Monday 25 August 2014

Les Misérables- From Page to Stage

On my recent trip to Melbourne, I didn't have a lot of time. I did manage to eat some things.

A new production of Les Misérables has just recently reopened in Melbourne. I've never seen the stageshow, and didn't get to see it on my recent trip south of the border.

but I walked past the theatre late at night 

There is a companion exhibition called Les Misérables From Page to Stage being held at the State Library of Victoria. I snuck a couple of hours for myself one day and headed up to the library. All the ads say you can buy tickets at Ticketek. Well you can, but you can also just rock up late Saturday afternoon, buy a ticket then and there, ($15 for adults) and walk in.

You can just see the sculpture of Victor Hugo by Rodin through the entrance
Hugo refused to sit for Rodin

It's quite a large exhibition in two large sections- it aims to show the story of the novels impact on art, politics and music. I can't show you any of the first section as it was pas de photos in there. Which is such a shame- there was so much great stuff on loan from the collections of the Bibliotèque Nationale de France, Maisons de Victor Hugo in Paris and Guernsey, Musée Carnavalet, Musée Rodin and Maison Littéraire de Victor Hugo. The highlight of which is Volume I of the original manuscript handwritten by Victor Hugo. It's absolutely huge.

Picture source

Victor Hugo wrote much of Les Misérables while he was in exile from France from 1851-70, and was finished while he was in the Channel Isles. He wrote on the right of the page and used the left for annotations.

Picture source

This is the first time that this volume has left Europe- it even got to fly to Australia on its own business class seat- I've never done that... Les Misérables was a hit from the outset. The two volumes were first published in 1862 and all 6,000 copies sold out in one day! Everyone read it, rich and poor, and public readings were organised when copies sold out.
The universal appeal of Hugo's creation lies in its themes: the possibility that the condemned can rise above poverty and degradation to become good and honourable, and perhaps above all the fight for freedom of body and soul. 

From June 1862 just two months after it's first publication in French, Les Misérables was published in nine languages and in serialised volumes around the world.  The first stage production came the following year in 1863. There have been at least 48 film adaptations of Les Misérables. We see some of the worlds first theatrical merchandise with beautiful Les Misérables chocolate wrappers from 1890. We also see some volumes of Les Misérables from around the world, a collection of movie posters, and some of the costumes from the recent 2012 film adaptation.

Victor Hugo was also an artist and we see some of his pen and ink drawings and paintings in the exhibition. The famous image of Cosette used for the stage show is by Émile-Antoine Bayard and comes from the second illustrated edition of Les Misérables, a picture version is included in the exhibition.

I resisted the catalogue on the day,
but do wish I'd bought it

The second room is devoted to the stage adaptations and is interactive and much more hands on than you'd expect in an exhibition like this at a library.

Cosette's wedding gown from the Australian tour 1987
first worn by Marina Prior

Stage props on display

You can take to the stage with
revolutionary zeal

You can dress up in an array of costumes

There is a themed gift shop at the end
with all manner of tshirts, books and paraphernalia

Javert's keeping an eye on you as you leave the library. 
If you can't make it to Melbourne there is an excellent exhibition website where you can see some featured objects from the exhibition.

My friend Janine at Resident Judge went to the exhibition too. You can relive my trip to Musee Victor Hugo in 2010.

Les Misérables From Page to Stage is open 18 July to 9 November 2014
10-6 daily, until 9pm on Thursdays
State Library of Victoria
328 Swanston Street


Sally Tharpe Rowles said...

This was so interesting....thank you for sharing all of this interesting information & great photos. I enjoyed the production I saw in NY quite a few years ago & I love visiting Victor Hugo's house in Paris, where you can see many of his ink drawings. Great post!

Satia said...

It is such a beautiful novel and I think the musical does it justice, even though they have to remove so much of the content. I recently saw a graphic novel in manga style inspired by Les Miserables but I wasn't tempted enough to look inside. I love the book too much.

Anonymous said...

What an interesting and informative exhibit to go with the show. I'd seen the musical and loved it. Have the full CD set from a while back, but never seen anything about Victor Hugo or the stageshow related items. Today, it's hard to imagine someone writing such a volume of a novel by hand and probably holding a feathered pen to do it. ;)

Paulita said...

Putting an exhibition on at the same times as the production is a terrific idea. This looks really intriguing. Thanks for playing along. Glad there's still France in your life, even when you're in Melbourne. Here’s my Dreaming of France meme

Heidi’sbooks said...

That is so exciting! I would be ecstatic. I just finished reading about Hugo and Rodin in The Greater Journey by David McCullough. I thought it was interesting.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

I'm still imagining the book flying, sitting on its own special seat. That is respect.