(1919, op. 58), 'Fantasia' by Darius Milhaud
(English:The Ox on the Roof/The Nothing-Doing Bar)
The musical score of 'Le Boeuf sur la toit' was composed in 1919 by Milhaud,
after he returned from Brazil. Inspired by the South American musical life
he included several melodies of Brazilian origin, like tangoes, maxixes,
sambas, presented in turn with a faster and really catchy tune. The tune
recurrs between each pair of South American dance/song style.
Initially Milhaud thought the music was a good accompaniment to a Charles Chaplin (silent) movie, until his friend and playwright Jean Cocteau discovered the music and asked him to allow the choreographing of an absurd ballet. The ballet/play premiered in 1920 and was an instant hit for both the composer and playwright.
The play/ballet takes place in an American bar during Prohibition. A variety of players are involved: a well dressed man and women, a boxer, a Negro dwarf, a women dressed as a man, a bookmaker, a barman and, later, a policeman.
Performers are required to act in slow motion (much slower than the tempo of the music might suggest) and wear masks three times facial size.
The pantomime/play/ballet opens with the bartender offering drinks to the players of a crap game. A fashionable lady picks up the dwarf and carries him, over her shoulder, into the adjoining billiard room.
Another women is propositioned by a boxer but a bookmaker intervenes and knocks him unconscious.
The bookmaker dances a tango before a policeman approaches, whistle in mouth. There is a brief commotion but the barman remains calm, transforming the bar, replacing the alcohol with milk.
While the clients and the policeman dance, the barman arranges for a large overhead fan to decapitate the man of the law, an event which causes little distress to the patrons as they continue about their business.
The bar thens begins to empty and, as he leaves, the dwarf refuses to pay his bill. The barman resurrects the policeman, replacing his head, and proceeds to present him with the costs of the evening.