Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Song at the Scaffold on

This is my week for book reviews. Catholic published my review of Gertrud von Le Fort's The Song at the Scaffold. As you might recall from my writing about the French Revolution and my article in OSV's The Catholic Answer Magazine--and my visit to their grave site in Paris, I really admire the Carmelite martyrs. Their story is really magnificent, and von Le Fort, even though she adds the fictional heroine Blanche de la Force, tells it cogently and effectively.

The Telegraph in the UK has a review of a current production of Poulenc's opera. Rupert Christiansen writes:

Poulenc’s overwhelmingly powerful opera – the greatest, I believe, written in my lifetime – has returned to Covent Garden in a blessedly simple and intelligent staging, sung with passionate commitment and conducted with fine sensibility.

Any good performance of this masterpiece makes a profound impact, and this one sears both mind and heart. . . .

Robert Carsen’s production, imported from Amsterdam, is focused and strong. In a plain walled box, beautifully lit, nuns look and behave like nuns, as a silent mob of sans-culottes stand expectant and menacing on the sidelines. The French Revolutionary epoch is evoked without heavy-handedness, and the tense scratchy hysterical relationships between the central characters are subtly rendered. I wasn’t enthralled by the stylised presentation of the mass guillotining, but the horror of the situation builds inexorably and Carsen admirably honours the tragedy without exploiting it for cheap thrills.

Giving its readers more background, another columnist/blogger tells the rest of the story of the Carmelites.

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