Research Colloquium

Research Colloquium: Barbara Kelly (Royal Northern College of Music)

Jane Bathori’s music action in war-time Paris: remembering, forgetting and recovered memories

Lecture Theatre 1, School of Music

The speaker is Barbara Kelly
(Royal Northern College of Music)

Chaired by Steve Muir

This seminar focuses on the singer Jane Bathori’s war-time action as temporary Director of the Vieux-Colombier Theatre between 1917 and 1919.  She seized the extraordinary opportunity to put on musical, dramatic, literary and artistic events at Jacques Copeau’s experimental theatre near Saint Sulpice in Paris.  Her story has been retold from different perspectives; for grateful composers who survived into old age, they expressed their gratitude for her determination to perform and programme new music of Debussy’s generation and the younger composers who would become Les Six.  She also recalled her own story, remaining an advocate of this period of French music for the rest of her long life.

For theatre historians, the two years of her leadership were a blip in the history of Copeau’s theatre and are often relegated to a footnote.  Returning to the archival sources, new perspectives emerge. These can be gleaned from her own unpublished letters to Jacques Copeau and the numerous programmes of her sometimes frenetic artistic activities.  I’m also interested in forgotten perspectives.  I will discuss the letters the composer André Caplet (who died in 1925 from gas poisoning) sent from the battlefield to Bathori to uncover a new perspective on the significance of her artistic action.

Barbara L. Kelly is Director of Research and Professor of Musicology at the Royal Northern College of Music. She is also a Vice-President of the Royal Musical Association. Her research is focused on French music between 1870 and 1939. She has published two monographs: Music and Ultra-Modernism in France: A Fragile Consensus, 1913-1939 (Boydell, 2013) and Tradition and Style in the Works of Darius Milhaud, 1912-1939 (Ashgate, 2003). She is also contributing editor of French Music, Culture, and National Identity, 1870-1939 (Rochester, 2008), Berlioz et Debussy: Sources, Contexts and Legacies (Ashgate, 2007) with Kerry Murphy, and Music Criticism in France, 1918-1939: Authority, Advocacy, Legacy (Boydell) with Christopher Moore. She is working on a study of musical performance in France and Britain during the First World War and the Interwar period.