Cocteau and Glass
Listen to Today’s Show:
Jean Cocteau was a French novelist, playwright, stage and film director, poet, essayist, painter, set designer, and actor. And if that wasn’t enough, at the end of the First World War, Cocteau also became the unofficial spokesperson for “Les Six,” or “The Six,” a group of young composers that included Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc, Arthur Honegger, Louis Durey, Germaine Tailleferre, and Georges Auric.
In 1945 Cocteau directed his own cinematic adaptation of the classic fairytale “Beauty and the Beast,” and in 1950, a modern-dress retelling of the ancient Greek myth of “Orpheus.” Decades after Cocteau’s death in 1963, the American composer Philip Glass prepared new musical accompaniments to both these classic films. In an interview Glass said:
“For me, Cocteau has always been an artist whose work was central to the ‘modern’ art movement of the 20th century. More than any artist of his time, he again and again addressed questions of art, immortality and the creative process.”
This music is from Glass’s version of Cocteau’s “Beauty and the Beast,” which debuted in Gibellina, Italy on today’s date in 1994. The original soundtrack for Cocteau’s film was replaced by synchronized live performances by the singers and instrumentalists of the Philip Glass ensemble, who accompanied a screening of Cocteau’s uncut 95-minute film.
TIME magazine called this new version of “Beauty and the Beast” “an exhilarating and original ride . . . Remarkable not only in conception but also in execution, brimming with freshets of melody and surging with Wagnerian power in conjuring up a magic kingdom.”
Music Played on Today’s Program:
Philip Glass (b. 1937):
Beauty and the Beast
Philip Glass Ensemble;
Michael Riesman, cond.