West Virginia University in Vendée, France
June 25-26, 1999
No visit to France would be complete without an evening at the theatre. On Friday, several of us had the priviledge of seeing some of the the finest works of the French stage -- a little Corneille, Molière, Musset... The students of the middle school of L'Amiral offered a live performance of us some of the finest verses of the language, and several WVU-Vendéens are on hand for the show. I stole this shot just before the curtain rose. Not my best piece of photography, the picture still captures the anticipation of Carolyn Graeber (half of her at least), Amy Workman, Marion Crêtaux, Brad Gunnell, and Helena Racin. I think Helena is just learning that there is no Shakespeare on the program this evening!
There is no more important play for the French stage than Le Cid, which Pierre Corneille wrote in 1635. This play laid the foundation for the neo-classical revival that still sets the standard for French theatre. Tonight Brad Gunnell's host brother Guillaume Crêtaux (right) has the title role. Memorizing great verse and presenting it not only vocally but also on the stage is an important part of training both the voice and the body for expressing a range of feelings and ideas.
Saturday June 26 starts early for several WVU-Vendéens, who drive north across Brittany to Mont Saint-Michel, one of the most visited sites in France. Yours truly was not along for this trip, but like these Vendéens, my trusty digital camera could not rest. Photography by my brother-in-law, Antoine Crêtaux.
The Archangel Saint Michael has long watched over the destiny of this nation, and this site has long been one of the most cherished for travellors on these shores. A holy site from early in the Middle Ages, pilgrims came here from all over Europe to see the monastery built on an isle of stone. Today, tourists far outnumber the pilgrims, but together they continue to make this one of the most visited places in France.
Except in the depths of winter, the narrow streets leading to the summit of the small isle are almost always crowded.
From the summit, the view over the sands of the bay that marks the border between Britanny and Normandy is magnificent.
Today's group includes Nicole, Carolyn, Helena, Jodi, Kelly, Freddy, Brad, and Jennifer. The couple to the right are in evident admiration of this fine assembly.
On their return to Les Sables, the groups stop in the beautiful and ancient Breton village of Dinard.
A long day like this calls for a little fine dining, of course!
Back home this morning (Sunday June 27), Brad shares his experiences with his host sisters Clémence (who must leave the table, unable to bare the weight of these vivid accounts) and with Marion, who due to her wide experience of the world remains calm and composed despite the high drama of the narrative. She, after all, was the only one in the house left tearless by her brother's powerful interpretation of Le Cid Friday evening. Not really a surprise, though, since one of the principal values of the Corneille's classical theatre was the hero's ability to contain emotion, to overcome one's own self-interest, and to act with courage even when faced with the greatest of moral dilemmas. Merci, Marion, for a real class act...
As I mentioned earlier, we're off early tomorrow to visit the nearby Loire Valley, home to many other great treasures of France. My next posting will thus likely be on Wednesday, June 30. I'm sure there will be a lot to tell...
Stay tuned to WVU-V!
Go on to June 28, 1999
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