According to some scholars, Baudelaire’s ‘Le Jet d’eau’ may originally have been written in conjunction with the chansonnier Pierre Dupont as a form of popular song. Whilst no record of any music by Dupont for this poem survives, this lecture sets out to examine what textual features of the poem seem to make it particularly ‘settable’ to music. It explores what happens when Baudelaire’s poetry is sounded out as music through song performance, especially in the 1889 setting by Debussy, but also engaging with the two other nineteenth-century settings of this poem by Maurice Rollinat and Gustave Charpentier.
Lecturer in French at the University of Sheffield (UK) Helen Abbott specialises in nineteenth-century French poetry and music, with particular emphasis on voice and performance. Her first monograph, Between Baudelaire and Mallarmé: Voice, Conversation and Music was published with Ashgate in 2009. Her forthcoming book entitled Parisian Intersections: Baudelaire’s Legacy to Composers examines five different nineteenth-century song settings of Baudelaire’s ‘La Mort des amants’ by both well-known and minor composers of the era. She regularly collaborates with the Oxford Lieder Festival and is an associate researcher of the SongArt research group. Prior to taking up her post at the University of Sheffield in 2012, she was Head of French at Bangor University, north Wales.