Academy Award-winner Marion Cotillard stars in the upcoming production of Arthur Honneger’s dramatic oratorio, ‘Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher’.
Written in 1938, the work, with libretto by Paul Claudel, was originally commissioned by Ida Rubenstein – Russian actress, dancer, patron and well-known figure of the Belle Époche. It premiered on 12th May 1938, in Basle – to great acclaim – with Rubenstein in the title role, baryton-martin Jean Périer in the role of Brother Dominique, and the Basle Boys Choir, in a production conducted by Swiss conductor Paul Sacher.
Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher, dealing with the hypocrisy and cruelty surrounding the fate of the 15th century French heroine, was categorised by Honegger as a ‘dramatic oratorio’ because he added speaking roles and actors to the work. The action takes place during the last minutes of Joan of Arc’s life. Already at the stake, she relives her younger days, and her trial, in a series of flashbacks.
In musical terms, Honneger incorporated an eclectic range of styles into this work – considered to be one of his finest – with allusions to ancient chants, Bach chorales, even jazz and cabaret. Born in France to a Swiss family, he spent much of his life in Paris, and was a member of Les Six – a group of six avant-garde French composers (Georges Auric, Louis Durey, Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc and Germaine Tailleferre) – whose music was regarded as a reaction against the styles of Richard Wagner and the ‘impressionist music’ of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel.
Honneger’s first success – in the early 1920s – was his dramatic psalm Le roi David (King David), and amongst his prolific output between the two World Wars were the music for Abel Gances’ epic 1927 film, Napoléon, nine ballets, and three vocal stage works. Honneger achieved international notoriety for his Pacific 231, written in 1923, and inspired by the sound of a steam locomotive. It’s his most frequently performed work.
Marion Cotillard’s acting career began with a series of minor performances in theatre, and in television series, before taking off in films in the mid-1990s, earning her a long list of nominations and awards – from the Autrans Film Festival in France, the Chopard Trophy at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival to a César for Best Supporting Actress in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s A Very Long Engagement.
Her portrayal of Edith Piaf in Olivier Dahan’s La Vie en Rose in 2007 (described by Trevor Nunn as “one of the greatest performances on film ever”) won her international recognition, as well as the Oscar for Best Actress, a César, a BAFTA Award, and a Golden Globe. Ms. Cotillard became only the second actress to win an acting Oscar performing in a language other than English – the first having been Sophia Loren in Two Women in 1960.
Ms. Cotillard’s role as the heroine in Rust and Bones won widespread acclaim, a standing ovation at the 65th Cannes Film Festival, the Globe de Cristal (France’s equivalent to the Golden Globe) and the Étoile d’Or, and she was nominated for Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA and César Awards for her performance in the film.
Marion Cotillard has appeared in live performances as Jeanne d’Arc in Orléans in 2005, in Barcelona in 2012, and in June this year she will perform the oratorio with the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall.
In this performance of Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher, Kazuki Yamada conducts the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, the Chorus of l’Orchestre de Paris (Chorus Master Lionel Sow), and the choir of the pupils of the Académie de Musique Rainier III.
It takes place at the Auditorium Rainier III on Sunday, 8th February at 17h00. Tickets may be bought from the Atrium du Casino de Monte-Carlo, by calling the box office on +377 98 06 28 28, or reserved online.
Auditorium Rainier III
Bd. Louis II
Tel: +377 93 10 84 00
Lead image via Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, © Mondino