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Les Fâcheux, stage scenery by Georges Braque, a Ballets Russes production, 1924

Georges Braque & Les Ballets Russes

In 1924, Molière’s Les Fâcheux was made into a ballet by Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. The image shows the stage scenery created by Georges Braque. On 17 December 2019, I inserted two images attributed to Georges Braque. The music to the ballet was composed by Georges Auric (15 February 1899 – 23 July 1983), a French composer. 

Georges Braque (13 May 1882 – 31 August 1963) is associated with Fauvism. Braque is also associated with Cubism, as is Pablo Picasso, the movement’s co-founder. Picasso was employed by Sergei Diaghilev, which is an element I wish to underscore. Diaghilev attracted and promoted many talents, including Jean CocteauLes Ballets Russes was Russian, yet a Tout-Paris ballet company. Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes also transformed Molière’s The Doctor in Spite of Himself (Le Médecin malgré lui) into a ballet. It was an opera by Charles GounodÉrik Satie was asked to compose recitatives.

For a list of Ballets Russes répertoire and related information, see Ballets Russes dancers (wiki2.org).

There is so much to tell about Molière and particularly Les Fâcheux. In fact, I still have Les Fâcheux in mind. We see two pirouettes.

  1. La Rivière and friends, thugs, turn against Damis and try to kill him.
  2. Éraste, un soldat before he was un courtisan, saves Damis, who is the blocking-character, but whom gratitude changes. He enables the marriage he would not allow, which is a complete reversal and comedy, farce in particular. It is comic irony.

The image below shows Éraste, and his companion would be Orchise.


Braque, Diaghilev

La Fontaine: Nature

La Fontaine and Molière probably met at approximately this point in history. La Fontaine was a protégé of Nicolas Fouquet. In a letter, une épître, to Maucroix, La Fontaine praised Molière. Les Fâcheux, “par sa manière,” had pleased him.[2]

C’est un ouvrage de Molière :
Cet écrivain, par sa manière,
Charme à present toute la Cour
De la façon dont son nom court,
Il doit être par delà Rome.
Je suis ravi car c’est mon homme.
Te souvient-il bien qu’autrefois,
Nous avons conclu d’une voix
Qu’il allait ramener en France
Le bon goût et l’art de Térence?
Plaute n’est plus qu’un plat bouffon,
Et jamais il ne fit si bon
Se trouver à la comédie;
Car je ne pense pas qu’on y rie
De maint trait jadis admiré
Et bon
in illo tempore
Nous avons changé de méthode :
Jodelet n’est plus à la mode,
Et maintenant il ne faut pas
Quitter la nature d’un pas.

[It is a work by Molière, this writer whose manner now charms the Court. The way his name is running, he must be beyond Rome, I’m delighted because he’s my man. Do you remember how, in older days, we agreed that he would bring back to France the good taste and the art of Terence? Plautus is now no more than a flat buffoon, and never has it been so good to see comedies. For I do not think that one laughs at features admired in the past and which were good in illo tempore (then). We’ve changed methods. Jodelet[1] is no longer in, and we cannot leave nature by even a step.]  (The translation is mine. It is not polished, but it is Molière theory.)

Molière depicted his century as he saw it and heard it. That is “nature” Molière’s in his century.

Sources and Resources

[1] Jodelet played Jodelet in the Précieuses ridicules. His face was enfariné, or covered with flour. Molière played Mascarille.
[2] See Maurice Rat, ed. Œuvres complètes de Molière (Pléiade, 1956), p. 861.

Love to everyone 💕

Les Fâcheux by les Ballets Russes, to music by Georges Auric.


© Micheline Bourbeau-Walker
19 December 2019