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Cyrano Act I set designs and plot preview
Director David Bintley discusses the action in Act I of his ballet, Cyrano, with set designs by Hayden Griffin.
Act I scene 1
We're starting it quite unusually, in that when the audiences comes in, they'll see the curtain up on an ambiently lit set, albeit with more people on stage than are shown above. Scene one depicts an outdoor theatre production in a town square, and the idea is that as the audience for the ballet arrives, so too the audience for the performance within the performance arrives.
So everybody arrives, these [seating] boxes will fill up, and the performance starts. An actor called Montfleury takes to the stage, dressed as the Sun King. He's a pompous actor, and not a very good one at that, so in protest Cyrano appears and interrupts the performance, driving him from the stage.
The crowd is furious because they came to watch a show. The Viscomte de Valvert challenges Cyrano to a duel, and he disdains, but then Valvert makes a quip about his nose, so Cyrano draws his sword and the two men duel. Cyrano, being a solider and a stunning swordsman, completely takes this man apart, ridicules him, disarms him every time, and just generally plays with him, until at the very end he cuts the tip of Valvert's nose off. The the audience is delighted because this fight's been better than the show, so they all go away happy.
Roxane - a young girl and also the ward of Valvert's employer the Compte de Guiche - has been in the audience. She comes forward to Cyrano and gives him a rose, then she and everybody else departs, leaving Cyrano alone with the rose. He then expresses his love to the flower, an act which is witnessed by his friend Le Bret who arrives at that moment. Le Bret asks 'are you in love with her?' and upon confirming the answer is yes, demands 'why don't you tell her?'
Then Roxane's duenna - her nursemaid, or chaperone - enters at that point to ask Cyrano if he will meet with Roxane. He naturally agrees and they arrange for a meeting the next morning at the bakery owned by Cyrano's close friend Rageneau.
At that moment the baker himself comes running in to warn Cyrano that De Guiche has sent 100 assassins to kill Cyrano because of what he's done to Valvert. For matters of practicality, the 100 assassins don't all come onto the stage! But there is a fight where he ends up standing on the stage fighting increasing numbers of swordsmen and then the front cloth comes in. Cyrano, with the assistance of his friends Le Bret and Reganeau, sees them all off and the scene ends with the three of them chasing the final few assassins across the edge of the stage in front of the cloth.
Act I scene 2
A bell strikes four: it's four o'clock the next morning, and the curtain rises on the bakery, with Cyrano's friends Ragueneau and all of the chefs arriving. There are tables and chairs, and all the shelves will be filled with croissants and pastries and tarts and things that you can't see here. We have what we call ‘the meat chandelier', with sausage and meat hanging from the ceiling in an echo of the previous scene's chandeliers.
Cyrano is there to meet Roxane. He's filled with hope that she has some kind of feelings for him so he enters extremely nervously and extremely early. He sits to write what he calls ‘a love letter written in his heart a thousand times'.
Roxane arrives, and Cyrano ushers everybody else out of the place. The two of them dance a pas de deux, during which she tells him that she's in love with a man in his regiment and that he's intelligent and he's brave. Everything is leading Cyrano to the expectation that she's going to tell him that she loves him, so the pas de deux gets more and more ecstatic. Finally, however, she reveals that the target of her desires is another young man called Christian. She hands Cyrano a letter and asks him to give it to Christian for her.
As Roxane leaves, Christian follows her out before Cyrano can give him the letter, and he's is left alone in the shop realising that his hopes are dashed.
The cadets from Cyrano's regiment arrive, because they've heard of the duel from the night before, so they all come falling in, wanting to celebrate this great victory. De Guiche also arrives, sarcastically applauding him. Everybody knows that De Guiche sent the men, but nobody mentions it. De Guiche asks who the cadets are, and they have this big group number, at the end of which they throw all the hats from the dispatched assassins all over De Guiche and chase him from the baker's shop.
Christian then returns, this time in the uniform of the cadets, revealing himself to be a new recruit. He reports to Le Bret who is the captain of the cadets, and there's a bit of banter with the other soldiers and they and warn Christian not to say anything about Cyrano's nose. Cyrano is then persuaded to recount the story of the fight with the assassins, but Christian, showing off in front of his new peers, keeps doing nose gags. Cyrano is ready to tear Christian apart, but then he recognises that the young cadet before him is the man that Roxane is in love with, and so he can't.
Shortly after Cyrano gives Christian the letter from Roxane, at which point we find out that Christian can't read or write. Cyrano reads the letter to him. Roxane has written that she loves Christian, she adores him, and that he must write her a reply. Christian persuades Cyrano then to help him write the reply, but being inarticulate, Christian can't even find the words for what he wants to say. Cyrano retrieves from his pocket the letter to Roxane that he wrote right at the beginning of this act, and with heavy heart gives it to Christian as the first of a whole series of letters between the young couple.
For more information on the 2009 season of Cyrano, click here.
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