Page 1

Les Carmélites THE KNOWLEDGE BOX

G�GE P�K OPERA


• Dear Reader France was not the place to be. The Revolution was raging around our Benedictine monastery in Cambrai. On Friday 18 October 1793 a body of Horse Guards arrived at the door of the monastery. The nuns - we numbered 21 at the time - were given orders to be out of the house ‘in half a quarter of an hour’, and a brutish ruffian ran hither and thither brandishing a club to despatch them with even greater speed. Trunk or box were forbidden: each was allowed to makes up but one small bundle. You can imagine the scene of chaos: clothes were in the wash, bread in the ovens. In the end many took only worthless items. They were led out to open carts which were surrounded by jeering crowds and Hussars with naked swords and began a dreadful five day journey to Compiegne where they were imprisoned in what had been formerly a convent. What followed was eighteen months of terrible deprivation, hardship and serious illness. Four of the community died in prison as did our Chaplain.


Then a community of Carmelite nuns dressed in lay clothes arrived at the prison and daily offered themselves as victims for the restoration of peace to France and the Church. After six weeks the Carmelites were given permission to change into their habits so they could wash their lay clothes. At this moment they were seized and taken off to Paris where they were guillotined. A few days later our Benedectine sisters were ordered to remove their habits. We had no money to buy clothes so our jailers gave us the Carmelites’ clothes. They obtained passports and returned to England: sixteen nuns, starved and prematurely aged, not even owning the clothes they wore. It was the sacrifice of these Carmelite nuns on the guillotine that was beginning of Stanbrook Abbey.

Mother Abbess ÂŹ Stanbrook Abbey


Then a community of Carmelite nuns dressed in lay clothes arrived at the prison and daily offered themselves as victims for the restoration of peace to France and the Church. After six weeks the Carmelites were given permission to change into their habits so they could wash their lay clothes. At this moment they were seized and taken off to Paris where they were guillotined. A few days later our Benedectine sisters were ordered to remove their habits. We had no money to buy clothes so our jailers gave us the Carmelites’ clothes. They obtained passports and returned to England: sixteen nuns, starved and prematurely aged, not even owning the clothes they wore. It was the sacrifice of these Carmelite nuns on the guillotine that was beginning of Stanbrook Abbey.

Mother Abbess ÂŹ Stanbrook Abbey


A KNOWLEDGE BOX TALK Wednesday 24 October 2012 at 7pm

Sister Elizabeth Obbard of Aylesford Priory, Kent in conversation with Joanna Lumley at The Carmelite Priory 41 Kensington Church Street London W8 introduced and hosted by Father Anthony Parsons (Father anthony will say mass at 6pm)

Tickets ÂŁ10 email: charlotte@grangeparkopera.co.uk or call 01962 737369

Aylesford Priory is an ancient religious house of the Order of Carmelites dating back to the 13th Century


• Poulenc & the Martyrs of Compiègne The sixteen Martyrs of Compiègne were members of the Carmel of Compiègne, mostly discalced (barefoot) Carmelite nuns, who under the Revolution refused to obey the order of the government demanding the suppression of their monastery. Condemned to death as traitors, they were guillotined on 17 July 1794. At the foot of the scaffold, the nuns jointly renewed their vows and began to chant the Veni Creator Spiritus, the hymn sung at the ceremony for the profession of vows. The novice of the community, Sister Constance, was the first to die. As she mounted the scaffold she chanted the psalm for daily entry into the house of God: O praise the Lord, all you nations… Her sisters joined her: …praise him, all you peoples! For his merciful kindness is ever more and more towards us; and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever. All singing, the lay Sisters went in turn to their deaths. Last came their new prioress, Mother Teresa of St. Augustine, singing alone. The discalced Carmelites were a mendicant order founded in 1593 by St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross, in their remolding of the Carmelite order. St Teresa’s famous and absorbing Autobiography dramatically illustrates the power which her spirituality had come to exert over her body. The section on the embarrassment of levitating in public, and the importance of having stout nuns on either side of one during prayer, to keep one on the ground, has mesmerized readers over the centuries. The deaths of the Carmelites of Compiègne provided Christians with a wonderful illustration of the power of faith, and the revolutionaries with a bitter and gnawing irritation. None could doubt the strength given the nuns by their regime of contemplative prayer. The Carmelites of Compiègne have excited much scholarly interest as well as novels and plays. The Relation, an account of the affair by Mère Marie de l’Incarnation de Dieu led to the beatification of the nuns in 1906, and inspired a German novella, Die Letzte am Schafott (The Last One to the Scaffold) by Gertrud von Le Fort - in the opera the heroine Blanche’s family name is de la Force. In turn, the French play by Georges Bernanos led to Brückberger and Agostini’s film (1960) and Poulenc’s opera, first performed at La Scala Milan in 1957. Inevitably the opera is concerned with one’s approach to death. Bernanos, who had


been wounded several times in the First World War and witnessed the battles of Verdun and the Somme, was in 1948 dying of cancer, aged 59, when he started work on his play. The line given to the charming novice, Constance, in the third scene of the first act, Mais quoi, à cinquante-neuf ans n’est-il pas grand temps de mourir? (But don’t you think that by fifty-nine it’s high time you died?), is one of many internal ironies in the text. Constance is speaking of the prioress, who is fifty-nine and on her death bed. The religious theme attracted Poulenc. Born in 1899, son of a Parisian pharmaceuticals magnate, he had been taught music by his pianist mother. A member of Les Six, he made his mark in the 20s as a composer of light-hearted diversions, neo-classically dry and ironic, like Les Biches or the Concert Champêtre. But he had always been emotionally vulnerable, and a visit to Rocamadour in 1936 overwhelmed him, and led to a profound consolidation of his Catholic faith. The intensity of the later choral works, like the Mass and the Stabat Mater, and his achievements as a major composer of mélodies (art songs) admirably qualified him to set Les Carmélites. Bernanos’ libretto is exquisitely written and Poulenc loved setting fine words. He said of his song settings: The musical adaptation of a poem ought to be an act of love and never a marriage of convenience. I have never been able to do without poetry. At a time when Boulez was writing Le marteau sans maître and Stockhausen his ‘punctual’ music, Poulenc found that his nuns wanted to sing tonally, in a continuous flowing cantilena springing from the style of his songs, and harking back in opera to his hero Mussorgsky or even to Monteverdi. Despite its late date, the music of Les Carmélites is much closer in style to Debussy’s Pelléas than to Schoenberg’s Moses und Aaron, or Berg’s Wozzeck. The work has few competitors as the great French opera of the mid-twentieth century. Using a huge orchestra (triple woodwind, four horns, two harps, piano, and one guillotine) with magical discretion, Poulenc develops the drama by means of about twenty leitmotifs, often harmonic progressions, to represent ideas or individuals, projected through music of great clarity and intensity, all the more powerful for being understated.


Poulenc to Doda Conrad Noizay, September 1953

“I am obnubilated (lovely word) by my Carmelites to such a point that I nearly called you Reverend Mother!!! This whole venture is making me completely crazy. I can think of nothing else, I live for nothing else . . . I believe I have found a very special atmosphere. Obviously, people won’t find it exactly amusing, but I think they will be deeply moved”


• One key scene is the third scene of the first act, between Blanche, the daughter of a marquis, who in fear of the Terror has taken refuge in the monastery, and Constance, the youngest of the nuns. Constance talks of her simple life in her country village, and the fun they had at her brother’s wedding. This reflects one constant theme of the opera, the contrast between the enclosed life of the monastery and the more open, but not necessarily more dangerous, life outside. The two nuns talk of the first prioress, who is dying, and this brings them, given the uncertainties of the times, to discussing their own attitudes to death. Constance suggests that they should substitute, if they could, their own ‘little lives’ for that of the prioress. The idea is one of several which takes flight in the opera, for the two young nuns soon see the prioress die of her illness, renouncing her God, in a terrible agony of remorse and doubt after an exemplary life, while they manage in the end to overcome their appalling fear of the guillotine, and go to their deaths without flinching, confident in their salvation. This is an exchange of a kind, but not the exchange originally envisaged by Constance. Poulenc suffered a severe breakdown in the course of writing the Carmelites. Always hypochondriac, he was deeply affected by Bernanos’ play. He persuaded himself he had stomach cancer, despite his doctors’ assurances to the contrary. Then his travelling-salesman boyfriend, Lucien Roubert, suggested they split up, with the result that poor Poulenc went into a serious decline and spent the latter part of 1954 in a clinic. Premiered in 1957, in Italian at La Scala in January, then in French in Paris the following June with a famous cast, including Denise Duval, Régine Crespin and Rita Gorr, Dialogues des Carmélites has rarely failed to overwhelm its audience with its clear and deeply-touching presentation of the heights to which the human spirit can aspire. A movement in the Catholic Church is pressing for the canonisation of the sixteen Martyrs of Compiègne.


Poulenc

“If it is a play about fear, it is also about grace and the transference of to the scaffold with an extraordinar calm at the heart of all mystical exp


and above all, in my opinion - a play f grace. That is why my Carmelites go ry calm and faith. For are not faith and perience?�


. . . Francis Poulenc 1899-1963 from his letters & diaries

1916 Paris “When I saw him coming through the door, I thought it was God Himself arriving”. The 17–year–old Poulenc’s first meeting with Stravinsky

1917 Father dies. His mother had died in 1915; composes Rapsodie Nègre, became an overnight sensation in France; drafted into the army; forgoes all plans for formal study

1918 May Confined to guardhouse for overstaying his leave in Paris. This happened several times. “It is by real sleight of hand that I have been able to send you this pneu” 1922 April “I remember a strange luncheon at my home during which Bartok and Satie met for the first and last time. The date is particularly fixed in my mind as they both dedicated certain works to me on that day”

1934 June, Salzburg Pierre Bernac, baritone, writes “A certain [rich] American woman had the excellent idea of organising a private Debussy evening . . . First of all there was an orchestral concert at the Mozarteum, conducted by a young man for whom a great future was predicted: Herbert von Karajan. Then the audience went into the Mirabell Gardens for . . . L’après-midi d’un faune. . . After the ballet the audience crossed the Mirabell Gardens, scaled a very high wall with the help of a wooden staircase specially made by the American lady, and landed in the garden of her house. There, beneath an enormous tree . . . on the stroke of midnight, Francis Poulenc and I gave a concert”

1940 February 14, Rome to adrienne monnier, poet & France’s first woman book seller “This new war has so far - and I repeat so far - spared me all hovels without doors. I awoke this morning in the bedroom of Catherine de Medici in the Valla di Roma [sic]. I feel almost ashamed of the privilege”

1940 July 10 Anti-aircraft division, 72nd Battery to Bernac “I make a most charming soldier, all in khaki ... we were not taken prisoner in Bordeaux ... After days of travelling in cattle trains we have now taken root in a heavenly villlage in Lot where I sleep in a barn”

1946 September 13 Birth of Poulenc’s daughter Marie-Ange. Poulenc was 47 and openly gay. He had known Marie-Ange’s mother, Suzette Chanlaire, since 1925

1947 August to Bernac “For me, this girl is pure sunlight” [of Denise Duval] 1953 March to Bernac “Now sit down: La Scala has commissioned me to write an opera

on . . . Le Dialogue des Carmélites. I said yes and can think of nothing else. Performance guaranteed Scala, San Carlo, Cologne, Covent Garden, Berlin . . and perhaps even Paris”

1954 February, Cannes “So here I am all alone on my grey, misty, rainy coast! I think it is those Carmelite Nuns who have exacted this austerity from on high. No complaints


work-wise: I have only one more scene to finish my first act. When I think that I began on 15 August, I cannot get over it. Am I becoming Hindemith? . . . How is Paris? Is it going all out to become dodecanised [P is referring to serial music] The Carmelites, poor things, can only sing in tune. They must be forgiven”

1954 July to Bernac “Did I tell you how overcome I was by Lourdes the other day? I had never seen a pilgrimage before. It was at once atrocious and sublime”

1954 December, Antibes “My thanks for the truffles ... if you knew from what black

hole I am only just emerging. For months I have been tormented by troubles, betrayed in my work (I still do not have the Bernanos authorisation for Les Carmélites). I was in such a state of nerves that I had to go into a clinic. I am better now”

1955 December 24, Paris to rose Dercourt-Plaut, Polish–american soprano “I finished copying out the last scene of Les Carmélites at five o’clock, at precisely the time my friend from Toulon was dying! Is that not strange!!! ....[Lucien Roubert his ex-boyfriend] I am crazy about my little radio, which works wonderfully. I take it with me on all my trips and, thanks to you, any depressing thoughts are banished from my hotel rooms”

1956 March, Liverpool “Very beautiful Webern . . . I shall continue to write my doh mi soh doh and disapprove of Stravinsky - who has taken to wearing hats too young for his age” 1956 June, Aldeburgh “Weather good for England but one is freezing cold all the same” 1957 May 1, Paris to rose D-P “Les Carmélites will be opening in Paris on June 21 . . . My morale is high, as in Cannes in March I met a love of a career Sergeant (29 years old and as kind as he is handsome)” [Louis was with Poulenc for his last six years]

1960

to Benjamin Britten “I am heartbroken at missing the première of Midsummer but fate has willed that I be deprived of this joy to be in Brussels on that very evening for the Belgian premiere of La Voix Humaine. I embrace both you and Peter and wish you luck the French way - merde, merde, merde”

1961 June 23 to rose D-P “If the socks exist in white, I would like to have two or three pairs. I have bought some shoes in white suede! A old Maestro’s folly!” Poulenc had a predilection for American shirts, underwear and socks

1963 January 30 Poulenc dies in his Parisian apartment. He asked that only

Bach should be played at his funeral. Shortly after Poulenc’s death Suzanna, his housekeeper at Le Grand Coteau, Noizay, drowned herself in a pond at the edge of the vineyards. Her husband André who tended the grounds continued to live in a small outhouse until his death in the mid 1980s


Le Pneu ou le petit bleu

Remember Gamages in Holborn?

Money was put into a cylinder, inserted into a tube and whooshed away. That was the same technology as the city–wide system used by Poulenc. A pneu to a Paris friend was posted into special boxes with narrower slits than conventional mailboxes and arrived an hour later. They used blue paper and so were known affectionately as the petit bleu. 1930s Paris saw the heyday of pneumatic post with 240 miles of tubing just a few metres under ground and letters travelling at around 40mph

1832 The invention of the electrical telegraph was vital for merchants

on the Stock Exchanges for whom fortunes could be won by the receipt of advance information. However, the gain in speed from the telegraph could be lost if a message took a long time to get from the telegraph office to the Stock Exchange

1853 To avoid this delay Thomas Webster Rammell and Latimer Clark installed a 220 yard pneumatic tube connecting the Stock Exchange in Threadneedle Street with the Central Station in Lothbury of the Electric Telegraph Company. (Scottish engineer William Murdoch 1754 -1839 invented the first vacuum message system)

1863 The London Pneumatic Despatch Company constructed a 24 inch diameter tube from Euston station (under platform 1) and the North West District Post Office in Eversholt Street (600 yards). A capsule holding 35 bags of mail made the journey in one minute – twice the speed of mailcarts

1865 Berlin’s pneumatic mail début, linked the Central Telegraph Office and Stock Exchange

1866 Paris’ first pneumatic tube. It had a 3 inch diameter and connected the telegraph offices at Grand Hotel and


w

Place de la Bourse. The cylinders were propelled pneumatically – either blown forwards or sucked forwards from one office to another. The compressors were originally simple heads of water, then driven by steam engines, and finally by electrical machines. The cylinders achieved speeds of 30km / hour

1875 Vienna installs pneumatic mail 1879 The Paris system is opened to the public with 36 lines or tubes 1888 Paris has nearly 200 km of tubes for mail. Around the same time

London was concerning itself with people in tubes: the first underground trains. Could it be that the term “tube” was taken from the mail system?

1890 Opening of Stockwell to King William Street tube. Now part of the Northern Line 1898 Waterloo & City Railway opens 1897 New York City’s pneumatic postal system

• riP pneu 1953 New York 1956 Vienna 1976 Berlin 1984 Paris 2002 Prague (due to flooding)


Denise Duval & Christian Dior Denise Duval b 1921 speaks to her godson, Olivier Ferrer about her early days with Poulenc. Olivier’s grandfather, Maurice Lehmann, ran ten major theatres in Paris including L’Opéra and the Opéra Comique which he re-opened after the war. I drew such a firm line under my career I feel I’m talking about somebody “else.It’s. strange . .At the time [June 1947] the prima donnas of the Opera Comique all wore extravagant clothes and had manners to match. I was very different, a real debutante [age 26], rehearsing in a little skirt and sweater. This appealed to Poulenc. Little by little we got to know each other and one day he said “Denise, I’d like you to come with me to Christian Dior”. I had no idea what the name Christian Dior respresented. I was still very provincial and at the Folies Bergeres there had been no question of buying Haute Couture dresses. But we arranged a meeting and there was a fashion parade. At the end Christian Dior turned to me and said “Mademoiselle, with a body like yours you must always wear close-fitting, figure-hugging clothes”. I replied “thank you and when I’m rich I will come and buy my dress here”. At this point Dior turned to Poulenc and said “this girl will only go out dressed by me”. Poulenc always had a special way of doing things. We were to attend a lunch given by the Comtesse de Noailles, Comtesse de Polignac. Poulenc told me to go to Dior and try on all the dresses and not to worry about anything ... day dresses, cocktail dresses, grand evening dresses .... everything. I lived in a tiny room without a bathroom, but the next morning the uniformed chauffeur arrived with a big box in which was the chosen dress. From then on each time we attended a function given by the Great & the Good, I arrived in a different fabulous dress. When people said to Poulence how elegant I was, he never mentioned that I was a singer but introduced me as a model for nearly six months while we rehearsed Les Mamelles. This was the great intelligence of Poulenc. If he had introduced me as a singer, everyone would have talked about singing and music, but he emphasised the plastic aspect. So when all these rich people came to the Opéra Comique for the premiere,

they came to see a pretty model and they discovered a singer. It was a brilliant idea. February 1960 Poulenc to Bernac

“La Duval amazes me more and more each day. . . What she does with my songs is quite divine”


ensemble

by Christian Dior 1949 drawn by renĂŠ Gruau Dior deplored the demise of the hat, which he attributed to a reaction against those worn during the war. For him, a woman was not properly dressed without one


• 2012 was a blockbuster festival at the Grange. The Queen of

Spades took Grange Park Opera to new territory – possibly the best production we have ever staged. We spent more on costumes than ever – and it was evident. the american tenor Carl tanner was astonishing – the ease of his top notes and his stamina. the magnificent 1825 parterre windows on the south elevation of the theatre were popular and bathe the theatre in soft light. in 2013 the festival is longer with four productions over 7 weeks to make it easier to find dates at this busy time of year. everyone wants the festival to continue its upward trajectory and your contribution makes a big difference. the box office only covers half the costs.

support the 2013 FestivaL Your contribution helps stage world–class opera with international singers. it means that every year the festival gets better UnDer 35? register online for the free meteOr scheme for under-35s Discounted tickets on selected dates

We try to engender a distinct sense of family in the magical mansion and the horseshoe 500 seat theatre

We take special care of your bookings

tO JOin tHe GranGe ParK OPera FamiLY . . . become an annual Donor . . . or support an individual artist . . . or make a contribution towards a scholarship

01962 737360

caroline@grangeparkopera.co.uk

reserVe seAts NoW For CArMÉLItes

carmelites@grangeparkopera.co.uk


2013 CaLenDar maY Thu 30 ...............eugene Onegin......... Fri 31 ...................Puritani ......................... JUne Sat 1 ......................eugene Onegin......... Thu 6 ....................eugene Onegin......... Sat 8 .....................Puritani ......................... Sun 9 ....................eugene Onegin......... Tue 11 ...................Les Carmélites ........ Wed 12 ...............eugene Onegin......... Fri 14 .....................Les Carmélites ........ Sat 15 ...................eugene Onegin......... Sun 16 ..................Puritani ......................... Tue 18 ..................Puritani ......................... Thu 20 .................Puritani ......................... Sat 22 ..................Les Carmélites .......... Sun 23 .................eugene Onegin......... Wed 26 ...............Puritani ......................... Thu 27 .................eugene Onegin......... Sat 29 ..................Puritani ......................... Sun 30 .................Les Carmélites .......... JULY Fri 5 .......................eugene Onegin......... Sat 6 .....................Les Carmélites .......... Wed 10 ...............Fortunio ........................ Thu 11 ..................eugene Onegin......... Fri 12 ....................Les Carmélites .......... Sat 13 ...................Fortunio ........................

Puritani Bellini Collision of King & Cromwell unleashes fiery torment for elvira (Claire rutter). Bellini powerfully knits together music and character and scales extraordinary emotional heights eugene Onegin Tchaikovsky susan Gritton as tatyana in a bravura staging that follows the dissolute Onegin from tatyana’s country home to an icy duel and finally to the epic st Petersburg ball Les Carmélites Poulenc Layer upon layer of anguish embroidered with exquisite undulations from the tranquillity of the convent to a finale unequalled in the entire opera repertoire Fortunio Messager a hilarious and touching comedy of the Belle Epoque. Will the capricious Jacqueline convince her old husband that the young Fortunio is her lover?


2013 CaLenDar maY Thu 30 ...............eugene Onegin......... Fri 31 ...................Puritani ......................... JUne Sat 1 ......................eugene Onegin......... Thu 6 ....................eugene Onegin......... Sat 8 .....................Puritani ......................... Sun 9 ....................eugene Onegin......... Tue 11 ...................Les Carmélites ........ Wed 12 ...............eugene Onegin......... Fri 14 .....................Les Carmélites ........ Sat 15 ...................eugene Onegin......... Sun 16 ..................Puritani ......................... Tue 18 ..................Puritani ......................... Thu 20 .................Puritani ......................... Sat 22 ..................Les Carmélites .......... Sun 23 .................eugene Onegin......... Wed 26 ...............Puritani ......................... Thu 27 .................eugene Onegin......... Sat 29 ..................Puritani ......................... Sun 30 .................Les Carmélites .......... JULY Fri 5 .......................eugene Onegin......... Sat 6 .....................Les Carmélites .......... Wed 10 ...............Fortunio ........................ Thu 11 ..................eugene Onegin......... Fri 12 ....................Les Carmélites .......... Sat 13 ...................Fortunio ........................

Puritani Bellini Collision of King & Cromwell unleashes fiery torment for elvira (Claire rutter). Bellini powerfully knits together music and character and scales extraordinary emotional heights eugene Onegin Tchaikovsky susan Gritton as tatyana in a bravura staging that follows the dissolute Onegin from tatyana’s country home to an icy duel and finally to the epic st Petersburg ball Les Carmélites Poulenc Layer upon layer of anguish embroidered with exquisite undulations from the tranquillity of the convent to a finale unequalled in the entire opera repertoire Fortunio Messager a hilarious and touching comedy of the Belle Epoque. Will the capricious Jacqueline convince her old husband that the young Fortunio is her lover?


autumn interest from Grange Park Opera

& other secrets off-the-beaten-track

• OCtOBer 10 th Hippocrates soirée at 22 Mansfield Street, W1 17th Archimedes soirée in the painted fin de siècle ballroom

at the savile Club, Brook street, W1

17th BOOK LaUnCH The Grange, Hampshire at Berry Bros, sW1 22th rOsenBLatt reCitaL ¬ Joel Prieto, tenor, Wigmore Hall, W1 24th KnOWLeDGe BOx taLK a conversation between Joanna Lumley and sister elizabeth Obbard of aylesford Priory (Linked to Les Carmélites)

26th World Monument Fund: 50 years keeping the world full of places worth visiting at Sir John Soane’s Museum, Lincoln Inn’s fields (to January 26)

• nOvemBer 8th KnOWLeDGe BOx taLK Peter Conrad talks about madness in opera . . .

and luxury (Linked to I Puritani) 3rd-24th Lot & His God by Howard Barker at the Print room, a secret theatre off Westbourne Grove www.the-print-room.org 12th rOsenBLatt reCitaL ¬ Dimitra theodossiou, soprano, Wigmore Hall

• DeCemBer 3rd Glass Ceiling soirée at sir John soane’s museum 6th sOane annUaL LeCtUre The Grange, Hampshire ¬ richard Osborne • 1st- 10 thmarCH 2013

HmP erelestoke, near Devizes Wiltshire. Prisoners & Pimlico Opera in West Side Story

G�GE P�K OPERA

w w w.g rangeparkopera.co.uk 24 BrOaD street, aLresFOrD sO24 9aq | telephone 01962 73 73 60 info@g rangeparkopera.co.uk


Les Carmélites  

The Knowledge Box Grange Park Opera

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you