The Bald Soprano by Eugene Ionesco
The bald soprano; anti-play, followed by an unpublished scene. Translated by Donald M. Allen. Typographical interpretations by Massin and photographic interpretations by Henry Cohen. Based on the Nicolas Bataille production, with the collaboration of the actors of the The?a?tre de la Huchette by Eugene Ionesco
New York : Grove Press, 1965. First edition. Hardcover. Unpaginated : illustrations ; 28 cm. Very good copy; no underlines or markings within the pages. Satisfaction guaranteed!
The bald soprano by Eugine Ionesco
Typographical Interpretations by Massin & Photographic Interpretations by Henry cohen
At eight o'clock on a rainy evening in May, 1950, the curtain on the stage of Paris' Théåtre des Noctambules rose to reveal a drab, middle-class interior, the set for Eugene Ionesco's (who?) play The Bald Soprano. On-stage sat Mr. Smith, well concealed behind his newspaper, and Mrs. Smith, busily darning socks. After a long moment of "English silence," an English clock strikes "seventeen English strokes" and Mrs. Smith declares, to the amazed audience: "There, it's nine o'clock. We've drunk the soup, and eaten the fish and chips, and the English salad. The children have drunk English water. We've eaten well this evening. That's because we live in the suburbs of London and because our name is Smith."
Of the three critics present that evening more than fifteen years ago, two damned the play and dismissed lonesco as both dull and worthless. A few nights later the play's fortunes reached their lowest ebb: the entire audience consisted of three people — lonesco, his wife, and one of the usher's friends. A few weeks later, the play closed.
Undaunted, the Rumanian-born playwright went on to write other plays, equally quixotic, unconventional—"absurd" as they began to be called. In 1951 The Lesson was produced, and the following year The Chairs. In 1954, How to Get Rid of It drew more critics (still divided) and larger audiences (forty or fifty, which, lonesco has declared, is all a true avant-garde theater requires). In 1956 The Chairs was revived, and now Jean Anouilh, himself a leading playwright, wrote on the front page of Le Figaro: "l believe it is better than Strindberg With these words, Eugene lonesco's period of anonymity came to an end: today he is considered one of the two or three most important dramatists in the world.
The same year The Chairs was revived, The Bald Soprano was also resurrected at Paris' Théåtre de la Huchette. It has been running there ever since, breaking all longevity records for French theater in the twentieth century. Unquestionably one of the seminal plays of our time, The Bald Soprano has today assumed the status of a modern classic. In a sense, the present vol- ' ume — in itself a revolutionary attempt to create a new dimension in play reading — is a monument to lonesco's theatrical achievement. Based upon director Nicolas Bataille's production, using and manipulating its actors, Messrs. Massin and Cohen have attempted to transpose onto paper the atmosphere, the scenic movements, the dialogues and silences, the anger and absurdity of the production itself.
Published last year in France, the volume was an immediate success, and was hailed as an innovation in book publishing, a work that was both a literary triumph and an art book. It is, said the Paris weekly Les Nouve//es Littéraires, "a masterpiece of corrosive and absurd humor, here rendered more explosive than ever."
EUGENE IONESCO was born at Slatina, Rumania, in 1912. His parents brought him to Paris when he was one and a half, and they remained there until Eugéne was thirteen, when they returned to Rumania. In 1938, the young teacher and critic obtained a scholarship from the Rumanian government to study in Paris, and although he never completed his planned thesis, he has made Paris his home ever since. He was thirty-seven when he wrote his first play, The Bald Soprano (the title, lonesco relates, derives from an actor's slip of the tongue: the play was originally entitled A Lesson in English, but in rehearsal an actor misread "bald soprano" for the passing reference in the script to a "blond soprano," and the slip soon became the title). Since then he has written more than a dozen other plays, both one-act and full-length, and has become one of the most widely produced playwrights in the world.
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