Fr : version française / En: english version

mheu, Historical Museum of the Urban Environment

Joan of Arc at the Stake

Arthur Honegger and Roberto Rossellini

1h 20mins

View this work in the Fire exhibition

The work

An Arthur Honegger oratorio composed in 1938 based on a libretto by Paul Claudel, "Joan of Arc at the Stake" was commissioned by Ida Rubinstein, an actress, dancer and Russian arts patron. It features speaking and singing roles and a fairly modern orchestration, with saxophones, two pianos and ondes Martenot. It was performed for the first time in Basel, with Ida Rubinstein in the title role. After a rocky debut in Orleans—where a reactionary, anti-Semitic crowd booed Ida Rubinstein, feeling that a Jewish actress could not do justice to the role of this Catholic saint—the tour met with great success in France's unoccupied areas during the war. In 1953, Ingrid Bergman reprised the title role in Naples, than at the Paris Opera in 1954, in a mise-en-scène created by her then husband, Roberto Rossellini. They adapted it for the big screen the following year.

The artists

Roberto Rossellini
Roberto Rossellini was born into an educated, middle class family in Rome in 1906. He began working in the movie industry, trying his hand at various related crafts. He produced his first short features starting in 1936 and worked as an assistant to a number of directors. His friendship with one of Mussolini's sons allowed him to make his Fascist Trilogy between 1941 and 1943. As soon as Rome was liberated in 1943, he made "Rome, Open City" (1946 Cannes Grand Prix), the first film in his Neorealistic Trilogy that includes "Paisa" and "Germany, Year Zero," for which he worked with nonprofessional actors. In 1948, Ingrid Bergman contacted him about working together: together they produced six films, including "Stromboli," "Journey to Italy" and "Fear," and had three children, including the actress Isabella Rossellini. Starting in the sixties, Rossellini began working primarily for television on cultural and educational projects. He headed the experimental cinema center and presided over the Cannes Festival in 1977. He died shortly thereafter of a heart attack.

Arthur Honegger
A Paris composer of Swiss descent, Arthur Honegger was born in 1892 in Le Havre to a family of music-loving merchants. He learned to play the violin and entered the Zurich Conservatory in 1909 and the Paris Conservatory two years later. He was a member of the "Group of Six", six "French" composers of the same generation that included Darius Milhaud, Georges Auric, Germaine Taillefer, Louis Durey and Francis Poulenc. His first real success as a composer was a symphonic movement entitled "Pacific 231," after a locomotive of the same name. Honegger composed more than 200 opuses, taking an interest in all kinds of groups and music—chamber, ballads, symphonies (five), operas and operettas—and even all styles, including tonal, atonal, polytonal, but not serialism. Influenced by German and French music, striving to renew his style with each work and interested in modern instruments, he is unclassifiable. Recognized and respected by his peers, he died in Paris in 1955.