Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Bernanos and Robinson: states of grace

The strange world of Georges Bernanos has enveloped me since I began City Lit Opera in Focus classes on Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmélites, a work I'm now more convinced than ever is one of the great 20th century masterpieces. It's already prompted the most probing conversations with the students on essential matters of life, terminal illness and faith; I look forward to seeing Robert Carsen's already celebrated production at the Royal Opera next week. The source is rather extraordinary, too, a swansong screenplay written by Bernanos in the last year of his life when he knew the end was near ('is it not high time to die when one is 59?' asks young, naive and yet startlingly assured Sister Constance).

It is, like his best-loved novel The Diary of a Country Priest, about fearing one 'should not know how to die when the time came', and about the fear of fear embodied in terrified Blanche, which takes us back further to the semi-factual novella on which the screenplay is based, Gertrud von Le Fort's The Last on the Scaffold. I found it in a funny religious imprint by The Neumann Press, Long Prairie, Minnesota translated as The Song at the Scaffold (another rather lurid church publication illustrated below).

The 'song' of course is the Salve Regina which the nuns intone as they face the guillotine, the voices cutting off one by one at the swish and thud of the blade in perhaps the most shattering conclusion to any opera. And they did so in truth, along with the Veni, Creator Spiritus, in July 1794, as recorded by Mother Marie of the Incarnation, who happened to be in Paris on business when her sisters at Compiègne were arrested, and who lived on (until 1836) to tell the tale. Blanche, the protagonist, is a fictional creation, the embodiment of that fear which fascinated and to a certain extent afflicted Bernanos all his life.

His approach to it is also foreshadowed in von Le Fort's book, written in 1931 at a time when the author must have sensed another forthcoming cataclysm in her own country (she was persecuted by the Nazis and driven to Oberstdorf on the Austrian border). Into Sister Marie's mouth she puts the rhetorical question: 'Must fear and horror always be evil? Is it not possible that they may be deeper than courage, corresponding much more closely to the reality of things - the terrors of the world and especially our own weakness?' In religious terms, it's paralleled with Christ's agony - hence Blanche's appellation 'of the Agony of Christ', a title we learn the first Prioress also took - and clearly outlined in her assertion that 'there has never been more than one morning, Easter Day and every night is that of the Blessed Agony'.

You think I'm going all Catholic?* Well, all I can say is that Bernanos's grasp of the dark side of human nature is what makes his books so compelling and real. His characters pass through depression, the valley of the shadow of death, spiritual crisis, call it what you will. The nameless country priest is so badly shaken that his dark night of the soul cannot be written about. He lacks confidence, and doesn't realise the good he does simply by talking to the tormented. He knows that 'man is always at enmity with himself- a secret, sly kind of hostility', a hostility which explodes in the slippery nightmare world of Monsieur Ouine, a troubling read as I'm currently experiencing it.

There, in the work he regarded highest of all among his novels, Bernanos throws at us in a slimy, stream-of-consciousness ooze suggestions of awful depravities. The worst in The Diary of a Country Priest is, its protagonist writes,

the sin against hope - the deadliest sin, and perhaps also the most cherished, the most indulged. It takes a long time to become aware of it, and the sadness which precedes and heralds its advent is so delicious! The richest of all the devil's elixirs,his ambrosia.

One of the priest's worst moments is 'a mad rush of thoughts, words, images. In my soul, nothing. God is silent. Silence.' The link with Bergman, and above all with Winter Light, is striking (the wonderful Gunnar Björnstrand pictured below).

No wonder that Robert Bresson, another great filmmaker, was inspired by Bernanos to make Mouchette as well as the Diary (time I saw this again).

These great artists penetrate the darkest corners of the human psyche. By the way, the French film that eventually resulted from Dialogues used very little of Bernanos's script. Still, to judge from the cover of the book illustrated up top, it stars Jeanne Moreau, always worth seeing. Unfortunately the movie doesn't seem to be available on DVD at the moment.

In the cold light of Bernanos's biography - and I picked up an excellent one second-hand by Robert Speaight, whose Shakespeare study is one of my bibles - he shouldn't have anything to offer me. He started his career as a deeply conservative Catholic, anti-semitic and far too allied with the Action Française. Already, in 1926, he was tortured by his own 'grim lucidity': 'I am between the Angel of light and the Angel of darkness, looking at them each in turn with the same enraged hunger for the absolute'. His polemic could be egotistical, his satire overloaded, and that remained true even when, having stuck out the war in exile, he returned to France and railed against its post-1945 compromises. But in an important way he also became free, almost an anarchist at times.

Despair and disgust were never far away; they are partly what make his writing so powerful. His own death was almost as painful as that of the first Prioress in the Dialogues - a scene which would surely have given the Catholic church a few qualms. When Poulenc took up the thread, he gave it an extra dimension, a real spirituality similarly disrupted by doubt and pain. The human condition is at its most intense in both screenplay and opera.

A more poised, sparely-worded compassion for the soul's dark night and the possibility of grace irradiate the extraordinary novels of Marilynne Robinson.

Gilead is the book everyone urges you to read, but I'd insist that it has to be accompanied by the situation seen from a different perspective in Home. I only hope that when the time comes to turn these books into a film, it will be a long two-parter - the first seen from the Rev John Ames's viewpoint as he tries to explain it to his son, the second from Glory Boughton's. It would be invidious to declare which is the greater book; if, simply as a matter of personal taste, I prefer Home, it's because the very nature of Gilead is the narrative of a good but emotionally circumscribed man's attempt to put his deeper feelings into words and grapple with the unfamiliar devil of jealousy, while Home goes to the piercingly human heart of the damaged soul who is the real, and infinitely fascinating, subject of both books, the prodigal Jack Boughton.

Home embodies its piercing truths in dialogue and situation; Gilead gives us a few more excerptable reflections. There are several that bring us full circle to the preoccupations of Bernanos. One is this:

The history of the chuch is very complex, very mingled. I want you to know how aware I am of that fact. These days there are so many people who think loyalty to religion is benighted, if it is not worse than benighted. I am aware of that, and I know the charges that can be brought against churches are powerful. And I know, too, that my own experience of the church has been, in many senses, sheltered and parochial. In every sense, unless it really is a universal and transcendent life, unless the bread is the bread and the cup is the cup everywhere, in all circumstances, and it is a time with the Lord in Gethsemane that comes for everyone, as I deeply believe.

The second is when Jack asks Ames if he believes some people are predestined to perdition. What does he reply to people who ask him about it?

'I tell them there are certain attributes our faith assigns to God: omniscience, omnipotence, justice, and grace. We human beings have such a slight acquaintance with power and knowledge, so little conception of justice, and so slight a capacity for grace, that the workings of these great attributes together is a mystery we cannot hope to penetrate.'

Jack remains unsatisfied with the answers. But moments of grace towards the ends of both novels brought tears to my eyes. As in Bernanos, there are no simple, glib solutions to the agony of life, but some hope remains in the bottom of Pandora's jar.

*On reading which, the diplo-mate wryly pointed me in this horrifying direction.


Claire Suthren said...

To move from what has moved you to what may not have done - your thoughts on The Thebans? Since this takes three plays by the deep-thinking Sophocles, each of which becomes one act, surely the opera would investigate the agonising dilemmas which are at the heart of the first two in particular. Opera should be a superb medium for this - instead of which, the team of librettist Frank McGuinness and composer Julian Anderson have reduced everything to a narrative, which trivialises the enterprise from the word go. Presumably this was due to forcing three entirely separate plays, written at very different times with discontinuity of character portrayal, sequence of events and time-scale intended, into a 'whole'. They would have done better not to use the Sophoclean frameworks at all. Havoc played with the order of each painful discovery in The Oedipus? The Antigone dispensed with in twenty minutes? With only fleeting reference to the clash between our deepest instincts of what is just, and laws created to maintain social order. It made me marvel anew at Sophocles' consummate skill, and gape in disbelief at the naivety of this reworking. The music was enjoyable within the limitations and I appreciated the individual singers - but how much more scope they could have had!

David said...

Thanks, Claire - this picks up on where Howard and I left off on the last thread. We're talking about Julian Anderson's new opera at ENO. I was about to go, I wanted to know what you thought. And of course I agree with the basic non-starter nature of the work. More seriously, I'd ask what it WAS trying to say, because there seemed to be no real communication going on at all except at a level of orchestral colours. No humanity, which should be possible even with archetypes, no bold ideas, no distinction in the vocal writing for the different characters - a declamatory yelping which the singers, and the chorus, negotiated with remarkable if wasted skill and dedication, and that goes for Gardner and the ENO Orchestra too - no dramatic line through each act, no interesting direction to speak of. And when you think Anderson had Stravinsky breathing down his neck throughout the first drama, and came up with NO interesting alternatives, it makes you want to tear your hair out.

In other words, a pointless exercise which said nothing to me. Dismal to work on it knowing it's destined for the scrapheap almost immediately. Whereas the Carmelites...

Howard Lane said...

A less ambitious project might have served a first opera better. Creating a dramatic whole which was more than the sum of its parts would have been an achievement indeed, and the libretto was so bland and prosaic it didn't help the less than musical vocal writing at all.

But I think we had a more positive experience than you did. There were moments of drama in the score that stood out for me, and I liked the "night music" and animal sounds at the start of Act 3, some of them emulating electronics with a purely acoustic orchestra, interestingly. And impressive performances, sets and lighting effects.

Not knowing much more than the central story of Oedipus, summarised so well by Tom Lehrer, I appreciated and learnt from the narrative, even if the resequencing of events served little purpose, but I did feel quite short-changed after Act 1. Did he not have enough material, or ran out of time to complete it? As Claire pointed out the character of Antigone's sister was omitted completely, in a work short on female roles.

We both had reasons for going - Claire to check out its classical credentials, me to check out Julia Sporsen and continue my education - and didn't regret having a night at the opera. But we came away with little thought being provoked, other than how it could have been so much better...

Susan Scheid said...

You've created here another extraordinary--and disturbing--trail to follow. I remember well our stunned reaction when J and I first heard the Salve Regina (on a recording). Your description of Bernano, the man, reminds me of something a poet-friend once said about a poet with an unsavory personal resume: sometimes the poetry is greater than the man.

Nicholas Spence said...

You've been to immense lengths to comment on Carmelites and Bernanos, and from there into all sorts of realms where I have never trodden, but I am not sure what comment I can make in return.

Unlike you I found Thebans a very interesting work and I agree with Howard's comments on the very atmospheric music at the start of Act 3. But then I lack your theoretical knowledge and in spite of ?how many years of Opera in Focus, I realise that I take my operas at a rather lower level of sophistication than you do. Thebans may never be resurrected into a second production, like so many contemporary operas, but I enjoyed it as an evening and was glad I saw it. (Mind you whenever I consult my Oxford Dictionary of Music to look up some older composer the list of their works often includes a large number of operas which never appear to be staged today, so there is precedent.)

We went to Carmelites on Monday and I thought the singing and acting was very good. But there were certain aspects of the production which didn't work for me. The one which surprised me most is that I didn't weep as much at the death of the old prioress as I did in the classroom. Which is odd given that the production is the same and Polaski seemed fully in command of her role. But my main criticisms are for the final scenes. Had I not known that we had moved from the Nunnery back to the La Force house for the penultimate scene I would have been very confused, but I suppose that is one of the penalties of a production with virtually no props.

My real gripe was the last scene of all which I thought failed miserably. Yes, I appreciated the symmetry of the habits on the floor at the very beginning, with the dead nuns at the very end but I felt otherwise very short changed. Musically the build up is wonderful with the splendid 'March to the Scaffold' and the 'Salve Regina' being sung 'Farewell Symphony' style but the stage action didn't stir me nearly as much as it did in the old ENO production or the more recent one by the Guildhall students. And I think that at the end the stage should have been completely bare. I wonder how the others felt. Roll on Monday week!

David said...

Yes, Howard, I grant the ambition of some of the orchestral effects - but I still wouldn't elevate them to the status of ideas. The Antigone strand seemed pointlessly telegraphic - I was actually intrigued to see what 20 minutes on the subject might be, but drew a total blank on structure and meaning. And you remind me that I didn't even get started on the awful banality of the text - I knew what we were in for when the chorus sang 'Women give birth to buckets of blood' minutes in.

Sue - Bernanos is a very complex genius; now that I've finished Monsieur Ouine, one of the most disturbing novels I've ever read and slippery as an eel. The final couple of chapters crown the work.

Nick - I'll be interested to see how the Carsen works live. I take on board some objections to the constant presence of the crowd, defusing the intimacy. We'll see. More concerned that I might not get to Cellini as I'm in Berlin tonight when the opening takes place.

David Damant said...

If the Christian religion is not true, said Jung, it must be psycologically valid ( to have succeeded)

Howard Lane said...

And mythologically true according to another Christian philosopher C S Lewis, although such psychologogy and rationalism were anathema to him. Even if his "Cosmic Trilogy" takes that a bit too literally for me.

Bernanos is a new name to me and a great find, I hope. I am intrigued and will seek him out presently, partly because I was immediately reminded of "A Country Doctor", a short story by Kafka, a contemporary of Bernanos although he died some 25 years earlier. With Kafka's chaotic publication history it's unlikely Bernanos would have been aware of this work, or any others, but writers create their own precursors as Borges said.

I won't get to Carmelites, but will be seeing the Cellini broadcast, which is on again on the Beeb later this month.

David said...

Greetings from the sweltering heat of Dresden - a perfect summer city, if one must be in one, for its abundance of green and the seasonal open-air life along the beautiful banks of the Elbe.

The psychological validity in Bernanos's case is especially fascinating because the path to any kind of heaven is fraught with deadly obstacles, ambiguities and ambitions. His basic message is one I hope we all aspire to: to do good for others, and to try and conquer our manifold terrors even if we don't succeed. There's nothing pious in these books, even if I find it so in some of his polemics which are less appealing.

wanderer said...

Dresden swelters? I know a grassy sandy (right) bank perfect for summer's evenings.

I'll have to leave Robinson for another time. Like Fallada before, your introduction to Bernanos has gripped me, with that extraordinary statement: " I am between the Angel of Light and the Angel of darkness looking at them each in turn with the same enraged hunger for the absolute". I question the need for the word 'between' preferring I am one or the other; there is no in between.

I read that at the site of those dead babies bones there is now a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary (gratuitous capitals). Now there's a starting point for a discussion of myth, psychology and truth. What sick female sexuality joke is that. Philomena forgave. That I could be so advanced.

David said...

You remember the scene, wanderer - this year it's just quite a few degrees hotter (the hottest Pfingsten on record, apparently), but seeking out the shade of the limes to hear the Kreuzchor extol nachtigallen et all at Pillnitz and to drink beer (or Appelschollen) at the Biergarten under the bridge, the next best thing to the sandy bank from which people paddled, were two great pleasures.

So much more to see, and so it will remain as the programme was tightly packed. J has been in Sheffield, but before you say 'poor him', he did get to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. So good to see Derek as well as Debbie on their home turf. And the Berlin Phil redeemed itself this time.

Bernanos is your kind of writer - Country Priest for starters, maybe, but Monsieur Ouine is such a gripping saga of a village going mad. I realised at the climactic funeral scene, pure theatre of the absurd, that it was modelled on Dostoyevsky's The Devils/Possessed, one of my favourite books.

Philomena? You mean the Greek one who had her tongue cut out? Blush to say I don't know the story of the saint. And your last sentence?

wanderer said...

I well remember, oh I remember.

Another saint, St Judy; that saint.

Books ordered.

David said...

Duh (slaps forehead) - THAT Philomena, of course. I have yet to see the film, imagining it doesn't need to be caught on the big screen. A movie that will please both my mother and us. And while on the movie theme, let's not forget two other saints - Derek and Harvey (Milk - I picked up an alternative icon of him sainted in San Fran).

Still don't get your last line?

Geo. said...

We're about to get Dialogues of the Carmelites at Opera Theatre of St. Louis next week, for the first time in the company's history, sung in English, as usual with OTSL. I did a fair bit of research for OTSL into the literary trail behind the opera, including reading the English translation of Gertrud von Le Fort, which I found, IMHNCO (NC = non-Catholic), to be awful, heavy-handed and jaw-droppingly reactionary, with the narrative voice of M. de Villeroi (who doesn't feature in Bernanos or Poulenc, for extremely good reason) a perfect illustration of why the French Revolution occurred. (William Bush, a religious scholar who has written much about the 16 Carmelite nuns, is jaw-droppingly reactionary in his own way, but that's another story.) Given a choice between reading von Le Fort or Bernanos, it's no contest: take Bernanos.

There's also a good commentary by Garry Wills about Poulenc's opera, in the context of the 1977 John Dexter production from the Met. Wills actually had some tough criticism of that production, but the Dexter is considered pretty much the classic production of Dialogues of the Carmelites of the modern era. Peter Gelb made a stupendous mistake in not HD-ing the Saturday matinee of the final run of the Dexter production several years back.

I'm trying to catch the ROH production off iPlayer before the one-week deadline. So far, what I've heard, namely Part I, sounds quite good. Granted, I would never associate Simon Rattle with the music of Poulenc, but life can be full of surprises.

David said...

Can't quite agree with you on either Gertie or Dexter, Geo. GVLF can be heavy-handed, but sometimes as penetrating as Bernanos - and, yes, Bernanos is superior, but no Last to the Scaffold, no Dialogues as either screenplay or opera. And it is interesting that both GVLF and Bernanos were writing from German and French perspectives at different troubled times.

As for camp Dexter, I've not seen his production but having been to the Carsen at the Royal Opera last night and treasured it for some years now on the Scala DVD, I insist his is the one. The groupings and the body language are especially extraordinary in the prison scene, where last night Emma Bell as Madame Lidoine moved me to tears as much as Polaski's Mme de Croissy and Sally Matthews's Blanche (though Silja and Schellenberger are even better on the DVD). I think it's the right score for Rattle's micromanagement, one of the best things I've heard him do. But more of this in due course. Good to hear from you after so long.

David Damant said...

What was the reason for the French Revolution illustrated by M de Villeroi's voice, or the translation of von Le Fort( all these aristocrats!) ?

In St Louis I once drank 17 dry martinis in an evening.Admittedly on the rocks. What a place!

David said...

Nothing clear - the novel is barely more concerned with the background than the screenplay or the opera. But in his opening address, M. de Villeroi addresses his friend thus:

'Dear disciple of Rousseau! As always, I admire your cheerful and exalted faith in the indestructible nobility of natural man, even when mankind is tasting most desolate failure. But chaos is natural too, my friend, and so are the executioners of your heroines, and the brute in man - and even fear and terror'.

GvlF's depiction of the revolutionares is certainly less nuanced than Bernanos's in one of his most striking scenes (not included in the opera).

Susan Scheid said...

Totally off-point here, but I have yet another reason to thank you for the introduction some time past to the music of Mieczyslaw Weinberg. I've made a point (hard to do given the short availability to listen over here) of listening to the entire Composer of the Week recently presented on him, which introduced me to yet more of his music, one great piece after another—though I was very surprised that MacLeod had never heard of him. I don't know when or if I'll ever catch up, but I pulled together a list of everything mentioned in the broadcasts, and of course I do have the Kremerata Baltica double CD set. What a fine composer! I'm glad to see there appears to be continually growing interest in his work now, at least.

David said...

Well, it's not all great, of course, and even some of the best works IMO have tawdry or derivative bits in them. I still couldn't tell you exactly what I think 'the Weinberg style' is. But he was generously gifted, to be sure. And you remind me how thankless I am not to have sat down with the Kremerata Baltica set and listened properly. I shall.

Didn't I see that The Passenger is being done in New York (in Pountney's production, I think)?

Susan Scheid said...

No, not all great, and, yes, a great debt to Shostakovich, greater than I think the commentator was willing to admit--but much that is marvelous. I can well imagine it's hard to get to yet another CD in what I suspect is a never-ending stack (please pardon for adding a bit to it!). I do think the Kremerata CDs are terrific--not every piece is equal, but it seems a good survey of Weinberg's, and beautifully performed.

Geo. said...

Thanks for the welcome back. I guess we agree to disagree on GvLF, although I admit that The Song at the Scaffold (the English mistranslation of the original title, itself indicative of matters) is the only work of hers that I've read. Perhaps other works of hers are much better literature, but it's just that this one left me with such a sour taste.

That impression of mine ties to DD's question about M. de Villeroi in the novella. While I don't have a copy in front of me, my memory is that pretty much every page of the novella positively drips with M. de Villeroi's attitude of utter contempt for and condescension towards the poor, the "lower classes", the mob, in general. You have to read it to get it, but honestly, there's so much infinitely better literature to read.

Back to DN: for sure, no GvLF, no Bernanos (by way of Raymond Bruckberger), which is here certainly a case of two silk purses (Bernanos and Poulenc) coming out of a sow's ear. I probably should have been a little clearer on the Dexter production at the Met. It lasted something like 35 years there, and was probably the most famous production of the opera in the US during all that time. It even made it to PBS television back in something like the 1980's, with Maria Ewing as Blanche and Betsy Norden as Constance, among others (I think Regine Crespin was in the cast as well). I don't necessarily claim that it's the be-all and end-all of productions of Dialogues of the Carmelites, but simply that it's the only one of which I have some memory. I think that you'd really find the Garry Wills commentary of interest, as he pointedly criticizes several aspects of the Dexter production, such as removing the differentiation between the convent and secular environments, when he uses a raked cruciform as the basis of the entire set.

One other aspect of the final incarnation of the Dexter production at the Met was that it was the first time the Met had presented it in the original French, rather than in English. All the more disappointing that Gelb dropped the ball, big time, and didn't capture it for HD and posterity.

I have not seen the Carsen production, although I understand that video clips exist on a certain website. So I'll reserve judgement there. But just from hearing Rattle at work, things do really sound good.

Here for the OTSL production, we've assembled quite a cast, by our standards, in terms of the popularity of several of the lead roles and singers in the company's history, e.g. Kelly Kaduce (Blanche), Ashley Emerson (Constance), Meredith Arwady (Mme. de Croissey), and Christine Brewer (Mme. Lidoine). Apparently the Poulenc is the most-requested opera at OTSL that OTSL has not yet done, since 1976. (I'm waiting for them to stage The Rake's Progress.) Definitely something to look forward to next week.

BTW, The Passenger is also being staged in repertory at Lyric Opera of Chicago next season, a polyglot production, unlike the English-language production at Houston Grand Opera this past season (the same production, actually, that will be at Lyric).

David said...

I still beg to differ on the calibre of The Last to/The Song at the Scaffold. It's no masterpiece, but I didn't notice the consistent contempt you found.

Of those singers, I know only the names of Kelly Kaduce and Christine Brewer - what a Mme Lidoine she would make. Can't wait to see Schwanewilms in the role on a Lehnhoff production just delivered on DVD. Shame there's no recording of Sutherland in the 1950s at Covent Garden. We had Emma Bell - strange voice production, wonderful presence, great Leonore earlier in a compromised ENO Fidelio. I think her phrases in a stunningly lit and directed prison scene were the most sob-inducing things in a harrowing evening, matched only by some of Polaski's delivery and of course the final scene. Carsen's production at La Scala is on DVD - you must get it, if only for Silja's Mme de Croissy and Schellenberger's lacerating Blanche.

wanderer said...

There's Sutherland in the 80s here. Bloody amazing; I heard her. Another Joan altogether.

Geo. said...

Well, as I said, we agree to disagree on GvlF, so to quote Joseph II from Amadeus, 'well, there it is'. The Post-Dispatch has some articles in the run up to the first night of the Poulenc this Wednesday. Not sure if embedded links work here, but here is one article and this is the other.

It seems that every few years or so, one singer emerges whom OTSL particularly tries to groom as the Next Big Thing. Starting about 10 years ago, Kelly Kaduce was one of those singers. Currently, I would put Ashley Emerson and Corinne Winters (the latter as Teresa in ENO's Benvenuto Cellini currently) in that category. OTSL itself and OTSL audiences love KK unreservedly. The same applies to Christine Brewer, a local gal (Lebanon, Illinois) made good in opera-land.

David said...

Mon dieu, wanderer, I had no idea Joanie sang Mme Lidoine in the 1980s too. The power and beauty of the voice just make one want to weep instantly. Sure the words up top are unclear, but it's committed, no doubt. Fascinating in the comments to read that Poulenc reacted to her part in the 1950s Covent Garden premiere, and gave her an extra top note: did they meet? Unlikeliest wonder...

And what a shame she didn't go out singing the Empress for Solti's Die Frau ohne Schatten, and stuck to coloratura roles when she could only do the recits (and how).

Geo., I should have pointed out another virtue of GvlF is that she quotes from Mere Marie's Relation, an important source I haven't been able to find elsewhere.

Corinne Winters was a revelatory Violetta at ENO, but somehow her Teresa didn't press any emotional buttons for me, though it was well sung. Maybe blame Gilliam's lack of personenregie (and the bad blonde wig)?

Above all, thank you for those links. The first had me on the edge of tears (again; last night's class did the same. We're still not quite at the end and Ariadne, the other of this term's operas, will get short shrift, but this is too absorbing). The remarks of Kaduce and Brewer show the extraordinary pull of this unique work, and the final comment - fear is familiar but faith is quiet - rounds it off beautifully.

wanderer said...

I don't think Joan eve sang one note of Strauss though the line would have suited. Ricky I suppose.