Criptic Critic Conscience and Known for it

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Someone and someone were down by the pond Looking for something to plant in the lawn. Out in the fields they were turning the soil I'm sitting here hoping this water will boil When I look through the windows and out on the road They're bringing me presents and saying hello. Singing words, words between the lines of age. Words, words between the lines of age. If I was a junkman selling you cars, Washing your windows and shining your stars, Thinking your mind was my own in a dream What would you wonder and how would it seem? Living in castles a bit at a time The King started laughing and talking in rhyme. Singing words, words between the lines of age. Words, words between the lines of age.

Act 1
 Palace of the Countess of Coigny Servants are preparing for a ball. Carlo Gérard, the majordomo, is filled with indignation at the sight of his aged father, worn out by long years of heavy labor for their noble masters. Only the Countess' daughter Maddalena escapes his hatred, since he is besotted with her. Maddalena jokes with Bersi, her mulatto servant girl. Gérard notes Maddalena's beauty. The Countess rebukes Maddalena for dallying when she should be dressing for the ball. The guests arrive. Among them is a priest who has come from Paris with news about the poor decisions of King Louis XVI's government. Also among the guests is the dashing and popular poet, Andrea Chénier. The soirée begins with a "pastoral" performance. A chorus of shepherds and shepherdesses sing idealized rustic music and a ballet mimics a rural love story in stately court fashion. The Countess asks Chénier to improvise a poem but he refuses. Maddelena, on a bet with friends, tries to get Chénier to recite a verse, but he refuses her also, saying that "Poetry is quite as capricious as love." This wins Maddelena's bet, which was to get Chénier to say "love". Her laughter draws the Countess' attention, and Maddelena explains. Chénier now becomes angry. He sings of the suffering of the poor, ending with a tirade against those in power in church and state, shocking the guests. Then he hails Maddelena's beauty and proclaims that love is the soul and life of the world. Maddalena begs forgiveness. Maddelena and Chénier leave together. The guests dance a gavotte, which is interrupted by Gérard and a crowd of ragged people who ask for food. Gérard repudiates his service, and throws his livery at the feet of the Countess. She orders them all out, and comforts herself by thoughts of her gifts to charity. The ball continues as if nothing had happened.

Act 2
Café Hottot in Paris, during the Reign of Terror Bersi, now a merveilleuse, chats with an incroyable. Is he a spy for Robespierre? An "observer of the public spirit," he says. Bersi asserts she has nothing hide as "a child of the Revolution". A tumbrel passes, bearing condemned prisoners to the guillotine, mocked by the crowd. Bersi leaves. The Incroyable records that she was with the blonde woman he is looking for, and that Chénier is at a nearby table. Chénier's friend Roucher enters. He reminds Chénier that he is under suspicion for his association with disgraced General Dumoriez, urges him to flee, and offers him a false passport. Chénier refuses: his destiny is love, and he awaits a mysterious woman who has sent him letters. Roucher sees the last letter, and dismisses it as from a prostitute. He persuades Chénier to take the passport. A procession of revolutionary leaders passes, including Robespierre and the former servant Gérard, who enters the café. The Incroyable reports to him about the blonde, whom Gérard has been seeking, saying that she will come to the café that night. Bersi returns, and pleads with Roucher to keep Chénier there. She leaves for a dance with the Incroyable. Roucher persuades Chénier to leave, but the old woman Madelon tells Chénier to wait for a woman called "Speranza" (Hope); all leave, except the Incroyable, who returns and hides. A hooded woman enters; it is "Speranza". She uncovers herself, and Chénier recognizes her as Maddalena. The Incroyable leaves to tell Gérard. Chénier and Maddalena proclaim their love in a passionate duet. As they prepare to leave they are discovered by Gérard. Chénier sends Maddalena away with Roucher, and then wounds Gérard in a swordfight. Believing he is dying, Gérard warns Chénier to flee from the wrath of the prosecutor Fouquier-Tinville, Chénier's enemy, and asks him to save Maddalena. The Incroyable returns with soldiers and a crowd, but Gérard tells them that his assailant is unknown to him. All blame the Girondists.

Act 3 
The Revolutionary Tribunal The sans-culotte Mathieu calls on the people to give money for the army of the Revolution, but they refuse. Gérard, who has recovered, enters and renews the appeal. A blind woman comes in with her grandson, whom she gives to be a soldier of the Revolution. The crowd disperses, and the Incroyable reports to Gérard that Chénier has been arrested in Luxembourg, and Maddalena will come for him. He urges Gérard to write down the charges against Chénier for his trial. But Gérard hesitates. Alone, he muses that his Revolutionary ideals are betrayed and he is still a slave: formerly of the nobles, now of his own lust. Finally desire triumphs and he signs the indictment in a mood of cynicism. The Incroyable takes it to the Tribunal. Maddalena enters to plead for Chénier's life. Gérard admits that he had Chénier arrested to control Maddalena. He has been in love with her since they were children, is now a powerful man, and will have his way. Maddalena refuses: she will shout her name in the streets, and be executed as aristocrat. Maddalena sings how the mob killed her mother and burned the palace, how she escaped, and how Bersi became a prostitute to support them both. Chénier was the force that gave life back to her. So if Chénier's life must cost her body, she will yield to Gérard. Gérard is moved by her love for Chénier. He searches for the indictment to cancel it, but it has already gone. A clerk presents the list of accused persons, including Chénier. Gérard promises Maddalena he will save Chénier. A crowd of spectators enter, and then the judges and prisoners. One by one, the prisoners are hastily condemned. When Chénier is tried, he denies all the charges, and proclaims his honor. Gérard says he falsely accused Chénier, but Fouquier-Tinville takes up the charges himself. Gérard defies the Tribunal: justice has become Tyranny, and "we murder our poets." Chénier embraces Gérard, who points out Maddalena in the crowd. The Tribunal condemns Chénier to death, and he is led off with the other prisoners. Act 4 St. Lazare Prison Chénier awaits his execution with Roucher, writing verses of his faith in truth and beauty. Roucher leaves, as Mathieu sings the Marseillaise outside. Maddalena enters with Gérard for a last meeting with Chénier. Maddalena:

 They killed my mother
At the door of my room;
She died and saved me!
Later, in the dead of night
I was wandering with Bersi
When suddenly
A pale glow flashes
And it lightens ahead of me
The dark street!
I look!
My home was burning!
So I was alone!
And all around me, nothing!
Hunger and misery!
Deprivation, danger!
I fell ill,
And Bersi, so good and pure
Made a market of her beauty
For my sake -
I bring misfortune to all those who loves me!
It was in that grief
That love came to me!
A voice full of harmony and it says:
'You have to live! I am the life itself!
Your heaven is in my eyes
You're not alone!
I'll collect all your tears!
I'll walk with you and support you!
Smile and hope! I am love!
Are you surrounded by blood and mud?
I am divine! I am oblivion!
I'm the God that descends on Earth
From the Empyrean, I turn Earth
Into heaven! Ah!
I'm love, I'm love, love
And the angel approaches with a kiss
And the Death is kissing you.
My body is a dying body.
So take it
I've already died!

                                                                                                bribes the jailer Schmidt to let her change places with a condemned noblewoman. The lovers meet and both rejoice in their love and their coming death, which they now face together, Gérard hails their bravery and devotion, and leaves to make a last appeal to Robespierre. As dawn approaches, Schmidt calls their names. They go to face the guillotine joined in love.

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