Andrew Schultz – Le Molière Imaginaire for eight voices, Opus 99 (2015)
Text by Timothy Knapman, after the final scene of Molière’s Le Malade Imaginaire. Composed for brilliant English vocal group I Fagiolini, as part of Musica Viva Australia’s 2015 International Concert Season. Commissioned for Musica Viva Australia by Geoff Stearn. World premiere performances in late July and early August 2015 in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Newcastle, Perth and Adelaide.
Do you like the sight of blood
In a trickle, spurt or flood?
And would you like to disembowel,
Amputate and do such foul
Things that, in the aftermath,
Would get you labelled “psychopath”?
You could learn to be a doctor.
Causing pain’s their stock-in-trade!
[Prologue, Le Molière Imaginaire. Timothy Knapman – text, Andrew Schultz – music.]
Molière hated doctors and it seems the feeling was mutual. Molière’s play Le Malade Imaginaire (The Imaginary Invalid, 1673) was his last. He was seriously ill when writing it and died a few hours after a performance in which he had played the major role of Argan, the wealthy hypochondriac. Throughout the play, Molière heaps scathing wit on the money-raking quackery of his medical contemporaries. Some 25 years later, an English doctor visiting Paris considered Molière to have had ‘as much malice as wit.’
The last scene of the play is in fact a musical interlude – one of three in the play. It consists of a faux medical graduation ceremony in which a budding doctor is put through his paces by the medical fraternity and tested on his capacity to provide the right solutions to various hypothetical scenarios. In keeping with the spirit of farce the ceremony is enacted in bizarre pig-Latin – not quite Latin, French or Italian, but a mixture of all three signifying the pomposity of the occasion. The medical ceremonies of the time were apparently quite elaborate with music, costumes, processions and speeches in Latin.
Whilst living in Paris at the Cité des Arts in 2014, I became interested in the fact that neither of the two main English translations of the play attempted an English version of this last scene; both leave the final scene in its original form. Perhaps this was because of the bizarre dexterity of the language or the idea that it somehow would be known and understood because of the Latin. So, after much encouragement and support from I Fagiolini’s erudite artistic director, Robert Hollingworth, and the aid of some Latinistas and Molière enthusiasts a new and contemporary version of the scene has been created by the English writer, Tim Knapman and myself for unaccompanied voices.
Carl Vine’s review of the premiere: https://musicavivaaustralia.wordpress.com/2015/07/28/carl-vine-on-i-fagiolinis-newcastle-concert/
More information: http://www.musicaviva.com.au/whatson/international-concert-season-2015/musicians/IFagiolini
ABC Classic Fm will broadcast the concert by I Fagiolini, including Le Moliére Imaginaire, at 1pm on Thursday 20 August: http://www.abc.net.au/classic/music-listings/?date=2015-08-20