Journal of Romance Studies

When the poet becomes the muse

Women composers and Baudelaire in the twentieth century, the example of Adrienne Clostre’s L’Albatros (1987)

Journal of Romance Studies (2021), 21, (3), 351–374.

Abstract

Women are ubiquitous in Charles Baudelaire’s poetry, presented either as ideal, unattainable figures, or as earthly, abominable creatures. Instead of examining the gaze of the poet on women, it is interesting to reverse the roles and to explore the gaze of women on Baudelaire, or more precisely what women hear in Baudelaire’s poetry: what happens when the poet becomes the muse? While the most famous musical settings of Baudelaire’s poems have been composed by men (Duparc, Fauré, Debussy), this article aims to uncover musical settings of Baudelaire’s poetry by twentieth-century female composers. In a first instance, this article offers an overview of twentieth-century songs by female composers; from the mélodies of Marie Jaëll to the contemporary settings of Camille Pépin, what do song settings of Baudelaire tell us about the visibility of female composers? Secondly, the article provides a detailed analysis of L’Albatros (1987), a music-theatre piece by Adrienne Clostre. By deconstructing Baudelaire’s poems, Clostre offers a reflection on creativity that cannot be separated from a general understanding of the place of female composers in society.

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Details

Author details

Rolland, Nina