[Monday Reading] The Wildness of Sculpture and the Opera in “Madeleine’s Light” and “La Traviata”

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It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.

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I love reading about artists, music, the opera. These two picturebooks celebrate the wildness of the beauty found in sculpture and opera.

img_6803Madeleine’s Light: A Story of Camille Claudel

Written byNatalie Ziarnik Illustrated by: Robert Dunn
Published by: Boyds Mills Press, 2012 ISBN: 1590788559 (ISBN13: 9781590788554)
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

“Is she wild?” Madeleine whispered.

“Just spirited,” answered Grand-mère. “It is rare that a woman becomes a talented sculptor.”

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Perhaps it does take a little bit of wildness to stand out, be true to one’s self, and follow one’s path. This picturebook shares a fictionalized account of an episode in Camille Claudel’s (1864-1943) life when she stayed at Château de l’Islette and became good friends with the landlady’s granddaughter, Madeleine Boyer – as could be seen in the Author’s Note found at the end of the story.

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Their friendship was not what one would call an instantaneous one. Mademoiselle often kept to herself and seemed to have an untamed quality about her. It was when Madeleine brought a bowl of cafe au lait to the reclusive artist’s room that Camille Claudel witnessed the light in the young girl’s spirit that things began to change between them.

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The image above is one of my favourites, as Camille Claudel started showing the young girl, Madeleine to embrace dirt: how mud, clay, the very ground that they walk on pulsates and breathes. As Claudel stated: “This clay glows with life.” I loved the connection between these two females as their friendship brought about a heightened sense of aesthetics and a deeper sense of awareness for the world around them.

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As the Author’s Note indicated, Claudel’s sculpture of Madeleine continues to be perceived “as a turning point in Claudel’s artistic life, the point at which she sought to capture more than the outlines of a person’s face; she hoped to depict the person’s soul and individual character as well.” This is quite a worthwhile discovery – truly glad how our reading themes bring us unexpected finds such as this one.

Verdi’s La Traviataimg_6797

Retold byGyeong-hye Lee Illustrated by: Aurelia Fronty Edited by: Joy Cowley
Published by: Big & Small Press, 2015 ISBN: 9781925233803
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Wild My Dream of Ecstasy (Alfredo)

“Since the day she whispered that she loved me

every moment I spend with her is heaven.”

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Based on Giuseppe Verdi’s opera and retold by Gyeong-hye Lee, young readers get to know this sad story about a beautiful woman named Violetta who gave up everything for love. Admittedly, I am more a musical kind of girl than an opera geek, so I am not familiar with this story.

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Alfredo, bless his heart, despite being described as “innocent” and passionate with his love, is technically penniless. Violetta is used to the finer things in life: ball gowns, parties, wealthy suitors – so she did consider the proposal quite carefully, but eventually chose the non-circumspect course of action and fell into the forbidden love affair trope: poor-boy-rich-girl narrative, not that it did her any good, really. Wouldn’t take a genius to note that this isn’t going to end happily. But see, that’s just the cynic in me speaking. I was especially taken by the art in this picturebook (see below):

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This book also reminded me of the operetta I watched in Munich – Die schöne Helena. While I did not understand much of what was going on, I enjoyed it:

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But perhaps the one closest to the story would be the ballet flamenco my friend and I watched in Madrid: Carmen de Bizet.

As I have written in my Facebook page after witnessing this glorious flamenco ballet:

Flaming flamenco red, flowing scarves and flowers in women’s hair, thunderous clicking heels like heartbeat drumming out of one’s chest, the c-r-r-r-a-a-c-k of the abaniko in tune with a man’s heart breaking, beauty and passion intermingle to consume itself with a cry of despair to mark a lover’s end. Intense, sensual, brief – just like a love affair: Carmen de Bizet, Ballet Flamenco de Madrid.

Teachers would also be happy to note that there is a detailed note about the story of La Traviata in the end, a few of the famous songs from the opera, and a full page spread on the difference between operas and musicals. Apparently, the most famous La Traviata opera singer is Maria Callas who passed away sometime in the 70s.

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But thanks to Youtube, we have a sampler right here. Enjoy!

  1. I always wonder about picture books of opera, or board books of Austen and Shakespeare. Must be for children who were much more high brow than mine!

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  2. Thanks for sharing both of these books, Myra. I love listening to opera, but really don’t know many of the stories, just love the music. The sculptor in the first book is new to me. Hope I can find the books!

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  3. Both of these books are such celebrations of the creative spirit. I hadn’t heard of Claudel before, so this story was entirely new to me, and I can’t wait to get my hands on this book and learn more about this fascinating “wild” woman. 🙂

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  4. The books about the opera look stunning. I always appreciate that you pull out books that are new to me!

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  5. The opera picture book looks like a good read. The flamenco performance sounds exciting! It’s wonderful you make time for the performing arts. Our crew is waiting for the next Cirque du Soleil to come down to our area. We took the kids to Curio which was super awesome. They loved it. Now it’ll be an ohana thing.

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