- Francis Dhomont
- Year of composition: 1986, 91
- Duration: 28:22
- Instrumentation: stereo fixed medium
- Commission: Jean-Étienne Marie, CIRM
operacousmatic between nature and artifice
There is a small lake in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence (France), a poetic and intimate site located deep in the Alpilles. On full moon evenings, after the heat of the day, the sensual pleasure of contemplation is exceptional. In May and June — when nature is expressive — the frogs burst forth.
Jean-Étienne Marie, then director of the Centre international de recherche musicale (International Music Research Center, CIRM, Nice, France), to whom I had described those barbarian love songs, commissioned me in 1984 to compose a lakeshore opera — parodical, no doubt — in which all of the roles, from the diva to the choir, would be assigned to… frogs.
This is how Signé Dionysos (Signed Dionysus) was born. The title makes reference to the character of Aristophanes who, in The Frogs, hears the song of these “daughters of the bog.” As a matter of fact, aren’t the exaltation and ecstasy of these nocturnal singers somewhat Dionysian?
As with any respectful opera, this work has acts, scenes, tableaux. The plot: “A small Provence lake. After a warm day, the strollers leave, thus returning the lake to its natural hosts. The frogs return, taking hold of the stage and will ‘perform the opera’. Unheard-of, surreal, dilated songs. Naturally, after love, the drama will conclude with death…”
However, it is only entertainment. But what pleasure to play with this given sonorous generator of innumerable morphologies and also, once again, with the ambiguous ‘music-of-nature/artifices-of-the-studio.’ Truth or lie? Found, processed or constructed sound? All of these delusions confound the ear and, as with wine, alter the senses.
This brings us back to Bacchus!
Signé Dionysos was realized at the composer’s studio and premiered on February 1, 1986, at the festival Musiques actuelles Nice/Côte d’Azur (MANCA, France). The definitive version, reproduced here, was realized at the composer’s studio in May, 1991. Most of the recordings were made at night in May and June of 1984 and 1985. Some sound processing was realized at Studio 123 and with the Syter real-time sound synthesis system of the Ina-GRM (Paris, France). Thanks to the enlightened and indispensable advice of Bénédict Mailliard and Yann Geslin. Thanks also to Marc Jaquin for his authorization to use some of his recordings for this piece. Signé Dionysos was commissioned by Jean-Étienne Marie for the CIRM (Nice, France).
- February 1, 1986, Festival Manca 1986: Concert Francis Dhomont, Galerie des Ponchettes, Nice (Alpes-Maritimes, France)
- February 17, 1988, Premiere of new version (1988): Eurakousma, Faculté de musique — Université de Montréal – Local B-484, Montréal (Québec)