The two ballets on this disc represent Jean Francaix at his most humorous. This is the third disc in the series of Jean Francaix's orchestral music and once again demonstrates his ability to express musical ideas with wit and precision.
The ballet Le roi nu (The Naked King) was based on Hans Christian Anderson's The Emperor's New Clothes and was premiered in 1936 at the Paris Opera Ballet with Serge Lifar doing the corrriagraphy and dancing the role of the king. The ballet has been considered as Lifar's greatest achievement. The music is well-suited to the subject, colorful and expressive. The music tells the story perfectly, down to the laughter when the king, believing himself to be dressed to perfection, is found to be naked by the members of the court.
The other ballet on this disc, Les demoiselles de la nuit (The Ladies of the Night), is termed a ballet for cats in two scenes and was premiered in 1948. The action concerns several cats that mimic human behavior. The chief male cat named Baron de Grotius intends to wed a beautiful white kitten named Agathe; but she is in love with a human violinist. The marriage to the Baron takes place, provided with a nicely written procession and ceremony music. However, through her love of the violinist, Agathe becomes human herself but keeps falling back into her feline ways - most notably when she kills a bird. Agathe also has problems preventing herself from joining the nocturnal cavorting of her cat companions; the cats are chased by the violinist who falls to his death. The ballet ends with Agathe curling up next to the body of the violinist to show her devotion. Agathe was danced at the premiere by a young Margot Fonteyn. The ballet is evocative of moon-lit nights - a nocturne opens (and also closes) the first scene. The dances are playful and romantic with a touch of feline stylization to the melodies that nicely describe the cat's world in music.
Jean Francaix was truly in his element when writing his ballets. The dances are colorful and beautifully orchestrated. This is a pleasant disc that anyone interested in French music will want to have.