FRANCIS POULENC, French composer was born (d. 1963); Poulenc was one of the first out Gay composers. His first serious relationship was with painter Richard Chanlaire to whom he dedicated his Concert champêtre: “You have changed my life, you are the sunshine of my thirty years, a reason for living and working.” He also once said, “You know that I am as sincere in my faith, without any messianic screamings, as I am in my Parisian sexuality.”
Poulenc also had a number of relationships with women. He fathered a daughter, Marie-Ange, although he never formally admitted that he was indeed her father. He was also a very close friend of the singer Pierre bernac for whom he wrote many songs; some sources have hinted that this long friendship had sexual undertones; however, the now-published correspondence between the two men strongly suggests that this was not the case.
Poulenc was profoundly affected by the death of friends. First came the death of the young woman he had hoped to marry, Raymonde Linossier. While Poulenc admitted to having no sexual interest in Linossier, they had been lifelong friends. Then, in 1923 he was “unable to do anything” for two days after the death from typhoid fever of his 20-year old friend, novelist Raymond Radiguet. However, two weeks later he had moved on, joking to Sergei Diaghilev at the rehearsals he was unable to leave, about helping a dancer “warm up.”
In 1936, Poulenc was profoundly affected by the death of another composer, Pierre-Octave Ferroud, who was decapitated in an automobile accident in Hungary. This led him to his first visit to the shrine of the Black Virgin of Rocamadour. Here, before the statue of the Madonna with a young child on her lap, Poulenc experienced a life-changing transformation. Thereafter his work took on more religious themes, beginning with the Litanies à la vierge noire (1936). In 1949, Poulenc experienced the death of another friend, the artist Christian Bérard, for whom he composed his Stabat Mater (1950). Other sacred works from this period include the Mass in G (1937), Gloria (1959), and Sept répons des ténèbres (1961–62).
Poulenc’s most enduring work has been his opera Dialogues of the Carmelites, still done all over the country, including the Met. It is also one of the very few operas where all the main roles are done by women, and it certainly is an indicator of Poulenc’s very strong Catholic feelings.