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8.557337 - ADAM DE LA HALLE: Jeu de Robin et de Marion (Le)
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Adam de la Halle (13th century): Le Jeu de Robin et de Marion

(alternative titles: Li Gieus de Robin et de Marion, Li Jeus du Berger et de la Bergiere, Mariage de Robin et de Marote)

TONUS PEREGRINUS
Mary Remnant, bells, drum, fiddle, gittern / citole, harp, pipe and tabor, rebec, shawm, symphony, copy of Whitecastle pipe
Adam li Bochus / Pilgrim / Narrator - John Crook, voices
Aubert li Chevaliers / Sir Albert - Alexander Hickey, tenor
Baudons / Baldwin - Richard Eteson, tenor, coconuts
Gautiers li Testus / Walter the Mule - Francis Brett, bass
Huars / Howard - Joanna Forbes, soprano
Marion - Kathryn Oswald, alto
Péronnelle - Rebecca Hickey, soprano
Robin - Alexander L'Estrange, countertenor, tambourine
Rogaus / Roger - Antony Pitts, bagpipe drone, copy of Billingsgate trumpet, cowhorns, portative organ, tambourine, director

Music by Adam de la Halle, edited and arranged by Antony Pitts
(except for Motet II, edited by Rebecca A. Baltzer with additional alterations by TONUS PEREGRINUS)
English versions of Li Jus du Pelerin and Li Gieus de Robin et de Marion by Rosemary Pitts and Antony Pitts, directed by Joanna Forbes and Antony Pitts

The 13th-century trouvère Adam de la Halle was also known as Adam d'Arras and Adam le Bossu, thus giving us both the place of his birth in Northern France and the striking nickname/surname "the Hunchback", although Adam himself claimed that it was a name not a description. Adam was both composer and poet, a blending of métiers most famously seen in his compatriot of the following century, Guillaume de Machaut. As well as numerous chansons, jeux-partis, motets ([Track 23], [40]) and rondeaux ([12], [23], [31]), Adam wrote a small number of plays of which Le Jeu de Robin et de Marion is perhaps the earliest surviving combination of music and secular drama: the first opera, no less, coming a century or so after Hildegard of Bingen's sacred music-drama Ordo virtutum. Adam de la Halle moved in courtly circles, including the company of Robert II, Count of Artois (his traditional peasant hero Robin, diminutive both in name and in courage, may have been taken as a droll reference to his patron); and like the Pilgrim of our Prologue Adam travelled long and far from his native Arras.

Le Jeu de Robin et de Marion was written in the later part of the 13th century and the various titles in the manuscript sources (Li Gieus de Robin et de Marion, Li Jeus du Berger et de la Bergiere, Mariage de Robin et de Marote) tell us something more of the subject matter, shepherds and love, and that the work survived in different dialects of mediaeval French. Robin et Marion itself is a slightly forced marriage of two different but related pastoral traditions, the first of which presents a potentially amorous encounter between a knight and a shepherdess, while the second recounts in detail the antics and horseplay of peasants and shepherds. So the first half of Robin et Marion ([3] - [32]) is full of dramatic action and many solo songs for the main protagonists, while the second half ([33] - [44]) is a riotous romp through various party games and food-related jokes. Whether a lord and lady being read to by the trouvère himself, or a noble company having fun dressing up and pretending to be peasants, Adam's audience would have been familiar with both types of play and would have appreciated the local and personal references with which he embellished their stock comic situations, including, perhaps, the political tension surrounding the French Angevin court at Naples where it is thought Robin et Marion was first performed in the late 1280s. They would probably also have been familiar with the tune of Robins m'aime, Marion's first song ([3]), and set by someone, if not by Adam himself, in a polyphonic version ([1], [25], [45]). The customary love-story, outlined in the track-listing, tells itself, but in Adam's version it is the shepherdess Marion who comes across as the strongest character, able both to fend off the Knight's unwelcome advances and to twist her fiancé Robin round her ring finger.

Much has changed in the last three-quarters of a millennium, but perhaps the most readily-felt areas of development, even for the aristocratic audience cultivated by Adam de la Halle, are in home improvement and home entertainment: we now take central heating and television for granted, whether or not we submit to their comforts. Performing Robin et Marion for a multi-cultural audience listening to a compact disc in the privacy of a car or living-room presents a number of challenges that were not present for the late 13th-century trouvère or troubadour. The original play as it survives is mostly (spoken) text with an uneven spread of simple, unaccompanied melodies. The text itself is recognizable as a cousin of modern French, but hard even for a native French speaker to follow in its entirety. The music is memorable but limited in range and without any written-down counterpoint or harmony. Our approach to the music has been to glean instrumental references from the story, and to accompany the melodies with as "live" and improvised a feel as possible. Our approach to the text has been from two angles: that of the single, professional narrator (initially probably Adam himself) employed to wile away long dark evenings huddled close to the fire; and that of a group of educated friends and members of the patron's household enjoying themselves immensely in the sending up of country folk, perhaps with the lord himself as the Knight or as Robin. For a modern audience used to assimilating information simultaneously from many different sources, this multilayered approach seems both legitimate and appropriate, but it is also possible to adjust dramatically the left-right balance of the stereo mix in order to listen to this recording in different ways: the "authentic" voice of the Narrator tells the story in the original French dialect to the left of the mix (stage-right), while the singers rattle off a modern-day English interpretation to the right of the mix (stage-left); in the middle and across the stereo mix are the songs, each tracked separately for convenience. The Narrator is heard close to, while the individual characters in their 21st-century English outfits inhabit a modern aristocratic hall with its wooden panelling and distant hounds.

As regards the pronunciation our Narrator, John Crook explains: "We will never know exactly what Adam le Bossu's French sounded like, particularly as the oldest manuscripts of the play are at least two stages from his original. The earliest are probably late thirteenth-century, from Picardy, and are thus close to Adam both in time and place; they contain several characteristics of northern French pronunciation (such as 'pour coi cheste canchon cantes' - modern 'pourquoi cette chanson [tu] chantes'). By the date of Robin et Marion spelling was beginning to become formalised and it is no longer safe to assume that all consonants were pronounced; furthermore, the pronunciation of diphthongs remains a matter of scholarly debate. In speaking the text I have attempted above all to be consistent; I hope at least that my rendering would have been comprehensible to an audience of Adam's day."

The Play of the Pilgrim (Li Jus du Pelerin) on which we have based our introductory tableau ([2]) refers specifically to Adam, and may be one of his literary self-references, a habit taken to the extreme by Machaut in his own "True Story", Le Voir Dit. Even if not written by Adam himself it seems to be intended as a prologue to his Robin et Marion, with one particularly testy character in common: Gautiers li Testus (Walter the Mule). Like the polyphonic motets and rondeaux which we have liberally interspersed throughout the drama, plainchant was part of the musical context within which Adam's audience would have interpreted the catchy tunes and earthy lyrics of Robin et Marion as a chance to let their hair down. In fact the plainchant and Adam's motets also provide a more serious reference back to an older musical tradition; in particular, the tonus peregrinus chant (in [2]) formed the basis for some of the very earliest notated polyphony in the 9th-century Scolica [Scholia] enchiriadis, while the motet De ma dame / Dieus / OMNES ([23]) is itself based on a fragment of the Viderunt omnes chant apotheosized by Léonin and Pérotin towards the end of the 12th century: these can both be heard on our recording of Sacred Music from Notre-Dame Cathedral (Naxos 8.557340).

Antony Pitts


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