DVD The Arlésienne 2018

Georges BIZET (1838 – 1875) 

The Arlésienne 

(a production with raconteur, choir and orchestra)

A production, inspired by the original version but reworked for a raconteur, choir and orchestra. In Alphonse Daudet’s collection, " Letters from my Windmill", « L’Arlésienne » is prominent, a novella written in 1866, inspired by the tragic fate of Frédéric Mistral’s nephew.

Originally, Georges Bizet had composed what might be termed “incidental music” for choir and small orchestra to be performed either during or between the dialogues of the stage-play which Daudet had developed from his novella, performed at the Théâtre du Vaudeville in Paris in 1872.

If the music from this play met with a level of success never repudiated from the time it was created, the production as imagined by these two artistes has very seldom been performed in its original form.

The Ensemble Erwin List asked actor, Jean-Louis Cousseau, to write a new adaptation of Alphonse Daudet’s famous work. This production, intended for a general audience, alternates between music and text, the actor performing on stage the monologue which he has written. 


Author, actor, theatrical producer and raconteur (both in Libraries and for Radio France Culture in the 1990s), Jean-Louis Cousseau co-directs with Isabelle Loridan the theatrical troupe "Quelqu’unS".  For the (annual) Folle Journée festival, he has worked several times with the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Départemental of La Roche-sur-Yon: "The Soldier’s Story" (Stravinsky/Ramuz), "The Married Couple of the Eiffel Tower" (le Groupe des Six/Cocteau), "The Plow that Broke the Plains" (Thompson/Lorentz) and "A Dream of Carnival" (based on  "The Carnival of the Animals"by Saint-Saëns) and " A Letter from the Baladar Iles" (Prévert/Reverdy).

The Story Outlined

A handsome, young man from the Camargue area, Frédéri is madly in love with a charming girl whom he met in Arles. He makes up his mind to marry her. After initial reticence relating to their marriage, his parents finally give their consent. But one evening, a visitor appears, introducing himself as the lover of the beautiful girl, providing written proof in letters which he shows to Frédéri’s father. The following day, the father tells the whole story to his son. Frédéri calls off the marriage but simply cannot forget l’Arlésienne. Inconsolable and broken-hearted, he prefers to end it all... 

 “There is no Alésienne, there is only her shadow. One talks about her, one even dies for her but one never sees her”, so wrote Alphonse Daudet to Frédéric Mistral who was the first to see the story of this pastoral drama. Daudet used it as the basis for a novel and then a stage-play for which he asked Georges Bizet to compose the musical score. 

The Author’s View

“I have adhered to the melodrama upon which Alphonse Daudet based his short story of the Arlésienne and for which Georges Bizet composed the music, both rich in melodies and splendidly varied in nuance. I retained the essential elements: the intrigues and the personalities. On the other hand, feeling very far removed from the theatrical conventions of that period, I opted for a much more contemporary structure. I invite the audience to follow the developments within the drama by giving a set of short monologues as “asides”. Frequently torn between emotion and reason, each character, in turn, gives his or her view of the situation at a given moment within the story. Accustomed to modern cinema techniques, today’s spectator will be able to follow the tangled web of events without having to have them explained.


I also diverge from the rather “binary” view of life outlined by Daudet, (good versus evil, the beauty of tradition versus the dangers of novelty). I infer that no approach to love is superior to another. In my eyes, the Arlésienne herself, just as much as the other protagonists within the story, has the right to speak – and so much the better if Daudet is not of the same opinion!”. 


To see it