L'Arlésienne by Georges Bizet
L'Arlésienne by Georges Bizet, composer of Carmen, consists of twenty-seven numbers as incidental music to the play of the same name by Alphonse Daudet. The play was based on a short story also by Daudet. Premiering in 1872, the play was not a success, but the music has lived on, in the form of two orchestral suites that are often played at Christmas time. The first theme is the March of the Kings (la Marche des rois), borrowed by Bizet from a much older Christmas carol that has been used by various composers through the ages. Those interested can find the English words to this carol here and the French lyrics here. The video above sets beautiful images of the Nativity against the familiar music.
Daudet's play about a girl from Arles also inspired the following video uploaded by someone who obviously appreciates the regional costumes of Provence and the elegant style of another era in the long and fruitful cultural life of France. The clothes are not only beautiful in themselves, but they enhance the woman, rather than degrading her. All the former provinces of France have their regional customs, including dress. What would they think of today's girls dressed in low-slung jeans, navel exposed and stiletto heels, clear signs of decadence, insolence and voluntary bad taste? (But a boon to podiatrists.)
And just a reminder that the same Daudet play/short story also inspired a fine ballet choreographed by the late Roland Petit, who died in July 2011. He remains one of France's great choreographers. Along with his wife, Zizi Jeanmaire, Roland Petit had great success in Hollywood as well as the ballet stages of the world.