Cyrano de Bergerac (play)

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This article is about the play by Edmond Rostand. For other works with this title, see Cyrano de Bergerac (disambiguation).
Cyrano de Bergerac
Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac.JPG
Cyrano de Bergerac, the man for whom the play is named and upon whose life it is based
Written by Edmond Rostand
Characters
Date premiered 1897
Original language French
Genre Romance
Setting France, 1640

Cyrano de Bergerac is a play written in 1897 by Edmond Rostand. Although there was a real Cyrano de Bergerac, the play is a fictionalization of his life that follows the broad outlines of it.

The entire play is written in verse, in rhyming couplets of twelve syllables per line, very close to the classical alexandrine form, but the verses sometimes lack a caesura. It is also meticulously researched, down to the names of the members of the Académie française and the dames précieuses glimpsed before the performance in the first scene.

The play has been translated and performed many times, and is responsible for introducing the word "panache" into the English language.[1] Cyrano (the character) is in fact famed for his panache, and the play ends with him saying "My panache" just before his death. The two most famous English translations are those by Brian Hooker and Anthony Burgess.

Plot summary[edit]

Hercule Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac, a cadet (nobleman serving as a soldier) in the French Army, is a brash, strong-willed man of many talents. In addition to being a remarkable duelist, he is a gifted, joyful poet and is also shown to be a musician. However, he has an extremely large nose, which is the reason for his own self-doubt. This doubt prevents him from expressing his love for his distant cousin, the beautiful and intellectual heiress Roxane, as he believes that his ugliness denies him the "dream of being loved by even an ugly woman."

Act I – A Performance at the Hôtel Burgundy[edit]

The play opens in Paris, 1640, in the theatre of the Hôtel Burgundy. Members of the audience slowly arrive, representing a cross-section of Parisian society from pickpockets to nobility. Christian de Neuvillette, a handsome new cadet, arrives with Lignière, a drunkard who he hopes will identify the young woman with whom he has fallen in love. Lignière recognizes her as Roxane, and tells Christian about her and the Count De Guiche's scheme to marry her off to the compliant Viscount Valvert. Meanwhile, Ragueneau and Le Bret are expecting Cyrano de Bergerac, who has banished the actor Montfleury from the stage for a month. After Lignière leaves, Christian intercepts a pickpocket and, in return for his freedom, the pickpocket tells Christian of a plot against Lignière. Christian departs to try to warn him.

The play "Clorise" begins with Montfleury's entrance, and Cyrano disrupts the play, forces him off stage, and compensates the manager for the loss of admission fees. The crowd is going to disperse when Cyrano lashes out at a pesky busybody, then is confronted by Valvert and duels with him while composing a ballade, wounding (and possibly killing) him as he ends the refrain (as promised: he ends each refrain with "When I end the refrain, 'Thrust Home'.") When the crowd has cleared the theater, Cyrano and Le Bret remain behind, and Cyrano confesses his love for Roxane. Roxane's duenna then arrives, and asks where Roxane may meet Cyrano privately. Lignière is then brought to Cyrano, having learned that one hundred hired thugs are waiting to ambush him on his way home. Cyrano, now emboldened, vows to take on the entire mob single-handed, and he leads a procession of officers, actors and musicians to the Porte de Nesle.

Act II – The Poets' Cookshop[edit]

The next morning, at Ragueneau's bake shop, Ragueneau supervises various apprentice cooks in their preparations. Cyrano arrives, anxious about his meeting with Roxane. He is followed by a musketeer, a paramour of Ragueneau's domineering wife Lise, then the regular gathering of impoverished poets who take advantage of Ragueneau's hospitality. Cyrano composes a letter to Roxane expressing his deep and unconditional love for her, warns Lise about her indiscretion with the musketeer, and when Roxane arrives he signals Ragueneau to leave them alone.

Roxane and Cyrano talk privately as she bandages his hand (injured from the fracas at the Port de Nesle); she thanks him for defeating Valvert at the theater, and talks about a man with whom she has fallen in love. Cyrano thinks that she is talking about him at first, and is ecstatic, but Roxane describes her beloved as "handsome," and tells him that she is in love with Christian de Neuvillette. Roxane fears for Christian's safety in the predominantly Gascon company of Cadets, so she asks Cyrano to befriend and protect him. This he agrees to do.

After she leaves, Cyrano's captain arrives with the cadets to congratulate him on his victory from the night before. They are followed by a huge crowd, including De Guiche and his entourage, but Cyrano soon drives them away. Le Bret takes him aside and chastises him for his behavior, but Cyrano responds haughtily. The Cadets press him to tell the story of the fight, teasing the newcomer Christian de Neuvillette. When Cyrano recounts the tale, Christian displays his own form of courage by interjecting several times with references to Cyrano's nose. Cyrano is angry, but remembering his promise to Roxane, he holds in his temper.

Eventually Cyrano explodes, the shop is evacuated, and Cyrano reveals his identity as Roxane's cousin. Christian confesses his love for Roxane but his inability to woo because of his lack of intellect and wit. When Cyrano tells Christian that Roxane expects a letter from him, Christian is despondent, having no eloquence in such matters. Cyrano then offers his services, including his own unsigned letter to Roxane. The Cadets and others return to find the two men embracing, and are flabbergasted. The musketeer from before, thinking it was safe to do so, teases Cyrano about his nose and receives a slap in the face while the Cadets rejoice.

Act III – Roxane's Kiss[edit]

Outside Roxane's house Ragueneau is conversing with Roxane's duenna. When Cyrano arrives, Roxane comes down and they talk about Christian: Roxane says that Christian's letters have been breathtaking—he is more intellectual than even Cyrano, she declares. She also says that she loves Christian.

When De Guiche arrives, Cyrano hides inside Roxane's house. De Guiche tells Roxane that he has come to say farewell. He has been made a colonel of an army regiment that is leaving that night to fight in the war with Spain. He mentions that the regiment includes Cyrano's guards, and he grimly predicts that he and Cyrano will have a reckoning. Afraid for Christian's safety if he should go to the front, Roxane quickly suggests that the best way for De Guiche to seek revenge on Cyrano would be for him to leave Cyrano and his cadets behind while the rest of the regiment goes on to military glory. After much flirtation from Roxane, De Guiche believes he should stay close by, concealed in a local monastery. When Roxane implies that she would feel more for De Guiche if he went to war, he agrees to march on steadfastly, leaving Cyrano and his cadets behind. He leaves, and Roxane makes the duenna promise she will not tell Cyrano that Roxane has robbed him of a chance to go to war.

Roxane expects Christian to come visit her, and she tells the duenna to make him wait if he does. Cyrano presses Roxane to disclose that instead of questioning Christian on any particular subject, she plans to make Christian improvise about love. Although he tells Christian the details of her plot, when Roxane and her duenna leave, he calls for Christian who has been waiting nearby. Cyrano tries to prepare Christian for his meeting with Roxane, urging him to remember lines Cyrano has written. Christian however refuses saying he wants to speak to Roxane in his own words. Cyrano bows to this saying, "Speak for yourself, sir."

During their meeting Christian makes a fool of himself trying to speak seductively to Roxane. Roxane storms into her house, confused and angry. Thinking quickly, Cyrano makes Christian stand in front of Roxane's balcony and speak to her while Cyrano stands under the balcony whispering to Christian what to say. Eventually, Cyrano shoves Christian aside and, under cover of darkness, pretends to be Christian, wooing Roxane himself. In the process, he wins a kiss for Christian.

Roxane and Christian are secretly married by a Capuchin while Cyrano waits outside to prevent De Guiche from disrupting the impromptu wedding. Their happiness is short-lived: De Guiche, angry to have lost Roxane, declares that he is sending the Cadets of Gascony to the front lines of the war with Spain. De Guiche triumphantly tells Cyrano that the wedding night will have to wait. Under his breath, Cyrano remarks that the news fails to upset him.

Roxane, afraid for Christian, urges Cyrano to promise to keep him safe, to keep him out of dangerous situations, to keep him dry and warm, and to keep him faithful. Cyrano says that he will do what he can but that he cannot promise anything. Roxane begs Cyrano to promise to make Christian write to her every day. Brightening, Cyrano announces confidently that he can promise that.

Act IV – The Gascon Cadets[edit]

The siege of Arras. The Gascon Cadets are among many French forces now cut off by the Spanish, and they are starving. Cyrano, meanwhile, has been writing in Christian's name twice a day, smuggling letters across the enemy lines. De Guiche, whom the Cadets despise, arrives and chastises them; Cyrano responds with his usual bravura, and De Guiche then signals a spy to tell the Spanish to attack on the Cadets, informing them that they must hold the line while relief comes in. Then a coach arrives, and Roxane emerges from it. She tells how she was able to flirt her way through the Spanish lines. Cyrano tells Christian about the letters, and provides him a farewell letter to give to Roxane if he dies. After De Guiche departs, Roxane provides plenty of food and drink with the assistance of the coach's driver, Ragueneau. She also tells Christian that, because of the letters, she has grown to love him for his soul alone, and would still love him even if he were ugly.

Christian tells this to Cyrano, and then persuades Cyrano to tell Roxane the truth about the letters, saying he has to be loved for "the fool that he is" to be truly loved at all. Cyrano disbelieves what Christian claims Roxane has said, until she tells him so as well. But, before Cyrano can tell her the truth, Christian is brought back to the camp, having been fatally shot. Cyrano realizes that, in order to preserve Roxane's image of an eloquent Christian, he cannot tell her the truth. The battle ensues, a distraught Roxane collapses and is carried off by De Guiche and Ragueneau, and Cyrano rallies the Cadets to hold back the Spanish until relief arrives.

Act V – Cyrano's Gazette[edit]

Fifteen years later, at a convent outside Paris. Roxane now resides here, eternally mourning her beloved Christian. She is visited by De Guiche, Le Bret and Ragueneau, and she expects Cyrano to come by as he always has with news of the outside world. On this day, however, he has been mortally wounded by someone who dropped a huge log on his head from a tall building. Upon arriving to deliver his "gazette" to Roxane, knowing it will be his last, he asks Roxane if he can read "Christian's" farewell letter. She gives it to him, and he reads it aloud as it grows dark. Listening to his voice, she realizes that it is Cyrano who was the author of all the letters, but Cyrano denies this to his death. Ragueneau and Le Bret return, telling Roxane of Cyrano's injury. While Cyrano grows delirious, his friends weep and Roxane tells him that she loves him. He combats various foes, half imaginary and half symbolic, conceding that he has lost all but one important thing – his panache – as he dies in Le Bret and Ragueneau's arms.

The second-to-last scene. First performance of the play. Published in "l'illustration", 8 January 1898

Stage history[edit]

On 28 December 1897, the curtain rose at the Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin,[2] and the audience was pleasantly surprised. A full hour after the curtain fell, the audience was still applauding. The original Cyrano was Constant Coquelin, who played it over 410 times at said theatre and later toured North America in the role. The original production had sets designed by Marcel Jambon and his associates Brard and Alexandre Bailly (Acts I, III and V), Eugène Carpezat (Act II), and Alfred Lemeunier (Act IV). The earliest touring production of Cyrano was set up by Charles Moncharmont and Maurice Luguet. It was premiered in Monte Carlo on 29 March 1898, and subsequently presented in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Serbia, Roumania, Bulgary, Turkey, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Algeria, Tunisia and Spain. Special, transportable sets emulating the Parisian production were created for this tour by Albert Dubosq:

La troupe qui interprétera Cyrano de Bergerac se composera de quarante personnes. Les costumes et les décors seront identiques à ceux de la Porte Saint-Martin ; les costumes, au nombre de deux cent cinquante, faits sur mesure, les armes, cartonnages, tout le matériel seront exécutés par les fournisseurs de ce théâtre ; les décors seront brossés par Dubosq qui est allé, ces jours derniers, s’entendre à Paris avec les entrepreneurs de la tournée. ... la troupe voyage avec tout un matériel de décors à appliques, charnières, pièces démontables qui, pouvant se planter sur n’importe quelle scène et se divisant en tous petits fragments, s’installe aisément dans des caisses, sans peser relativement trop lourd et dépasser les dimensions admises par les chemins de fer.[3]

Richard Mansfield was the first actor to play Cyrano in the United States in an English translation. The longest-running Broadway production ran 232 performances in 1923 and starred Walter Hampden, who returned to the role on the Great White Way in 1926, 1928, 1932, and 1936.[4] Hampden used the 1923 Brian Hooker translation prepared especially for him, which became such a classic in itself that it was used by virtually every English-speaking Cyrano until the mid-1980s.

In 1946 Hampden passed the torch to José Ferrer, who won a Tony Award for playing Cyrano in a much-praised Broadway staging, the highlight of which was a special benefit performance in which Ferrer played the title role for the first four acts and Hampden (then in his mid-sixties) assumed it for the fifth. Ferrer reprised the role on live television in 1949 and 1955, and in a 1950 film version for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor. It became Ferrer's most famous role.

Other notable English-speaking Cyranos were Ralph Richardson, DeVeren Bookwalter, Derek Jacobi, Michael Kanarek, Richard Chamberlain, and Christopher Plummer, who played the part in Rostand's original play and won a Tony Award for the 1973 musical adaptation. Kevin Kline played the role in a Broadway production in 2007, with Jennifer Garner playing Roxane and Daniel Sunjata as Christian. A taped version of the production was broadcast on PBS in 2009.

Later stage versions[edit]

Anthony Burgess wrote a new translation and adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac in 1970, which had its world premiere at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Paul Hecht was Cyrano. Also in the cast were Len Cariou as Christian, and Roberta Maxwell as Roxane. A later production was the Royal Shakespeare Company's acclaimed 1983 stage production, starring Derek Jacobi as Cyrano and Alice Krige (later Sinéad Cusack) as Roxane, which was videotaped and broadcast on television in 1985. For this production, Burgess very significantly reworked his earlier translation; both Burgess translations have appeared in book form.

Emily Frankel[5] wrote a condensed prose adaptation for her husband John Cullum which was first performed at Syracuse Stage, directed by Arthur Storch, in 1983, then at Atlanta's Alliance Theatre in 1984. A national tour in 1985-1986 concluded with a month's stay at Baltimore's Morris Mechanic Theatre. In 2004, Barksdale Theatre in Richmond kicked off its 50th Anniversary season with a production of Emily Frankel's Cyrano, starring David Bridgewater.

John Wells wrote an adaptation called Cyrano, first presented in 1992 at the Haymarket Theatre in London.[6]

A new translation of the play by Ranjit Bolt opened at Bristol Old Vic in May 2007.[7]

Another new translation by Michael Hollinger had its premier at the Folger Theatre, Washington, D.C., in April, 2011. Directed by Aaron Posner and produced by Janet Griffin, the adaptation is an accessible American translation that is true to the intent and sensibility of the original.

In 1973, a musical adaptation by Anthony Burgess, called Cyrano and starring Christopher Plummer (who won a Tony Award for his performance), appeared in Boston and then on Broadway. Twenty years later, a Dutch musical stage adaptation was translated into English and produced on Broadway as Cyrano: The Musical. Both the 1973 and 1993 versions were critical and commercial failures.

In 1973 the Azerbaijani composer Gara Garayev wrote the musical The Furious Gasconian, based on the play.

A condensed version of Rostand's play, in prose, was written by the Scottish writer Tom Gallacher and performed at the Pitlochry Festival Theatre around 1977.

Jatinder Verma wrote and directed an adaptation in English, Hindi and Urdu set in 1930s India starring Naseeruddin Shah. The play opened at the National Theatre, London in October 1995.

Pierre Lebeau starred in the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde's 1996 production. A great success, the January production was reprised in July (without air conditioning).

In November 1997 Antony Sher performed the title role in the Lyric Theatre's production directed by partner Gregory Doran.

In 1997 Frank Langella created and directed and performed the title role in a stripped-down version of the play simply titled Cyrano.

Cyrano de Bergerac is one of the two plays "performed" during Ken Ludwig's comedic play, Moon Over Buffalo, the other being Private Lives.

Sound & Fury, a Los Angeles-based comedy trio, presented their parody of the play, called Cyranose! in L.A. at Café-Club Fais Do-Do in September 2007. It was also filmed and released on DVD.

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival performed the play during their 2009 season, starring Colm Feore in the title role. This production was unique in that it combined the translation by Anthony Burgess with portions of the original French text, taking advantage of Canadian bilingualism for dramatic effect.

Off Broadway the play has been staged several times, including a New York City parks tour starring Frank Muller, produced by the Riverside Shakespeare Company in 1989.[8]

Barry Wyner loosely based his 2006 new musical Calvin Berger on Rostand's play.

Cyrano de Bergerac ran from 11 October 2012 to 25 November 2012 with Douglas Hodge in the lead at the Roundabout Theatre for a limited engagement.[9][10] USA Today reported an additional engagement in the spring.[11]

In 2013, the Hudson Shakespeare Company of New Jersey presented a version directed by Gene Simakowicz as part of their annual Shakespeare in the Parks tour. The version was based on adaptation from Edmund Rostand's original play and starred Jon Ciccareli as Cyrano, Laura Barbiea as Roxane and Matt Hansen as Christian.[12]

In 2013 the play was adapted by Glyn Maxwell and performed at Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre in Chester[13]

In 2014, the Sydney Theatre Company presented a version of the play adapted by Andrew Upton with Richard Roxburgh in the lead role, Eryn Jean Norvill as Roxane and Julia Zemiro as Duenna.[14][15][16][17]

In March 2016, Theatre Latté Da premiered a new musical adaptation titled C. at the Ritz Theater in Minneapolis. The production was directed by the company's founder and artistic director Peter Rothstein, with music by Robert Elhai, and book and lyrics by Bradley Greenwald, who also starred in the musical as Cyrano de Bergerac.[18]

Movies and other adaptations[edit]

Films[edit]

Radio[edit]

Kenneth Branagh starred as Cyrano, Jodhi May as Roxanne, and Tom Hiddleston as Christian, in a 2008 BBC Radio 3 production using the Anthony Burgess translation and directed by David Timson. This production first aired on BBC Radio 3 on 23 March 2008 and was re-broadcast on 4 April 2010.[24]

Len Cariou and Roberta Maxwell starred in a 1980 CBC Television version directed by Peabody-winner Yuri Rasovsky.

Tom Burke and Emily Pithon starred in a 2015 BBC Radio 4 version for 15 Minute Drama, spanning five 15 minute episodes. It was adapted by Glyn Maxwell, and directed by Susan Roberts.[25]

Opera[edit]

An opera in French, Cyrano de Bergerac, whose libretto by Henri Cain is based on Rostand's words, was composed by the Italian Franco Alfano and was first presented in an Italian translation in 1936. In recent years, the original French version has been revived in productions including the Opéra national de Montpellier with Roberto Alagna in 2003, and a 2005 Metropolitan Opera production with Plácido Domingo in the title role; both are available in DVD recordings.

Victor Herbert's unsuccessful 1899 operetta Cyrano de Bergerac, with a libretto by Harry B. Smith based on the play, was one of Herbert's few failures.

Walter Damrosch's Cyrano, another operatic adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac, premiered in 1913 at the Metropolitan Opera. Eino Tamberg composed another opera titled Cyrano de Bergerac in 1974, to a libretto in Estonian by Jaan Kross, based on Rostand's play.[26] The opera Cyrano by David DiChiera to a libretto by Bernard Uzan premiered at the Michigan Opera Theatre on 13 October 2007.[27]

Scientific studies: "Cyranoids"[edit]

Inspired by the balcony scene in which Cyrano provides Christian with words to speak to Roxane, Stanley Milgram developed an experimental technique that used covert speech shadowing to construct hybrid personae in social psychological experiments, wherein subjects would interact with a "Cyranoid" whose words emanated from a remote, unseen "source".[28][29]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Edmond Rostand. Cyrano de Bergerac: A Heroic Comedy in Five Acts. Retrieved 17 March 2012. 
  2. ^ The Cambridge Guide to Theatre, Cambridge University Press (1995)
  3. ^ L'Eventail, 6 March and 17 April 1898.
  4. ^ The Broadway League. "Internet Broadway Database: Walter Hampden Credits on Broadway". Ibdb.com. Retrieved 17 March 2012. 
  5. ^ "TheReadery". thereadery.com. 
  6. ^ "John Wells' plays". Doollee.com. Retrieved 17 March 2012. 
  7. ^ "Cyrano de Bergerac". The Stage. 10 May 2007. Retrieved 18 April 2012. 
  8. ^ "Review/Theater; Cyrano Opens a Tour of the Parks," New York Times, 6 July 1989.
  9. ^ "Spotlight On: Cyrano de Bergerac". Tony Awards. Retrieved 2013-04-23. 
  10. ^ Blank, Matthew (2012-10-12). "PHOTO CALL: Cyrano de Bergerac Opens on Broadway; Red Carpet Arrivals, Curtain Call and Party". Playbill. Retrieved 2013-04-23. 
  11. ^ Gardner, Elysa (2013-03-29). "Broadway gets a swashbuckling, searing new 'Cyrano'". USA Today. Retrieved 2013-04-23. 
  12. ^ "'Cyrano' kicks off Shakespeare series in Kenilworth". The Cranford Chronicle. 17 June 2013. 
  13. ^ "Cyrano de Bergerac". Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre. 
  14. ^ Blake, Elissa (2 November 2014). "Richard Roxburgh revels in lead role in Sydney Theatre Company's Cyrano de Bergerac". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  15. ^ Low, Lenny Ann (7 November 2014). "Richard Roxburgh dons Cyrano de Bergerac's false nose for Sydney Theatre Company". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  16. ^ Blake, Elissa. "Julia Zemiro on going for it on stage and making bold choices for Cyrano de Bergerac" (6 November 2014). The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  17. ^ Blake, Jason (16 November 2014). "Cyrano de Bergerac review: Andrew Upton's nose for success pays off with Richard Roxburgh". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 16 November 2014. 
  18. ^ Royce, Graydon. "Cyrano sings a new tune as Theater Latte Da premieres new musical 'C'". StarTribune.com. StarTribune. Retrieved 2 May 2016. 
  19. ^ Heller, Anne C. (2009). Ayn Rand and the World She Made. New York: Doubleday. p. 410. ISBN 978-0-385-51399-9. .
  20. ^ "NY Times: Love Letters". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-19. .
  21. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942–2004. Record Research. p. 345. .
  22. ^ "Sur scènes et sur écrans : 1946 – Claude Dauphin – CYRANO DE BERGERAC: toute l information sur cyrano (s) de bergerac, personnage de Edmond de Rostand". Cyranodebergerac.fr. Retrieved 17 March 2012. 
  23. ^ "Oohalu Gusagusalade Movie Review". The Times of India. 
  24. ^ "BBC Radio 3 - Drama on 3 - Cyrano de Bergerac". BBC Online. Retrieved 21 August 2016. 
  25. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - 15 Minute Drama, Cyrano de Bergerac". BBC Online. Retrieved 16 June 2015. 
  26. ^ "Tamberg, Eino". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. 25 (Second ed.). London. 2001. 
  27. ^ "Cyrano – A World Premiere Opera". Michigan Opera Theatre. 2007. Retrieved 19 August 2008. 
  28. ^ Milgram, S. (1984). Cyranoids. In Milgram (Ed), The individual in a social world. New York: McGraw-Hill
  29. ^ Corti, K., & Gillespie, A. (2014). Revisiting Milgram's Cyranoid Method: Experimenting With Hybrid Human Agents. The Journal of Social Psychology. DOI: 10.1080/00224545.2014.959885

External links[edit]