Christmas Lunch and Entertainment 2016 - The annual Brontë Group Christmas Lunch took place last Saturday, 3 December. Around 40 members turned up to enjoy a three-course meal, drinks and entertai...
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In 1978 Kate Bush famously took Wuthering Heights to the top of the charts. Now, the Brontës themselves have become the subject of a musical.And more Brontë-related things on stage as Planet Hugill features John Joubert's Jane Eyre opera and its Jane Eyre soprano April Fredrick.
Wasted is a tale of sex, drugs and early death, told in the musical style of rock icons such as Queen and Rage Against the Machine.
The BBC's entertainment correspondent Colin Paterson went along to final rehearsals at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.
The South-African born composer John Joubert (based in the UK since the late 1940s) will celebrate his 90th birthday in 2017, and in celebration his opera Jane Eyre is being recorded on the SOMM label. The opera is being given in concert on 25 October 2017 (the work's world premiere) with Kenneth Woods conducting the English Symphony Orchestra at the Ruddock Performing Arts Centre, King Edward's Schools, Birmingham B15 2UA, and the performance is being recorded by SOMM. The performers include April Fredrick as Jane, David Stout as Rochester, Clare McCaldin as Mrs Fairfax and Mark Milhofer as Rev. St John Rivers. I caught up with soprano April Fredrick to find out more about the opera. [...]Birmingham Post has an article on it as well.
April had never sung any of Joubert's music before and as well as appreciating getting to know his music, she finds he writes well for the voice, and he aptly captures Jane's combination of a passionate nature with strong self control.
She has warm words too for Birkin's libretto, with its combination of carefulness and lushness. The compression necessary to turn the novel into an opera has been done with imagination. The first scene is an imagined confrontation between Jane and Mr Brocklehurst, as she is about to leave Lowood, which telescopes the first ten chapters of the book. This technique is used in other scenes, to put some of the back story into monologues. The libretto uses a lot of text verbatim, and the passages that are not feel a close version of the original.
Jane herself is a very big role, on stage for a lot of the time, and singing a great deal. In style, April feels that the dramatically well realised opera recalls Britten in the psychologically acute way Joubert writes, and for April you forget that singing is not the normal way of communications. Even in the most lyrical moments, Joubert adds something to the harmonic mix which keeps the music from being perfectly consonant all the time.
Joubert's opera is in three acts, but the performance on October 25 will be cut, re-shaping the work into two acts so that it fits onto two CDs. April does not feel that the essentials of the opera are lost,
It is very much a stage work, not a concert piece, and though the performance on 25 October is being given in concert April feels that it really deserves to be on the stage. The performance and subsequent recording will thus not only celebrate Joubert's 90th birthday, but hopefully will stimulate interest in the opera. April feels that it deserves to be seen and having got to know the work, she is amazed that it has never been done before. (Robert Hugill)
What was it that attracted John to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre?The Christian Century recalls an 'experiment' in which Jane Eyre was read as a sacred text.
“I thought it was a great romantic novel, and had operatic potential. It’s a great love story, and I thought one should be able still to write about love - after all, it’s the basic emotion for most people, everybody!”
The ending of the opera is magical, but isn’t there a question-mark at the end, in the layout of the concluding chord?
“Oddly enough, I was thinking about that the other day, and yes, I think there is. The remarkable thing is that at the beginning of the novel Rochester isn’t a very nice person, a bit of a cad, really. He treats Jane very badly, but at the same time is very attracted by her.
“She, on the other hand, she is a very early feminist, she wants to find work and be accepted. Though there are big differences between each other, they nevertheless fall in love. And the question mark at the end is, I think, it’s not very much emphasised, but that it’s just suggested that this is not the end of the story, that she’s taking on something really big.
“Rochester is now a crippled man, and a blind man, and she still is determined, and they do get together, despite his moral objections to her taking him on as a semi-invalid. There’s a little bit of tension, there.”
The idea for Jane Eyre began in the early 1980s, when John took early retirement from the University of Birmingham. “But I did have commissions to get on with, so I had to squeeze time in between, working on Jane Eyre, so I wrote it over a very long period, alternating between commissions as they came in.”
When this forthcoming concert-performance was mooted, John went back to his score of Jane Eyre, and realised that some of the material in the scenes, as well as orchestral interludes between the scenes, was superfluous to the action. He decided to make one event central to each scene, and actually cut 45 minutes’ worth of music.
“You can take your time writing a novel, but you can’t take your time writing an opera!”
He modestly adds that the discarded orchestral interludes have now formed the basis of a new work, his Third Symphony. “I call it Third Symphony on themes from the opera Jane Eyre.
“There was a time that I thought I’d never live to see the opera performed, and so I composed a piano Fantasy upon Themes from Jane Eyre, and I think material from the opera has appeared subconsciously in other works.
“The subconscious is very important in the creative process, and I don’t really know how I do it, or why I do it. All I know is, I can only write what I do write, what I can write.” (Christopher Morley)
A few years ago I wrote here about my student Vanessa Zoltan and her experiment with reading Jane Eyre as if it were a sacred text. She read and reread each chapter, prayed its prayers, wrestled with its difficulties. She often felt transformed by her reading, for once she began to treat Jane Eyre as sacred, she found herself approaching other parts of her life—relationships, conversations, encounters with strangers—as if they were also sacred.Erm... Jane Eyre is actually widely read.
There were times when she felt betrayed by the novel, as when the full horror of the imprisonment and death of the West Indian “madwoman in the attic,” Bertha Rochester, impressed itself on her through repeated reading. Loving Jane as she did, Vanessa was surprised to find the sacred heart of the novel in Bertha, a character who upended Vanessa’s expectations about her project, a character who made her feel not only challenged, but also read and interpreted. A sacred text, Vanessa learned, is not a perfect text, free from contradictions and outrages. A sacred text is a generative text, one that keeps reading and changing us.
Sacred texts also become sacred in community, and so Vanessa gathered a small group of Jane Eyre lovers and invited them into her practice, teaching them what she had learned. Fellow M.Div. student Casper ter Kuile joined in. Wouldn’t it be fun, he teased, to try this with a book that people actually read? (Stephanie Paulsell)
“She seemed such a poor ghost, I thought I'd like to write her a life”, Rhys explained of her feelings for the first Mrs Rochester. It sounds modest enough but half a century on, the book is enshrined in campuses around the world and beloved by readers of all stripes. Something else has become clear, too: the novel has forever changed the way we read Jane Eyre. As author Danielle McLaughlin recently put it, writing for The Paris Review: “The novel didn’t just take inspiration from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, it illuminated and confronted it, challenged the narrative”. Or, to quote novelist Michele Roberts, “Rhys took one of the works of genius of the 19th Century and turned it inside-out to create one of the works of genius of the 20th Century”. (Hephzibah Anderson) (Read more)KPCC has a an original cast member and an original fan talk Dark Shadows which is 50 this year, just like Wide Sargasso Sea.
Both women agree: It wasn't a traditional soap opera about who is sleeping with who; nor was it a scary vampire story. It was an old fashioned Gothic romance, often based on classics of literature, like Jane Eyre. "Of all of the incarnations of these vampire stories, what so many people miss, and what (creator) Dan Curtis totally got, is that so much of this hinges on romance. It's not the gore and the horror. That's not the story. The central theme of Dark Shadows is that love triangle and unrequited love." (John Rabe)The Daily Dot reviews DC Comic's Deadman:
The dark, painted interiors of the mansion—and, strangely enough, the lettering style—are reminiscent of the late '80s heyday of Vertigo's horror like Sandman and Hellblazer, while the heroine's internal monologue is clearly inspired by vintage romance comics. And it all comes together in a setting that originated with books like Jane Eyre and Rebecca, now familiar thanks to decades of haunted house movies. (Gavia Baker-Whitelaw)Evening Standard reviews Alan Bennett's Keep on Keeping On, which includes some of his diaries.
Then again, among his many affectionate and grateful remarks about his partner Rupert, especially those recording their many visits to churches and country houses, provisioned with their own sandwiches, there’s this corker: “31 August. R. having spent most of the evening (and yesterday’s) watching Wuthering Heights turns to me at the finish and says: ‘You’re rather like Heathcliff.’ Me (gratified): ‘Really?’ R: ‘Yeah. Difficult, Northern and a c**t.’” (David Sexton)Manila Bulletin interviews writer Anna Todd:
Growing up, what kinds of books did you read? Who is your favorite author? My favorite author is Cassandra Clare, by a million times! But I didn’t read her until I was about 21, maybe. Before that, I read The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, it’s a war story. I didn’t know why I loved it so much. I love classics like Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, and I read things like The Babysitter’s Club, I loved all those books but it was mostly like tame things until I found Fifty Shades of Grey, and then I was like, “Oh okay, there’s a whole other world of books I didn’t know existed.” (Angelo G. Garcia)The Telegraph has picked up on the Twitter hashtag #TrumpBookReport. This tweet telling Wuthering Heights as Mr Trump would is hilarious:
The Guardian features the sculptures made by David Medalla:Those poor heights. They were wuthering. Wuthering so bad. Bigly wuthering. I'll make them great again. #TrumpBookReport @AntonioFrench— Callie (@calliembush) October 20, 2016
In the middle of a further gallery, a tangle of golden wire – suspended on precarious lengths of bamboo and powered by a motor atop the trunk of a silver birch – slowly rotates on a bed of sand, leaving combed furrows that are perpetually drawn and erased. Surrounding this folly, first made in 1963, hang stretched hammocks of thin, coloured fabric, appended with reels of cotton. The audience can use these to stitch drawings and designs on to the lengths of material.Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights is one of Electric Literature's '13 Literary Songs for the Halloween Season'.
More lengths of fabric – with stories printed, sewn and painted on to them – line the walls. Here is Emily Brontë, there is an invented myth of a virgin-eating crocodile. Delicate, touching and wan, Medalla’s art is as hard to grasp as the soapsuds climbing and falling next door, where a long poem called The Bubble Machine is also pinned to the wall. The poem itself is a delightful, painful spume of reminiscence. (Adrian Searle)
Awesome creepy weirdo Kate Bush supposedly wrote “Wuthering Heights” in one night under a full moon when she was just 18, having devised the idea for it years previous when she caught the last 10 minutes of a BBC adaptation of Emily Bronte’s gothic novel of class warfare, mental decay and psychosexual obsession. (Bush shares a birthday with Emily.) Little could Bush have guessed at the time, her song would go on to become the first chart-topper by a female recording artist in the UK, and would inspire other awesome creepy weirdos such as David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust and St. Vincent, who frequently cites “Wuthering Heights” as her go-to karaoke jam, to get on with their bad selves in the years to come. Needless to say, there’s more than a little of Bronte’s novel in the song itself, which focuses its allusive energies on Catherine Earnshaw’s ghost and its recapitulant efforts to get at Heathcliff, her erstwhile lover, through his window casement. In fact, Bush’s song unfurls from Catherine’s spectral POV: “Ooh, it gets dark! It gets lonely,/ On the other side from you./ I pine a lot. I find the lot/ Falls through without you./ I’m coming back, love./ Cruel Heathcliff, my one dream,/ My only master.” Bush’s eerie vocal stylings, like some falsetto ghost priestess luring you to your doom, are a fitting conductor for Catherine’s tale. Ditto the cascading piano, Tangerine Dreamy guitar solo and intermittent strings that sherpa her voice as it climbs towards new heights, all the while invoking Catherine, the love that can never be Heathcliff’s and hers: “Heathcliff, it’s me — Cathy./ Come home. I’m so cold!/ Let me in-a-your window.” (Adrian Van Young)It's been a while since our last Brontë analogy in a football article. This one is courtesy of The Guardian.
And then, just as Rafa Benítez seemed to have broken the spell, just as he had ended the dependence on the old guard, Mourinho returned. It was like Heathcliff taking control of Wuthering Heights once again. There was one glorious high and then a second, crushing end to the affair. (Jonathan Wilson)Reading with Jade wonders whether to read Wuthering Heights.