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Robert Planquette

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Robert Planquette


Jean-Robert Planquette (31 July 1848, Paris - 28 January 1903, Paris) was French composer of songs and operettas. His younger days in Paris were difficult. He once wrote that he “knew frightful poverty, the suffering of hunger.” His father, originally from Caen, was a sculptor; his mother sang in the choir at the Paris Conservatory. Planquette attended that famous conservatory in 1867-1868, gaining a first prize in solfege and a second prize in piano.

Planquette’s major professor was Jules-Laurent Duprato, a composer of operettas, cantatas, and songs. Duprato apparently exerted a strong influence on his young student, who began his career by playing piano and composing chansonnettes and playlets for the cafe concerts in Paris and later achieved fame with 23 well-known operettas. He was also known as a versatile singer who could sing not only the baritone and tenor solos but—in falsetto—could imitate female voices so well that listeners were often deceived. Although Planquette spent much of his life in Paris (and died there at the age of 55), he considered himself a citizen of Normandie, a place which brought him happiness and good luck. In 1933 the members of the Société des Normands de Paris observed the 30th anniversary of his death by honoring his memory with the title Normand de Paris.

Planquette composed Refrains du Regiment when he was 19. At 29 he wrote the score of his fifth operetta, Les Cloches de Corneville—The Chimes of Normandy, a work eventually so successful that in 1886 it was performed for the 1,000th time. In 1976, nearly a century later, it was recorded by the Paris Opera Chorus and the Opéra-Comique Orchestra, conducted by Jean Doussard. His other popular operettas in Le Chevalier Gaston, for the opening of the Monte-Carlo Theatre in Monaco; Rip Van Winkle—Rip-Rip (1882); Surcouf --Paul Jones (1887); and his final work Le Paradis de Mahomet—Mohammed’s Paradise. Others, such as Les Voltigeurs de la 32 (Régiment)—The Old Guard; La Cantinière --The Canteen Keeper; and La Cocarde Tricolore—The Three-Colored Rosette, all have martial connotations which reveal the composer’s interest in military activities. Most of his patriotic marching songs may be found in his operettas.

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