My Life with Albertine
A Musical based on sections from Marcel Proust’s “Remembrance Of Things Past”
Book by Richard Nelson
Lyrics by Richard Nelson and Ricky Ian Gordon
Published by Hal Leonard/Williamson Music
Premiere: March 13, 2003: Playwrights Horizons, NYC
Original Cast: Kelli O’Hara, Brent Carver, Chad Kimball, Donna Lynne Champlin, Emily Skinner, Brooke Sunny Moriber; Directed by Richard Nelson; Choreography by Sean Curran
Perusal Score: Rodgers & Hammerstein
Purchasing: Piano/Vocal Score
Rental: Rodgers & Hammerstein
The musical focuses on Proust’s obsession with his red-haired mistress, Albertine. Departing from the typical ‘boy meets girl’ plot, it explores the darkness of jealousy. Young Marcel, the hero, irrationally believes that Albertine is having lesbian affairs while older Marcel (played by a different actor), reflects on this seminal period in his young life interacting with himself at 17. Simple lullabies and children’s songs reflecting Marcel’s childish character before his affair are juxtaposed with operatic dirges, capturing the tragic effect of his self-inflicted destruction of happiness. This fascinating play preserves both the essence and themes of Proust’s work.
Back in 2002 he wrote a musical featuring poetry by Langston Hughes, Only Heaven (likewise on ps classics.) It played way off-Broadway, Dayton, Ohio. Last year this show opened in New York’s actual off-Broadway but ran for less than a month. Thank goodness both scores can be heard by all of us. Each is worth the visit.
Again, as with Hughes, an eloquent word-artist is evoked. Marcel Proust. My Life with Albertine evokes his Albertine Disparue from 1925. Within the setting of Paris 1919, the score has the delicacy and grace you’d expect for the source, the period, the place. Impressions of Debussy, Satie and Poulenc waft through the gentle air. Fragrances of waltzes, polkas, schottisches come and go. So too do suggestions of Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George. Bien sur.
The 12 member cast includes Brent Carver, best known as multi-award winner for his role in Kander and Ebb’s Kiss of the Spider Woman. Actually the cast outnumbers the instrumental ensemble’s seven pieces. But the collective sound has the perfect, impeccable, discreet resonance that belongs with such a work.
Perhaps it was too fragile for sensation-seeking New York audiences. At home, if you listen by candlelight savoring wine and perhaps a madeleine, you’ll savor many degrees of taste.