French Charms and More
Yesterday afternoon, while putting together a pot roast, I turned on my downstairs Bluetooth speaker and tuned my iPad onto Music Choice, which I discovered on my TV as part of my Verizon package. According to Wikipedia, it used to be known as Digital Cable Radio, apparently the same company I wrote an article about for The Inquirer when it boasted a section called Tech Life. I lived right down the highway from their headquarters at the time.
When I listen to the TV channel I have noticed from time to time that the claim is made that the choice of music their name refers to is made by humans, not arrived at by logarithm. What it reminds me of is WFLN, the FM station I listened to from high school until around the time I started subscribing to the aforementioned Digital Cable Radio. A lot of the music is what I heard routinely in the 1950s, but don’t hear anywhere nearly as much these days. One such piece was played not long after I tuned in yesterday: Jacques Ibert’s Escales. That and his Divertissement were practically classical music hits back in the day. He wrote the music for Orson Welles film version of Macbeth. I certainly hope the French haven’t forgotten him.
Much great art came out of France back then. Many people may remember the film Becket starring Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole. But Jean Anouilh’s play was a hit on Broadway, too. The stars then were Laurence Olivier and Anthony Quinn. The college I attended staged Jean Giraudoux’s The Trojan War Will Not Take Place (renamed Tiger at the Gates in Christopher Fry’s translation) in my senior year. The actress who played Helen of Troy was my date at the senior prom. If Giraudoux is remembered at all among English-speaking audiences these days it is probably for the film version of The Madwoman of Chaillot with Katherine Hepburn in the title role.
There seems to be little repertory theater around now. One would think actors and directors would relish taking on things like Anouilh’s Waltz of the Toreadors (also made into a film, with Peter Sellars). I would think that any theater routinely featuring successful plays from the past — think William Inge, Tennessee Williams, Terence Rattigan, or the incomparable Pirandello — would make a bundle. It would certainly provide contemporary playwrights with something besides today’s headlines to measure up to.