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Emmanuel Chabrier: L’île heureuse

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a Francophile and that French is my favorite foreign language to sing. I have visited and performed in France almost yearly since the 1990s. On my first trip to Paris, Tobé Malawista, my beloved friend and colleague in The Mirror Visions Ensemble, introduced me to her longtime coach Irène Aïtoff, who taught me everything I know about singing in French. Madame Aïtoff worked with many great singers during her long life and was known for her demanding, high standards of French pronunciation. She was a remarkable woman who left a large legacy behind. I am grateful to have known and worked with her. (Thank you, Tobé!)

For my first Song of the Day I chose Chabrier’s beautiful “L’île heureuse,” which is one of the many songs I coached with Madame Aïtoff. The broadly sweeping lines of the melody colorfully express the two lovers’ joy and passion as they journey to that “happy island.” I love the sparkling ritornello in the piano, which to me suggests the undulating expectation of the ecstasies to come upon arrival. No doubt this is a very sensual song and, like all good things in life, the anticipation of getting to that “happy island” is more than half the fun. Here is a recording of the incomparable Irène Aïtoff playing with baritone Frank Léguérinel.

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