Saturday, August 20, 2005

Arabian Nights, Ravel and beautiful young boys.

The Tale of Abu Nuwas and the Three Youths.

Retold after the translation of Richard F. Burton

"One day Abu Nuwas ... came upon three young men, handsome and beardless as if they were of the boys of Paradise, all different from one another but alike in their beauty.

"Now Abu Nuwas... loved to make merry with fair boys...

"He kissed the first, and exclaimed, 'Praise to Him who hairless made this cheek!'

"Then he kissed the second one twice over and said, 'This lovely wears on his cheek a mole that’s perfect, Oh, bless the Prophet!'

"Then he pulled the third one to him, and after kissing him half a dozen times he exclaimed, 'Melted gold in silver cups you’ve poured me, and stained your fingers with the wine, you slender fawn with baggy pants, but merely gazing at you would have made me just as drunk .'


Tim Ashley, in the Guardian, 20 August 2005, wrote about The Arabian Nights and Ravel's version of Shéhérazade.

The text of Shéhérazade is by a friend of Ravel, the poet Léon Leclère, also known as Tristan Klingsor.

Klingsor produced his Shéhérazade poems in 1903. Many of his poems are addressed to a "jeune étranger" and contain phrases such as:"My shaved slave will massage your powerful rear ('ta puissante derrière') and references to soapy hands.

Ravel chose three of Klingsor's poems and he chose a mezzo-soprano for Shéhérazade.

Tim Ashley writes: "In the final section, Ravel introduces Klingsor's 'jeune étranger' for the only time, watching him refuse a woman's offer of a glass of wine before passing on his way with his 'languid and feminine gait'.

"Ravel quotes his own String Quartet during the song; critics have always wondered whether this is the closest Ravel ever got to coming out of the closet, but we will never know for certain. Ravel's sexuality, remains, like his evocation of Asia, a secret world glimpsed from a distance."


Alan Riding, in the New York Times, 3 December 2000, reviewed Benjamin Ivry's 'Maurice Ravel: A Life'.

Riding writes:

"Many of Ravel's friends suspected that he was gay... We are told that the unmarried Ravel ... had a fixation with Pan, that he wrote music for songs about beautiful young boys, that he composed ballets for male dancers, that his social circle included renowned gays and lesbians...

"Ravel's ''Indifférent,'' Ivry continues, ''is a wistful love lyric to a beautiful youth in the pederastic tradition of medieval Arab poetry.''


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