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Video: Copyright expires for French classic ‘Bolero’

Philippe Huguen, AFP file picture |Dancers of the "Bejart Ballet Lausanne" perform the Bolero in Lille, on November 26, 2004

Almost 90 years after it was first performed in Paris, the copyright on Sunday expired for one of the world’s most popular and unique pieces of classical music, Maurice Ravel’s "Bolero".


"We are accustomed to say that a performance of Bolero begins every 10 minutes in the world. As the work lasts 17 minutes, it is therefore playing at all times somewhere," Laurent Petitgirard of France's Society of Authors, Composers and Music Publishers (SACEM) told AFP.

"And it is likely that we will hear it even more now, in advertisements or in films."

Written in 1928 and performed on November 22 of that year at Paris' Opéra Garnier, the symphonic work, which grows steadily louder as it progresses, was originally a ballet piece ordered by Russian dancer Ida Rubinstein, a friend and sponsor of the French composer.

Immediately hailed by critics, it quickly became a worldwide success, even if the uniform melody and hypnotic, repetitive rhythm left some baffled.

By some estimates Bolero has generated around €50 million ($57 million) in royalties since 1960, part of more than 400 million for all of Ravel's works.

Ravel died unmarried and childless in 1937.

His only heir was his brother Edouard, who died in 1960, unleashing a bitter and complex legal battle over the rights which at times has involved Edouard's nurse and her husband, great-nephews and even a legal director of SACEM.

But on Sunday, the royalties ceased to be paid as Bolero entered the public domain -- and belonging to the world.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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