I first saw the stage production of Les Misérables when I was a drama student in London. I cried from start to finish. I recently saw the movie version. I cried from start to finish. What is it about this powerful book, written in 1862—meaning it’s 151 years old—that continues to inspire and move people? It is considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century. The story begins in 1815 and culminates in 1832, and follows the life of convict Jean Valjean (based on a real person) in his journey from humiliation to final redemption. It’s not just about one man, however; it’s about a society in transition, politics, justice, philosophy, freedom, religion, and self-belief. It is sweeping in the greatness of the themes embraced by author Victor Hugo.
Ah, the singing. I have the CD and have played it so many times that even I hit those high notes in my head. Again, it’s not about the singing; it’s about actors portraying a powerful and passionate story. They just happen to be singing! From the moment the opening scene sweeps the viewer into an epic of monumental proportions, one is lost in the story. From the visual splendour of a giant vessel being towed into dry dock, to the close-up of a filthy, weeping, cropped Anne Hathaway, it is hard not to succumb to what the performers do so well: tell a story. And that’s what writers aim to do: tell a story that moves the reader/audience. Life is about stories—people’s personal tales, and society’s grand epics.
|Cosette by Emile Bayard - original 1862 edition|
Like it or love it, but see it without any expectations of soaring operatic voices. See it for what it is—an incredible story, performed with passion by talented actors, who pour their hearts and souls into every minute.
by Fiona Ingram
(Images courtesy of Wikipedia: see links)