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Arthur Honegger/Paul Claudel - Jeanne d'Arc au Bûcher

Montpellier Festival, 13 July 2006: Sylvie Testud, Eric Ruf, Alain Altinoglu,
Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Eric Huchet, Nicolas Teste
Director: Jean-Paul Scarpitta
Orchestra & Opera Choir of Montpellier etc/Alain Altinoglu

DVD ARTE 412918-1 [Released October, 2007; UK distributor Discovery]

This great Dramatic Oratorio in Eleven Scenes, a key work of Arthur Honegger's, was important to me some fifty years ago, but Honegger's music is little performed in UK these days and it is long since I had heard Jeanne d'Arc au Bûcher or the great La Danse des morts, also to a libretto by Paul Claudel.

This was an inspired staged production at Montpellier and it has been faithfully transferred to DVD, with a generous illustrated discussion bonus Discovering an Opera, an hour long.

The staging is economical but completely effective, the drama felt as inside Jeanne's bewildered mind. Claudel reviews her life in 11 scenes backwards; " - - the dying in their final hour see all the events of their life unfolding - - ".

Sylvie Testud is ideally cast and her incredulity, vulnerability and strength of faith are all projected in her expressive face. Some sections usefully give the original French together with the translation of your choice; a sensible option which might well be extended? The booklet too is uncommonly informative, with long essays by Honegger himself, Jean-Paul Scarpitta and others; and for an even more comprehensive analysis of this key work I refer you to Harry Halbreich's monumental biography Arthur Honegger, pp. 422-434, an extraordinary bargain.

This from ARTE is a very classy production, certainly one of the very best DVDs reviewed in the last year or so. From the same source there is a collection of rare operas and oratorios on CD with L'Orchestre National de Montpellier which looks well worth investigating.

Peter Grahame Woolf


photo de mediathequeguebwiller