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La Cantatrice Chauve ‚ÄĒ translated from the French as The Bald Soprano or The Bald Prima Donna ‚ÄĒ is the first play written by Franco-Romanian playwright Eug√®ne Ionesco. Nicolas Bataille directed the premiere on May 11, 1950 at the Th√©√Ętre des Noctambules, Paris. Since 1957 it has been in permanent showing at the Th√©√Ętre de la Huchette, which received a Moli√®re d'honneur for its performances. With a record number of interpretations, it has become one of the most performed plays in Francemarker.

Origin

The idea of the play came to Ionesco while he was trying to learn English with the Assimil method. He was impressed by the contents of the dialogues, often very sober and strange, so he decided to write an absurd play named L'anglais sans peine ("English without pain"). He originally wrote the play in his native language Romanian, then wrote it again in his adopted language French. The current title was set only after a verbal slip-up made by one of the actors during the rehearsals.

Plot summary

The Smiths are a traditional couple from Londonmarker, who have invited another couple, the Martins, over for a visit. They are joined later by the Smiths' maid, Mary, and the local fire chief, who is also Mary's lover. The two families engage in meaningless banter, telling stories and relating nonsensical poems. Mrs. Martin at one point converses with her husband as if he were a stranger she just met. As the fire chief turns to leave, he mentions "the bald soprano" in passing, which has a very unsettling effect on the others. Mrs Smith replies that "she always wears her hair in the same style." After the Fire Chief's exit, the play devolves into a series of complete non sequiturs, with no resemblance to normal conversation. It ends with the two couples shouting in unison "It's not that way. It's over here!," or in some translations, "It's not over there. It's over here!"

Meaning

Like many plays in the theatre of the absurd genre, the underlying theme of The Bald Soprano is not immediately apparent. Many suggest that it expresses the futility of meaningful communication in modern society. The script is charged with non sequiturs that give the impression that the characters are not even listening to each other in their frantic efforts to make their own voices heard. There was speculation around the time of its first performance, categorising it as a parody. Ionesco states in an essay written to his critics, that he had no intention of parody, but if he were parodying anything, it would be everything.

The Bald Soprano appears to have been written as a continuous loop. The final scene contains stage instructions to start the performance over from the very beginning, with the Martin couple substituted for the Smith couple and vice versa. However, this decision was only added in after the show's hundredth premier, for it was originally for the Smiths to restart the show, in the exact same manner as before.

According to Ionesco, he had several possible endings in mind, including a climax in which the "author" or "manager" antagonizes the audience, and even a version in which the audience would be shot with machine guns. However this was ultimately settled for a cheaper solution, the cycle. Ionesco told Claude Bonnefoy in an interview, "I wanted to give a meaning to the play by having it begin all over again with two characters. In this way the end becomes a new beginning but, since there are two couples in the play, it begins the first time with the Smiths and the second time with the Martins, to suggest the interchangeable nature of the characters: the Smiths are the Martins and the Martins are the Smiths".

References

  1. Rosette C. Lamont. Ionesco's imperatives: the politics of culture. University of Michigan Press, 1993. ISBN 0472103105. pg. 3.
  2. http://cuttingball.com/season/bald-soprano/the-creator-of-the-anti-play/
  3. Erich Segal. The Death of Comedy. Harvard University Press, 2001. ISBN 067401247X pg. 422.
  4. Bonnefoy, Claude. Conversations with Ionesco. Trans. Jan Dawson. New York: Hold, Rinehart and Winston, 1971. pg. 81.



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