||Vera Zorina, narrator (Joan of Arc)
The Philhadelphia Orchestra, soloists & choruses
Eugene Ormandy, conductor
Recorded in the Academy of Music, Philadelphia, 1952
Producer and Audio Restoration Engineer: Mark Obert-Thorn
Front cover artwork based on a photograph of Vera Zorina as Joan
Total duration: 72:12
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Honegger's dramatic oratorio in a fine Philadelphia recording from Ormandy
"A beautiful American performance (in French) on finely engineered records" - Gramophone
HONEGGER Jeanne D'Arc au Bûcher (Joan of Arc at the Stake) [notes]
Dramatic Oratorio -
Text by Paul Claudel
First issued on Columbia SL-178
Recorded 16 November and 21 December 1952 in the Academy of Music, Philadelphia
Jeanne d’Arc Vera Zorina
Frère Dominique Raymond Gerome
The Virgin Frances Yeend (soprano)
Marguerite Carolyn Long (soprano)
Catherine Martha Lipton (contralto)
A Voice; Jean de Luxembourg; Regnault de Chartres; Porcus; First Herald David Lloyd (tenor)
Guillaume de Flavy; A Voice; Second Herald Kenneth Smith (bass)
Narrators: Anne Carrere, Charles Mahieu, Jean Julliard, John H. Brown (boy soprano)
Temple University Choirs (Elaine Brown, director)
St. Peter’s Boys Choir (Harold Gilbert, director)
Eugene Ormandy · The Philadelphia Orchestra
This work was commissioned and first performed by Ida Rubinstein, the dancer who had previously commissioned Ravel to write Bolero. It's appropriate, then, that the narration in this recording is performed by Vera Zorina (born Eva Brigitta Hartwig in Berlin), an accomplished ballerina and later Hollywood actress who married George Balanchine and who, at the time of this recording, was married to Columbia Records president Goddard Lieberson. Her participation in this recording was not mere nepotism, however. She had not only performed the role of Joan in the U.S. premiere (in 1948 with Charles Munch and the New York Philharmonic), but had also participated in every subsequent performance in North America up to the time of this recording. For his part, Ormandy's association with Honegger dated at least from his Minneapolis days in the early 1930s, when he had recorded the composer's Concertino for Piano and Orchestra.
The present transfer was made from the best portions of two first edition blue label American Columbia pressings. There are some instances of distortion, dropout and studio noises which are on the original LP master tape.
The chorus sings of the great darkness that had enveloped France, and how God sent Joan to unite the people.
I The Voices from Heaven
A heavenly chorus summons Joan.
II The Book
A Dominican friar calls for Joan, who appears in chains. In a spoken dialogue, he expresses sympathy toward her fate, and revulsion toward those who condemned her. He offers to read to her from a book which details her trial.
III The Voices of the Earth
The charges against Joan are voiced by Frère Dominique and the chorus. Joan cannot understand why the priests she revered and the people she loved turned against her. Frère Dominique likens her accusers to beasts.
IV Joan Given Up to the Beasts
In a surreal scene, Joan’s accusers are portrayed as various animals. The main judge is a pig (Porcus in Latin, for cochon in French standing for Cauchon, the name of the judge at the actual trial). The jury members are sheep and the recording secretary is an ass. Joan’s testimony is twisted around by the court, and she is sentenced to die at the stake.
V Joan at the Stake
Joan hears the names she is being called – heretic, sorceress, apostate, barbarian – while at the stake awaiting execution. She asks Frère Dominique how things came to this. He explains that it was due to a card game invented by a mad king.
VI The Kings, or the Invention of the Game of Cards
The Heralds explain the Hundred Years’ War as a game of cards bearing the likenesses of various nobles on either side of the conflict as well as the Deadly Sins and Death itself. The kings neither lose nor win, but only change places. In the end, Joan is delivered up as a pawn.
VII Catherine and Margaret
The tolling of her death knell reminds Joan of the church bells of her youth and the voices she heard from St. Catherine and St. Margaret, voices that urged her to take up a sword and escort the King of France to Rheims for his coronation.
VIII The King Sets Out for Rheims
The people are assembled for a mid-winter festival. Heurtebise and his wife, Madame Tonneaux, personifications of bread and wine, sing of their reunion after a long separation. A cleric interrupts the celebration to lead the people in a Latin hymn which parallels the wait of the Isrealites for the Messiah to appear with the expected arrival of the King of France. Suddenly, the King is sighted. Joan claims with pride that she brought this about, leading the reluctant King to Rheims. Frère Dominique counters that it was God who brought this about, and pointedly asks Joan whether it was for an earthly king that she gave her life.
IX The Sword of Joan
Once more, Joan recalls her younger days, and the voices she heard from the saints. Frère Dominique asks her to explain her sword. Joan recounts the songs children would sing to welcome the month of May. She talks about how in the wintertime, it would look as though all nature was dead and hope had gone; but in the spring, hope would rise anew. She says that the sword St. Michael gave to her is not named Hatred, but rather Love. Her voices told her to take the sword and go to Rouen, where she would ultimately die, on horseback in May.
Joan reprises the childrens’ song about the month of May, adding that she will become a candle to light at the feet of the Virgin.
XI The Burning of Joan of Arc
The people cry for Joan’s death. Frère Dominique has gone, and she is now alone. A priest demands that she sign a confession, but she refuses to lie to save herself. The voice of the Virgin tells her to trust in the fire for her deliverance. As the flames mount, the saints join with the Virgin to welcome her, and the chorus’ attitude changes to one of praise. Joan breaks the chains she has been wearing throughout, and proclaims as she dies that joy is the strongest, love is the strongest, God is the strongest. The chorus ends by singing, “No one has a greater love than one who gives his life for those he loves.”
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notes from Wikipedia
Vera Zorina (January 2, 1917 – April 9, 2003) was a Norwegian ballerina, musical theatre actress and choreographer.
Vera Zorina was born Eva Brigitta Hartwig in Berlin, Germany. Her father Fritz was a German and her mother Billie Hartwig was Norwegian. Both were professional singers. Zorina was brought up in Kristiansund where she debuted as a dancer at the Festiviteten, the oldest opera house in Norway. She received her education at the Lyceum for Girls in Berlin but was trained in dance by Olga Preobrajenska and Nicholas Legat.
She was presented to Max Reinhardt at age 12 who cast her in his A Midsummer Night's Dream (1929) and Tales of Hoffman (1931). A performance at London's Gaiety Theatre led to her entrance into the company of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1933. She changed her stage name to Vera Zorina when she joined the Ballet Russe. She won a lead role in the London company of On Your Toes (1937) and was seen by American film producer Samuel Goldwyn, who signed her to a seven year film contract. Between 1938 and 1946, she would appear in a number of Hollywood movie productions.
One of her most iconic stage roles was the title character in the 1938 Rodgers and Hart musical I Married an Angel, in which she played an exquisite angel who descends from heaven to marry Hungarian banker Dennis King, but whose complete lack of human guile presents him with a whole new set of problems. Her role in the film version was played by Jeannette MacDonald.
Starting in 1948, Zorina was associated with Arthur Honegger's Joan of Arc at the Stake, in which she played the title role in the first American performance with the New York Philharmonic under Charles Münch. She subsequently played the role many times, notably in the recorded performance from the Royal Festival Hall in June 1966 with the London Symphony Orchestra under Seiji Ozawa.
In the 1970s, Vera Zorina was appointed director with the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet (Den Norske Opera & Ballet). In later years, she was active with the Lincoln Center as an adviser and director and for several seasons directed operas at the Santa Fe Opera in New Mexico. In 1986, Vera Zorina completed her autobiography entitled Zorina (New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux. 1986)
She was George Balanchine's second wife; they were married from 1938 to 1946. She danced in productions he choreographed, both on the stage and screen, including On Your Toes, a Broadway hit later adapted for the screen by Lawrence Riley.
She was also married to Columbia Records president Goddard Lieberson from 1946 until his death on May 29, 1977, by whom she had two sons: Peter Lieberson, a composer, and Jonathan Lieberson. Her final marriage was to harpsichordist Paul Wolfe from 1991 until her death at age 86.
Notes from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vera_Zorina
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