Denise Duval was a French soprano who was best known for her interpretations of 20th century French music. She was the muse of composer Francis Poulenc, who discovered her when she was a cabaret singer at the Folies Bergère. She created the roles of Elle in his opera La voix humaine, and of Thérèse in Les mamelles de Tirésias, and remained closely associated with him throughout her life. She was also noted for her performances in works by Debussy, Massenet, Roussel, Ravel and Milhaud.
In last week’s episode we saw the battle of Borodino, the bloodiest battle in the whole of the French invasion, with as many as 70,000 casualties and both sides losing almost half their forces. Kutuzov’s army has retreated, leaving the road to Moscow open.
However, Borodino was not a decisive victory for the French, and became a turning point for the whole campaign. When Napoleon’s troops went on to capture Moscow, the Russians did not surrender the city or try to negotiate peace. Instead, Moscow’s governor, Feodor Rostopchin, ordered the evacuation of the city, leaving a small detachment with instructions to burn it to the ground. The Grande Armée entered an almost entirely deserted Moscow, stripped of its food and resources, with fires breaking out across the city and no administrative means of control. With depleted troops and no prospect of a Russian surrender, Napoleon was forced to withdraw.
The events of the 1812 invasion are of huge significance in Russian history. Their cultural impact can be seen not only in Tolstoy’s novel, but also in Lermontov’s romanticised poem Borodino, and in Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. The Battle of Borodino is also re-enacted every year in Russia on the 1st of September.
Director of Archives at the Metropolitan Opera, Robert Tuggle, was an invaluable member of the company whose passion for opera defined his life. He served as Director of Archives for more than 34 years. Nobody knew more about the visual history of the Met than he did.
George Weidenfeld, the last of the great British publishers, died yesterday aged 96. An Austrian refugee, he came to England in 1938 and made an impact on British publishing. In 1948 he co-founded the publishing firm Weidenfeld & Nicolson with Nigel Nicolson. Over the years, the firm published many titles, including the British edition of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita in 1959 and Nicolson’s own controversial autobiography, Portrait of a Marriage. He was a supporter of the arts in the UK. His most recent campaign was to raise funds to rescue Syrian Christian refugees.
Alan Rickman began his acting career in theatre. His performance as the Vicomte de Valmont in Les Liaisons Dangereuses on Broadway in 1986 brought him his first of two Tony Award nominations. His breakthrough cinema role was as Hans Gruber opposite Bruce Willis in Die Hard, after which he became well-known for playing iconic screen villains, including the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, for which he won a Bafta award, and Professor Snape in the Harry Potter series.
Two years ago, he also made his directorial debut with the period drama A Little Chaos, co-starring opposite Kate Winslet. His final film, Alice Through the Looking Glass, will be released later this year.