Cruel Beauty: Rimbaud, Verlaine, Debussy

Two self-destructive poetic geniuses, their dangerous love affair, and the magic of Debussy’s music.

Arthur Rimbaud, the enfant terrible of French poetry, was an outrageously precocious and genial adolescent when he met his mentor, Paul Verlaine. The two embarked on a destructive love affair of dangerous intensity, which transformed their lives forever. Rimbaud was only 20 years old when he finished his brief poetic career, but he produced works that irrevocably altered the course of modern poetry. Verlaine, a poet whose verses breathed an exquisite musicality, was seared by the flame of Rimbaud’s genius.

Their love affair is dramatized in a script drawn from their breathtaking poetry, letters, and autobiographical writings, woven to music by Debussy, a composer who considered himself to be Verlaine’s aesthetic soul-mate. Works include the ethereal Sonata for flute, viola, and harp, the iridescent L’isle joyeuse, the Sonata for cello and piano, and the song cycle Ariettes oubliées, based on Verlaine’s poetry, one of Debussy’s most beautiful settings of Verlaine’s poetry.

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February 10, 2012


Written by James Melo
Directed by Donald T. Sanders
Lighting Design by Beverly Emmons


Leonard Nimoy Thalia
at Symphony Space,
2537 Broadway at 95th St., NY, NY