Bronteana: Bronte Studies Blog Archives

January 29, 2006

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Filed under: Audio Clips,Downloads,Music,Music Theatre,Wuthering Heights — by bronteana @ 9:46 pm

Wuthering Heights by Bernard Taylor

This found me by way of Thisbeciel and Biedroneczka. This is yet another musical. Most of the tracks can be downloaded from Mr.Taylor's website, but there is also a CD which I think includes another 15 songs. I am hoping to coax someone into writing a review for Bronteana. For now, I have some initial reactions to register.

Here is a brief intro to the work:

Taylor's musical was the first stage adaptation of the story to be given the approval of the Brontë Society. The concept album was released by Silva Screen records in 1992, and opera star Lesley Garrett also used two of the songs for one of her best-selling solo albums.A 1994 amateur performance in the Netherlands was very successful and generated discussions for possible other productions. It has been running in repertoire in Poland since 1996 and Rumania since 1997. It debuted in Australia in 1998.

The show requires a minimum cast of about 15, but can be expanded to include a chorus of 20 or more. Orchestrations are available for a pit orchestra of 12.

This is the second music theatre adaptation of Wuthering Heights that I have come in contact with. I thought, and still do think, that the novel has a lot of potential for both opera and music theatre. Both of these work best when the emotions stretch beyond the imaginative levels of experience to the mythic. This is why characters in music theatre break into song. But the first version of Wuthering Heights that I heard so failed to reflect the mythic level of WH that it left the whole thing as something of a farce. Heathcliff was far too vulnerable and …well, nice. The music was melodious but lacked depth. I should return to it, because I have only heard some very small selections but these impressions have stuck over repetitions.This production from 1990 is a different story. I am quite impressed with the sensitivity of the score in particular. On the first listen, I was troubled by some of the lyrics but even then I realised that I was simply biased against the very idea of Heathcliff singing. When I got passed that, on a second and third listen, I heard the Arabic rhythms of his theme. I came to think that IF Heathcliff were to sing, he would sing like this. The exclaimations of 'Cathy!' that troubled me before now seem to rumble in the underscore and force their way through into the melody.

Besides this, the songs are beautiful in their own right. In the Prelude there is beauty and a sadness lurking behind it. I get the impression of beginning a celebration and a tragedy. I think this is fitting.

Two of the songs I've gone over are: Cathy! and I See a Change in You.

In addition to Wuthering Heights, Mr Taylor has adapted several other works of literature to music theatre- with equal sensitivity! He has adapted Pride and Prejudice, which captures the period so nicely in its score. The lyrics also are quite good but there's something… off. I think it is his weakest adaptation of those I have listened to so far. He has also adapted Much Ado About Nothing, which I have to admit is delightful. Again, he has managed to encorporate the scales and rhythms popular in the Renaissance into this work. I will take the liberty of recomending Benedick's song on hearing of Beatrice's passion: Madness, performed by Paul McGann as Benedick.

The work has also been the subject of discussion in the journal formerly known as 'Bronte Society Transactions' but now known as 'Bronte Studies.' Mark Seaward, editor of B.S.T. said of the work: "Bernard J. Taylor’s work marks the first time that the true spirit and drama of Emily Brontë’s masterpiece has been captured in a musical." Taken from this page, also on Mr.Taylor's site.

Critics on Wuthering Heights by Bernard Taylor:

"Bernard J. Taylor's big, sweepingly romantic score sustains a feeling of dark passion entirely appropriate for an adaptation of Emily Bronte's novel concerning the ill-fated love between Cathy and Heathcliff." – Show Music Magazine, USA, Summer, 1992.

"This is what stage music should be – passionate, powerful, melodic . . . If you buy only one album this year, make it this one – Mike Gibb, Masquerade Magazine.

"Every number, whether vocal or instrumental, packs the kind of emotional punch that musical performers and audiences cry out for." – Sarah Hopkins, Beneath the Mask, Summer 1994 issue.
"Something to shiver about!" – House & Garden (British edition), March 1992.

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January 27, 2006

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Filed under: Anecdotes,Bronteana,Wuthering Heights — by bronteana @ 1:10 am

When Wuthering Heights is a Punchline!

I don't usually post every mention of anything Brontë-related, especially when the link is so tenuous as this, but I couldn't resist- it's so cute. This comes from an article on wireless communication! 'Are Wireless Benefits Being Oversold?'

Self-appointed experts need to be brought down to earth by being shown what a " technological benefit" really means at the user level.

For instance, I recently overheard a conversation between two businessmen, one of whom appeared to be staring for a long time at his handheld. The other man asked: "Is that WAP?" The first replied: "No, Wuthering Heights."

January 20, 2006

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Filed under: Films,Wuthering Heights — by bronteana @ 5:20 pm


Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie to Star in Wuthering Heights

This was just brought to my attention by BronteBlog. Read all about it in today's issue of Leeds Today. I cannot say that the pairing has ever ocurred to me, but it has potential.

Hollywood megastars Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie are to star in a Yorkshire blockbuster of Wuthering Heights.

The Emily Bronte 1847 classic, set on the isolated Top Withens area of the Yorkshire Moors above Haworth, is the inspiration behind a new, lavish depiction of the gripping Victorian tale.Film chiefs have told the Yorkshire Evening Post 'off the record' that the deal has been done to bring two of the film industry's biggest stars to Yorkshire. Film scouts are understood to have been combing the Yorkshire area in the last 10 days to find the perfect film locations to film the wild, passionate scenes between two of the world's hottest stars, who will play Heathcliff and Cathy, two of the literary world's greatest romantic figures.

They are rumoured to start filming next year and could be in Yorkshire for six months, along with a huge crew and cast. The lid is being kept on details of the deal. Depp, 42, who is a lover of the Bronte's literary works, once said during an interview: "Am I a romantic? I've seen Wuthering Heights 10 times. I'm a romantic."

December 28, 2005

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Filed under: Dance,Wuthering Heights — by bronteana @ 5:52 pm

Northern Ballet Theatre's Wuthering Heights

Another post about a Brontean production from a few years past- and another dance production! This time we have Wuthering Heights, starring Charlotte Talbot as Cathy and Jonathan Ollivier as Heathcliff, produced by the Northern Ballet Theatre. This is the first time I have heard of Emily Bronte's novel being produced as a ballet but, I never can tell. Often something even older turns up. Unlike other productions, this one still has an active website with a fair bit of information, including a long synopsis, reviews, an e-flyer (with probably even more great finds), and even wallpaper for your computer desktop (in two different sizes: 800 x 600 and 1024 x 768) , as well as many colour and black and white photographs! Here is one of the reviews, to give you a sense of the show's reception:

DANCE EXPRESSION MAGAZINE – MAY 2003

"Nixon has created a narrative ballet where the story is clear, the characters come through the choreography (which doesn't shun emotional values), the music sets a mood (it's tuneful as well) and the dancers have some difficult work to do establishing their roles as Nixon challenges them at every turn. Jonathan Ollivier expertly expresses the glowering moods of Heathcliff….I particularly enjoyed Desiré Samaai's empty-headed Isabella…The scene where she eventually catches Heathcliff's eye – is quite erotic in its intensity. ..What makes this two-acter so palatable is the dramaturgy of Patricia Doyle, the pleasant windswept score of Claude-Michel Schönberg, complemented by Nixon's choreographic structure…..NBT has a winner"

November 18, 2005

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'Cottage Poems' by Patrick Brontë

At last! The Cottage Poems have been published by Project Gutenburg! Click here to read the full texts. They were released on november 16th. Could 'Maid of Killarney' be far behind? How very exciting! Other Bronte texts available through the Project include:

A, C, and E Brontë: Poems by Currer, Ellis and, Acton Bell
Anne Brontë: Agnes Grey, Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Charlotte Brontë: Jane Eyre, Villette, The Professor.

Il y a Jane Eyre ou Les mémoires d'une institutrice>>, le roman en Francais aussi. Je ne sais pas qu'est le traducteur de cet roman. C'est tres intéressante. Je pense qu'il est comme lire la roman encore- pour le premier fois. Il a un peu plus …de melodrame. Ou plus de poésie, peut-etre. D'accord. Chacun langue chante son poésie. And, no, there is no text for Shirley! Shame, shame! (Nothing for Branwell either).

Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights.

Also: Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell: The Life of Charlotte Brontë volume one and two.

A friend of mine is responsible for Really Slow productions of Shakespeare. People volunteer to record their lines, and then this is all pasted together with the magic of the internet into… a really slow production of Shakespeare. Some of my other friends and I were then inspired to try a really slow production of Jane Eyre the Musical. The trouble here was that all of my friends are ladies (the ones who sing, at any rate). And so, we had a soprano Rochester and myself who plays St.John Rivers (also a soprano, although I can sing alto as well). I forget how Brocklehurst came out… Our Jane was a certain classicist from Nova Scotia. Alas, before we ever even took our little horrendous productioni seriously, she ran away to a religious order.

And now, she's back! And she's not a nun. She found true love… in the religious order. I am astounded and amazed, and it is beautiful. She is no longer my soon-to be nun friend who despaired of leaving behind her copy of Villette. I now have a deliriously happy non-nun friend who can have as many books as she likes- and the true love thing is rather nice too.

ps. Don't worry, Martha- I got your email! I think this deserves a post of its own 🙂

October 14, 2005

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Wuthering Heights in 5 Parts and more news for Jane Eyre: The Musical

*NB: It has been brought to my attention that part two of WH had been omitted by mistake. I've tried to correct this. Please let me know if there are any problems.

Biedroneczka, who brought us Mystery Theatre Jane Eyre, has also kindly posted a five-part BBC radio adaptation with Amanda Root as Cathy and John Duttine as Heathcliff! I haven't listened to this particular version. My computer really cannot handle large downloads.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five

ETA: "'Jane Eyre' failed on Broadway because the economics of musicals do not allow for maturity." An article on article about a current production of the show:

JANE EYRE: THE MUSICAL. By John Caird and Paul Gordon. At CM Performing Arts Center, 931 Montauk Hwy., Oakdale, through Oct.23. Tickets $16-$28. Call 631-218-2810.

October 3, 2005

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This is a pun.

Next she bore the Kyklopes with over-proud heart,
Brontes and Steropes and hard-hearted Arges,
who gave Zeus thunder and made the lightning-bolt.
They were like the gods in everything else,
but a single eye was in the middle of their foreheads;
they were given the name Kyklopes because
one round eye was in their foreheads;
strength, force, and skill were in their works. (Theog. 139-146)

This is a distracting bit of Hesiod. But note: strength, force, and skill were in their works. Apt, yes? 😉

As usual, very interesting stuff on the wire and at BronteBlog including another DVD release of Wuthering Heights! I'm not sure how widely known this is, but in my circle it has been much talked of… We expect that the BBC production of Jane Eyre, the beloved version with Sorcha Cusack and Michael Jayston, will be released sometime next year. Alisa from L.E.R.O. first got wind of this after emailing Eureka Video. However, there has been much confusion on this. Even though the news has been verified independently, Eureka and the BBC can't seem to decide who is actuallying releasing it–the BBC say Eureka, Eureka says the BBC. So long as it can be in my hands sometime in the near future, I really do not care. I'm one of the lucky ones. I didn't know about it until this year and I was able to get a recording made from someone's 30 year old copies (thank God for PBS and the CBC!). I have not had to wait 30 years like quite a few fans I know.

I know that from the news on BronteBlog it looks like new adaptations are not forthcoming but I can't say that I agree. The trend seems to be that a Bronte film is made at least once a decade. I believe there has only been one decade or so when this didn't hold true, and in many cases there are a lot of films made in that space of time. Our last one was 1997 I think… I someone has written a screenplay of Villette! Ah! Now wouldn't that be tremendous?! [apparently it had been done by the BBC but I haven't yet been able to find out if copies of it still exist or if it has been lost].

ETA:
I also have an idea. I'm considering posting some of illustrations I've been hoarding over the past year. I collect antique books, and illustrated copies of Jane Eyre. I have quite a few, but friends have simply… piled them on me. I cannot keep up! I have books still to scan (I'm an obsessive compiler, I think ;). I had intended this to be an illustrated blog (see Mr. Bulwer-Lytton in Petticoats below) but I don't often have the energy to make a sketch a day on top of everything else. Anyone horrified at the idea? Here's a random picture–the cover of the 1857 play.

September 27, 2005

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Filed under: Music,Music Theatre,Radio,Wuthering Heights — by bronteana @ 8:43 am

Wierd Circle Wuthering Heights, and a Musical

As promised, here is my discussion of Wuthering Heights produced by 'Wierd Circle'. It was quite a few notched better and more mature than their version of Jane Eyre. I know that compressing most books, and great books down to a half-hour radio program is nearly impossible but this one shows that with careful editing it doesn't have to be disasterous. It still isn't good, but it's good enough–I suppose. The story is compressed mainly by cutting out the entire revenge plot from beginning to end, except for Hindley treating Heathcliff poorly (but there's no mention of anything other than ostracism going on). Heathcliff cries a little, thinking of getting revenge but this revenge never happens. It seems more like an immature thought which passes after he sobers up. He does return to the Heights but all that we learn of that is that Hindley invited him. He still marries Isabella 'for spite' but all that we know about the marriage is that Isabella 'isn't happy'. All of the past and present action takes place through the device of Cathy's diary and the explication of Nelly at the end. Lockwood remains at Wuthering Heights until he has heard the whole story. When he has told Heathcliff about Cathy's ghost, Heathcliff rushes into the snow to 'bring her back' and they find him frozen on her grave the next morning. I suppose what really keeps this version from the brink of the kind of absurdity of their version of Jane Eyre is the dialogue. There is only one line, said by Cathy, which seems silly and this is only in its delivery.

I don't remember mentioning this before, but a few months ago I also was introduced to the Wuthering Heights musical. Clips from the CD can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00009Y3OJ/qid%3D1123810368/sr%3D2-3/ref%3Dpd%5Fbbs%5Fb%5F2%5F3/103-1399124-4423806 My general impression was that it didn't work. I haven't heard the music for a while now, but while I liked the idea of an operatic attempt I don't feel that this one really did the job at all.

August 27, 2005

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Jane Eyre the Musical to make its UK Premiere, and the Wierd Circle.

Finally there is news about my favourite musical! Details can be found here: Jane Eyre the Musical's UK Premiere.

I've been very busy lately, preparing to return to school, but I have also been at a loss to decide exactly what to post about- there's so much to choose from. Firstly, just as July was our impromptu Villette month, August is Jane Eyre month. I usually read the novel all at once in a day, or two at most. I picked up on a lot of things that I usually gloss over while reading it slowly over the month. Probably my most interesting 'discovery' was that Helen Burns doesn't have a grave marker for a certain number of years. It seemed very odd that this time frame would be given. After thinking about it, and tallying the passage of time based on the events in the novel I believe that it's plausible to assume that Jane returned to Lowood with her son and Mr Rochester- because it would have to have been when her child was 3 years old. There might be another explaination, but I found this one intriguing!

I love to do inter-textual analysis, and so I also made a list of each and every book mentioned in the novel. 🙂 That will keep me busy for quite some time in the distant future. My wonderful friend Thisbeciel has also overwhelmed me with her Brontean bounty! I now have full texts of The Cottage Poems by Patrick Bronte! And many terrific images, and illustrations such as… This picture of the madwoman's room at Norton Conyers! I think that if I was shown such a room I'd probably write a novel as well 😉

I ALSO got to hear a strange little adaptations of Jane Eyre and of Wuthering Heights. I believe these date to the 1950s- which is even more interesting to me because I haven't been able to see any of the films of Jane Eyre from that decade (yet). The group was called Wierd Circle. Imagine, if you will, Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights performed in half an hour. Does it make you smile? Yes, it was awful- but awfully funny. Jane Eyre was especially terrible and has now become the source of many jokes among my friends.

Wierd Circle Jane Eyre included such interesting elements as:
-The landscape being terrifying in and of itself.
-No Mrs. Fairfax. The housekeeper is now a Mrs. Campbell who has a really creepy voice and is always saying things like: "You think you'll be happy here? ha ha ha Really, Miss Eyre? Happy? ha ha. You'll see… yes, you'll see. Ha ha ha". That isn't a direct quote, but this is: "We've had other governesses come before but they never stayed. No. Never…" And she tells poor Adele that she's "a child of the devil".

-Mr Rochester is really not that bad. But he's a few leaves short of a chestnut tree sometimes. During his first chat with Jane he says that he has learned a lot about Jane: that she's an orphan, likes children, and that he loves her: "You're an orphan, like children, and I love you." They sort of pretend that didn't happen, because she is still surprised by his proposal! When Jane asks him why no one is allowed upstairs he replies glibly that "it saves fuel." When Jane points out how this doesn't make sense he says: "Let's say it saves fuel and go with that." When asked about the articulate voice shouting threats in the distance he says: "It's the wind". When Jane objects he replies: "Let's say it's the wind and leave it at that."

-Mrs. Campbell: "You won't be married for another three days, and there's a lot I can do in three days!"

-I will now spoil the ending. Bertha is revealled- and this part really was creepy, I must say. But it still suceeded in ruining the effect of Bertha's demonic cries and laughter. While she laughs and cries out that she likes to see death, Mr Rochester informs us that he adopted Adele because he was lonely and needed something to love- which, you know, inevitably makes me think that a cat would have probably been a better idea. And so that really ruined the moment. But it was very funny. Bertha's death is also comically undermined. Mr Rochester tells her to not jump, and we hear her do a "la la la- whoop!" and hear Jane inform us that Bertha has slipped off of the roof (Jane witnesses the fire- I forgot to say… Thornfield bursts into flames as soon as she leaves). And lastly, the framing device of Jane's diary is reintroduced. Jane is at Mr Rochester's bedside in the hospital. He's alive but IN A COMA. He's been in a coma for the last few months. And since Jane has begun to speak in a slow creepy Mrs. Campbell sort of way, we are left with the knowledge that he won't ever wake up- probably.

I know how much you must have enjoyed that- and so, next time I'll have Wierd Circle Wuthering Heights to discuss!

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