Francis Poulenc

François Le Roux's masterclass

Produced by the Saline royale Academy French Music sheet annotated by  François  Le Roux  is available 42 min Voice

François Le Roux and Jeanne Coppey delve into character and contrast in this masterclass for voice.

Produced by the Saline royale Academy

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The masterclass

About this masterclass 

In this session, Professor François Le Roux and his student Jeanne Coppey examine Francis Poulenc’s Banalités compilation, which is based on Apollinaire’s poems Sanglots and Voyage à Paris

Professor Le Roux imparts an imperative piece of information: Poulenc counteracts what Apollinaire wrote. The composer interprets Sanglots as a dramatic, nostalgic, and heavy text, contrasting the intention of the poem. Apollinaire suggests that the emotional range of a human is not unique, and that this banality is something that unites us.  When he writes “Laissons tout aux morts et cachons nos sanglots,” which translates to “Give it all to the dead and hide our tears” Apollinaire suggests that since humans are destined to death, tears should be spared and drama should be averted.  

Coppey is instructed to sing the piece with this perspective, as many singers tend to be more literal and follow Poulenc’s interpretation too closely, according to Le Roux.  The spirit of the piece is very much a Parisian “musette” ball, full of humor and colors. Additionally, Le Roux also points out that the introduction sets the tone for the rest of the piece and that the finale must be light and not heavy, which can be tempting if one follows the text. 

What we learn in this masterclass

  1. Defining the tone and intention in advance. 

  2. Capturing a Parisian 'guinguette.'

  3. Paying attention to the diction and accents. 

  4. Understanding the contrast between Poulenc’s interpretation and Apollinaire’s original text.

  5. Singing the end as lightly as possible.

Banalités by Francis Poulenc 

Banalités is a cycle of five songs written by French composer Francis Poulenc in 1940 and based on Guillaume Apollinaire’s eponymous poems. They include: Chanson d’Orkenise, Hôtel, Fagnes de Wallonie, Voyage à Paris and Sanglots, also known as ‘Sobs’. Poulenc’s interpretation of the original texts, especially Sanglots, is done in a “Parisian bal musette” style and is much more dramatic than what Apollinaire intended. In contrast to Appolinaire’s text, which suggests that humans should not be overly dramatic because they are united by their banality and common destiny, Poulenc interprets the poem with intense emotion and melancholy.  

  • Date:12 April 2021
  • Producer: Produced by the Saline royale Academy
  • Duration:42 min
  • Spoken language:French

Sheet music

Aim for excellence! You can improve your skills with expert advice. Download the annotated sheet music of this voice masterclass. Please note that this piece has been annotated in accordance to François Le Roux’s feedback and comments.

Sheet music banalités

François Le Roux

François  Le Roux

He has been awarded the grade of "Chevalier" in the French National Order of Les Arts et Lettres in 1996.

François Le Roux began studying vocals with François Loup, now a teacher at Peabody-Baltimore, at the age of nineteen. Later, he continued to study under Vera Rosza and Elisabeth Grümmer at the Opéra Studio, Paris.

A member of the Lyon Opera Company from 1980 to 1985, he has since been a guest at all the major European opera houses and festivals, as well as renowned American opera venues: Santa Fé (NM), Los Angeles Opera, New Orleans Opera, and Colon Buenos Aires (Argentina). His operatic repertoire is immense, from Monteverdi to David Lang. Named “Mr. Mélodie” by American critics, François Le Roux gives numerous recitals accompanied by such renowned names as Graham Johnson, Roger Vignoles, Christian Ivaldi, Olivier Godin, and Jeff Cohen. He conducts masterclasses dedicated to the interpretation of French songs and recital repertoire around the world: Orford and Lachine Academy (Québec, Canada), Vancouver (BC, Canada), Minneapolis Song Source Festival (USA), Sibelius Academy Helsinki (Finland), Kyoto Société Mélodie Française (Japan), Central Conservatory of Music Beijing (China), Association Mélodie Française (Seoul, South Korea), and the Académie Ravel de Saint-Jean-de-Luz (France).

Moreover, he is the Artistic Director and Founder of the Académie Francis Poulenc Tours, where every year since 1997, students have the opportunity to learn the interpretation of French Song. What’s more, Le Roux organized the “French Song Concert Seasons” of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris between 1997 and 2002.

He has been awarded the grade of “Chevalier” in the French National Order of “Les Arts et Lettres” in 1996, and was selected as "Musical Personality of the Year, 1997" by the French Critics Union. He has been a vocal teacher at the National Music Conservatoire in Paris (CNSMDP), and is now teaching at the Ecole normale de Musique de Paris Alfred Cortot, where he is developing the exclusive French Vocal Art Certificate.


Francis  Poulenc

Born in Paris in 1899 from a wealthy industrial family, Francis Poulenc rebelliously became a pianist and later a composer. He took up piano lessons as a young child but did not get a formal academic musical education until later in his life. 

He started to compose at age 18, after meeting with several famous poets and musicians of the era like Aragon, Appollinaire or Éluard and of course fellow composer Maurice Ravel. He was enrolled as a conscript in the army after 1918 and composed several pieces during that time. His fame, particularly in Britain, grew in the post-war era, but as his work was met with remarkable success, he became all too aware of his lack of academic training and took composition lessons for a while. His personal life was not a happy one, as he struggled with his sexuality and had proposed to a female friend who refused him.  

In the 30s, after a series of emotional misfortunes, his music became more serious and adapted a lot of surrealistic poems by Paul Éluard. He briefly served in WWII and spent the latter months of the war in the south of France with friends and family. 

In the 50s, La Scala commissioned Poulenc to write an opera and worked on it until his death. He suffered a fatal heart attack in 1963 and died at home in Paris. His most well-known oeuvres are the piano suite Trois mouvements perpétuels (1919), the ballet Les biches (1923), the Concert champêtre (1928) for harpsichord and orchestra, the Organ Concerto (1938), the opera Dialogues des Carmélites (1957), and the Gloria (1959).  


Photo credit: Francis Poulenc

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