Héloïse Baldelli

The Performance Practice of Early Twentieth Century French Melodies: Researching and Performing Satie’s Three Last Song Cycles

University of Stavanger, Faculty of Performing Arts, Department of Classical Music

The previous century has seen a wave of experimentation, reflection and discussion about art hitting most disciplines, starting first and foremost with visual art. As pianist-researcher Mine Dogantan-Dack points out, classical music has been slow to join in. Although composers have certainly been experimenting with the musical language pushing it in various direction, classical music performance as an artistic practice has relatively stayed the same. In the area of vocal music, the traditional recital format with the singer performing in a fixed position by the piano is THE standard.

In my project I aim to challenge and explore alternatives to this traditional format. I start by researching the performance practice of Satie’s mélodies to then design three different performances using three different artistic methods and theoretic approaches. The first cycle, which was concluded in August 2022, is based on the approach known as historical informed performance (HIP) and presents only music by Satie, while the next ones will include also mélodies by his friends and collaborators Milhaud and Poulenc.

Satie’s mélodies are little known and seldom performed. They are also difficult to appreciate at first hearing, and my hypothesis is that this partly lies in the habit of performing them in the standard way of a chamber music recital. Investigating the original performance practice then became a way to rediscover other aspects of the music, beyond the dogmas of the score, and to find inspiration for creating a different mode of presenting classical vocal chamber music.

Héloïse Baldelli is a French-Italian lyric soprano. She has a master's degree in classical singing from the University of Stavanger, Norway and a specialization in opera from the University of TorVergata, Italy. She has interpreted roles such as Contessa in “Le Nozze di Figaro”, Juliet in “The Little Sweep”, Euridice in “L’Orfeo” and Cavaliere Armidoro in “La Cecchina”. She performs regularly as a soloist in Norway and abroad. Baldelli is currently a PhD candidate in artistic research at the University of Stavanger, Faculty of Performing Arts. Her project focuses on the historical performance practice of modernist French art songs as well as exploring alternatives to the standard art song recital. Prior to singing, Baldelli trained as a dancer at the Istituto Superiore di Danza in Italy.



As a PhD candidate, Héloïse is conducting her artistic research at the University of Stavanger, Department of Classical Music, since December 2020. Her project focuses on the performance practice of modernist French songs. She is particularly interested in the composer Satie and in how to infuse elements from other artistic disciplines into the performance tradition of his works.


Héloïse comes from two generations of artists, amongst which important representatives of the Italian modernist movement. Prior to becoming a singer, she was a dancer and a professional make-up artist and draws inspiration from these personal circumstances in her artistic practice.




Artistic Research Spring Forum 2024

3rd presentation

In this presentation I will briefly introduce my project and my first performance “En spasertur rundt Montmarte med Erik Satie” featuring cabaret and art songs by Satie. For further reading about the design process see my article recently published on PlaySpace (Baldelli, 2023): https://journals.uis.no/index.php/playspace/article/view/606

I will then discuss and show some documentation from my second performance “En stol, en sigarett og bein” that premiered on the 14th of November 2023. This time I focused on three songs cycles by Poulenc, composed in the thirties soon after Satie’s death: Banalités, Cinq poèmes de Max Jakob and Miroirs brûlants. The younger composer was for a period Satie’s friend and mentee, and part of his musical circle “Les nouveaux jeunes”. Poulenc very often drew his material from contemporary poets with ties to the surrealism movement and this performance focused specifically on how to make the French surrealist texts accessible to the audience. I explored how using other artistic media such as movements/dance and poetry reciting can contribute to communicate songs written almost a century ago to a contemporary Norwegian audience.

Subsequently I will share my plans for the third performance which I am creating now. This will feature songs by the two other composers that belonged to “Les nouveaux jeunes” and were also inspired by Satie: Milhaud and Auric. They both extensively wrote music, including songs, for theatre and cinema and in this third performance I plan to delve into the use of dramaturgy, staging and audience participation.

Finally, I will present my thoughts about the final artistic result and the reflection.


Artistic Research Spring Forum 2023

2nd presentation

HIP as a Creative Tool for Performance Design: Singing Satie’s Vocal Music


In the presentation at ARF spring 2023 I retrace my use of HIP as a creative tool for designing performances of classical music. I will show some documentation from the performance and discuss the performative choices the use of HIP led me to and the results they produced.


Finally, I will introduce my thoughts for the second cycle of performances. This time I will focus on three mélodie cycles by Poulenc: BanalitésTel jour, telle nuit and Cinq poèmes de Max Jakob. The younger composer was for a period Satie’s friend and mentee, and part of his musical circle “Les nouveaux jeunes”. In this performance I will use dance and theatre (in particular monologue) as methods to investigate different layers of the compositions, almost with a cubist approach. Each mélodie will be presented three times: as a monologue, as a dance and as a song.