June 24, 2015 10:52 am admin
by Joan O’Sullivan Lengyel
Not sure what you might call it, maybe climbing the CULTURAL LADDER! Thursday evening I attended the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center. On impulse I purchased a ticket to Avery Fisher Hall for a three evening performance of “Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake.” I did see “South Pacific” (Kelly O’Hara) there with family but I knew what to expect. I must admit that it was “Marion Cotillard” that closed the deal. It was a hot muggy oppressive night as I rushed to be seated in the hall at 7:30 PM. From what I read about the piece I was not prepared. When I hear Philarmonic I think classical music. This was not a Philharmonic project. It was the American premiere of a 80 minute drama about a 15th century peasant girl namely known as “Joan of Arc.” Being I have the same name, Joan, and had to study Joan’s life in school I was on fairly familiar ground and that’s it.
“We” got off to a slow start. I’m thinking “this is a bit slow for me.” I gave it time with it’s stark stage featuring a very tall stake. The New York Choral Artists and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus weren’t catching me. I didn’t expect too much from them but in retrospect I realized they were a back drop creating mood and story. The star (Joan) miss Cotillard engages in conversation with Brother Dominique (Eric Genovese). Joan just dressed in a A-line white dress and cropped boots stands rather still. With a turn of a head or a slight lifting of a hand relates her youthfulness, her innocence, her naivete. The Brother, will reply as a friend and in a tone that everything is as it will be and you will be sacrificed but not to worry. Joan feels she is doing what voices have told her, to save France’s king. The church is also urging Joan to continue her position of leadership. Everybody knows that, Joan, is to be the sacrificial lamb for political and religious power. It is here that Miss Cortillard takes command of the stage. As she relates her fear of pain her love of France and her God she gallantly in all her child like purity walks up the slanted stage to be crucified, the stake is waiting. As she is shackled a red orange light intensifies up her body and continues until it has engulfed the entire stage. Joan (Marion) is center stage with the music and choruses reaching a crescendo of a a intensified climax. Tears did not leave my eyes but they did fill up a bit. Gerard Butler at one time said he was happy as an actor to be able to move some body. I will say Miss Cotillard, she is an actor that moved me that evening.
Post Script: I have seen some of Miss Cotillard’s films. Her performance in “Piaf” garnered her an Academy Award as best actress in a foreign film. There is a bit of male “eye candy” in her 2012 film “Rust and Bone,” Matthias Schoenaerts. Matthias can also be seen in “Far from the Maddening Crowd” which got wider distribution…..his character is “Gabrial.”