalle, La Fenice, BBC, Utah Symphony Orchestra, Seoul Philharmonic and CBS Orchestras, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, National Orchestra of Spain, Moscow State Orchestra, China National Symphony Orchestra and others). In 1989 Laurent Petitgirard founded the Orchestre Symphonique Français which he conducted until 1996, also directing, from 1986 to 1997, the Festival and the Academy of Flaine (Haute-Savoie). He became music director of the Orchestre Colonne in Paris in 2005 and was re-elected from December 2012 until June 2017.
He has made some thirty records, notably of Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher and several world première recordings, including Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit in the orchestration by Marius Constant. For Chant du Monde he recorded his Cello Concerto with the cellist Gary Hoffman and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, and for Naxos (8.557602) Le Légendaire for violin, chorus and orchestra, with, as soloist, the work’s dedicatee, Augustin Dumay.
Laurent Petitgirard’s first opera, Joseph Merrick, The Elephant Man, with a libretto by Eric Nonn, was first performed in February 2002 at the Prague State Opera, conducted by the composer, with stage direction by Daniel Mesguich. He recorded the opera with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo and with Nathalie Stutzmann in the title rôle (Naxos 8.557608–09). The opera was restaged at Nice Opera from 29 November to 3 December 2002. A DVD of the first performance in Nice was released by Marco Polo (2.220001) and broadcast in 2005 on TF1 and Mezzo. A new production of this opera was staged in May 2006 by Minneapolis Opera.
After Le Fou d’Elsa, a cycle of six songs for mezzo-soprano and orchestra to poems by Louis Aragon, Laurent Petitgirard’s more recent works include Le Plus Ardent à Vivre, a septet with harp, given its première by Marielle Nordmann, Poème for large string orchestra (Naxos 8.570138) and Dialogue for viola and orchestra, which he recorded in September 2005 with the Orchestre National de Bordeaux Aquitaine and the viola player Gérard Caussé (Naxos 8.557602). The first concert performance took place in Paris on 2 October 2006 at the Présences Festival. Laurent Petitgirard gave the première of his symphonic poem, Les Douze Gardiens du Temple (commissioned by Radio-France) with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg at the Présences Festival in February 2006 in Paris. Most of his works have been published by Éditions Durand-Universal and Editions OSF Productions.
Laurent Petitgirard’s second opera, Guru, with a libretto by Xavier Maurel, was recorded under his baton in October 2010 in Budapest, and released on Naxos 8.660300–01 in the following year. The recording was awarded a CHOC by Classica magazine. The première will be given at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris on February 2, 2014. Petitgirard has also composed a concerto for saxophone and orchestra, dedicated to Michel Supéra, that was premièred in Douai in March 2013.
Since 2002 Laurent Petitgirard has recorded for Naxos, which has released three CDs of his orchestral works, a DVD of his first opera, and a CD of Maurice Ravel’s complete ballet Daphnis et Chloé (8.570075), with the Orchestre National de Bordeaux Aquitaine. In the 2010–2012 seasons he conducted a series of concerts in Budapest, Moscow, Strasbourg, Beijing, Nice, Seoul, Kiev and elsewhere. On February 15, 2013, he conducted the Moscow State Orchestra at the Orchestrion Hall in Moscow in a concert devoted to his own music, including Le Fou d’Elsa with the participation of the French contralto Delphine Galou. This concert was filmed by the TV channel Mezzo.
For cinema and television, he has written scores for directors including Otto Preminger, Jacques Demy, Francis Girod, Peter Kassovitz, Pierre Schoendoerffer, Claude Danna, Jean-Claude Brialy, Jean Larriaga, Patrick Timsit, Laurent Heyneman, Michel Boisrond, Denis Amar, Pierre Granier Deferre, Bernard Queysannes, Alain Tasma, Pierre Joassin, Charles Nemes, Jacques Fansten, Florian Gallenberger and Edouard Niermans, among others. Since January 2013 Laurent Petitgirard has been the director of the new film score course at the Paris Music Conservatory (Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris).
He was awarded the Young Composer’s Prize of the SACD (Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques) in 1987, the SACEM (Société des Auteurs, Compositeurs et Editeurs de Musique) Prize in 1990, the Grand Prix Lycéen for Composers in 2000 for his Cello Concerto, and the Prix Musique 2001 of the SACD for his opera Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man. In December 2000 he was elected Member of the French Institute, taking the seat of Marcel Landowski at the Académie des Beaux-Arts.
The Little Prince (2010)
This suite was written for the ballets that formed part of Sonia Petrovna’s staging of Le Petit Prince at the Avignon Opera House. It sets a mixed choir in opposition to a percussion section, with a harp and clarinet duo linking the two factions. It is the combination and alternation of these three elements that bring about the move from dream to reality, from stillness to movement, and from mystery to the smile of innocence. Most of the choir writing is onomatopoeic but, courtesy of Éditions Gallimard, Sonia Petrovna and I were also able, as we had hoped, to include a number of key phrases from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s masterpiece.
“Mais les yeux sont aveugles, il faut chercher avec le coeur…”
“But our eyes are blind, we have to search with our hearts…” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Combining Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s masterpiece with music and dance seemed an obvious move to me…
Having chosen that approach, I thought of these two major art forms as creating a backdrop to Saint-Exupéry’s text.
Like “something radiating in the silence…”
My aim was to enable the audience to become steeped in and carried away by the poetic grace of Le Petit Prince.
Ballet is used in such a way as to resonate with the work’s metaphysical themes.
This was why I was immediately convinced by Laurent Petitgirard’s suggestion that the score be centred around a chorus. This beautiful music played a large part in the success achieved by the show as a whole.
Le Petit Prince is a book full of powerful, evocative images. Our rôle was to provide food for thought, to open up our imaginations and, perhaps, to allow ourselves to rediscover that “close bond” with the golden thread of our childhood.
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PETITGIRARD, L.: Little Prince (The) [Ballet] (Bud...