With choking sadness after a brutal week of perhaps too much Americana we learn of the death of singer/composer Michael Legrand (1932 – 2019) whose sweet-yet-dolorous songs we have found so enchanting. We floated on his ethereal music in the operatic movie-musicals Les parapluies de Cherbourg and Les demoiselles de Rochefort. And then his great, ghostly “Les moulins de mon coeur,” with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, from The Thomas Crown Affair. It’s an epic song; c’est un chef d’ouevre.
When George Chakiris and I attended Ballet Hamburg’s wonderful “Liliom” choreographed by John Neumeier, Michel Legrand who contributed the score to the ballet was in the audience. The reunion in the rows of the Segerstrom Hall of these two men is a sight I shall never forget, a moment of great joy and an electric memory of youth shared by two older gentlemen. Legrand, accompanied by Jacques Demy, visited George at his home to pitch his appearance in Les Demoiselles de Rochefort. They also pursued, and got, Gene Kelly, and I love him in the movie. Against the advice of his agent, George joined the cast. Our friend Grover Dale is also in Les Demoiselles de Rochefort. Now in perpetuity, their marvelous dancing is in “Les Demoiselles” forevermore; sadly, it is George’s only feature-film dancing after West Side Story.