Wherever Pauline Viardot stayed for any length of time — whether in Paris, Baden-Baden or on her country estate at the Château de Courtavenel in Rozay-en-Brie — she invariably created what her biographer Beatrix Borchard has called ‘an alternative to the public operatic and concert industry’. She kept a salon and held matinees, concerts and opera performances in her own garden theatre, with the result that these events very quickly became musical highlights in the social life of the places in question. Within this framework she was fond of performing her own compositions, ‘salon operettas’ written in close association with her companion in life, Ivan Turgenev, as well as Russian romances, French mélodies and German lieder. ‘Pauline Viardot quotes, parodies and imitates… Her aim was lightness, wit and vitality — music as the art of relating. Arguably the phrase that best characterizes her work as a composer is jeux d’esprit, a term that was coined to describe the party games held every evening in Viardot’s family circle and among her acquaintances.’ (Borchard)
Vivica Genaux likewise paints a playful and multilayered portrait of Pauline Viardot as a musician and presents a series of her compositions on French, Spanish, Italian, English, German and Russian texts in the manner of a musical anthology.