Tartuffe
It is a great offence to vices to expose them to public ridicule.
Molière


We «speak the language of Molière» just as the Germans «speak the language of Goethe» and the English that of Shakespeare. Molière is the beating heart of our great theater tradition. Molière the playwright is a national treasure. But Molière the novelist ? If he never existed, it is up to us to invent him says Stéphane Braunschweig.

The future director of the Théâtre de la Colline, likes to tackle major plays by pulling out what he calls their « underlying novel ». This method of inquiry, which is as intuitive as it is faithful to the text, allows him to give all the questions raised in the text, their sparkle and shine, just by letting himself be guided by the unexpected surprises they provoke.

In this case, his point of departure is the following: Tartuffe is undoubtedly a hypocrite, but that is not sufficient enough to explain the influence he welds over his main victim. Which means one of two things ; either he is a great impostor - but then the entire Orgon household should have succumbed to his traps, and not only the head of the household ; or his mask of piety is not a very believable one, in which case he shouldn't have fooled anyone, not even Orgon. Which leads him to the question : why does Orgon let himself get taken in by his host ? Why does the « fake » pious and devout Tartuffe fascinate his prey so much that the latter is ready to offer him the hand of his daughter and full possession of all his worldly goods ? And so it appeared to Braunschweig, that Tartuffe is first and foremost a cracked mirror that Orgon uses in order to divert all attention from his own shortcomings. Tartuffe's success should in fact be interpreted as a symptom of Orgon's own sickness. And this is where the novel-conjecture comes in : « One must imagine Orgon's life, his strict education, his relation with his bigoted mother ; his first marriage to a woman whom his mother liked, and who therefore had to be light years from an incarnation of joy ; the compensation he drew from his social and professional success and the steady growth of his material wealth ; his second marriage with Elmire, a young, joyful woman who is sensual and with whom Orgon is able to discover all the joys of the flesh and at the same time, jealousy (...). The obsession with sin, the guilt linked with sex, jealousy that drives one mad, the need for purity in a world that one feels to be completely corrupt, everything comes together to make Tartuffe the providential man, a doctor of the soul, capable of healing the « sickness » that Orgon and his family suffer from (the children being no less immune to its symptoms than their father or their grandmother...)

In this way, Braunschweig continues, beyond the comical dimensions of Tartuffe, to lead an inquiry that he began in his stage productions of Brand, Measure for Measure or Peer Gynt : the theme of spiritual temptation as the hidden facet of all of our materialist obsessions.

Théâtre de l'Odéon

France

Théâtre de l'Odéon

September 17 2008 to October 25 2008

Tartuffe

Braunschweig Stéphane

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  • Tartuffe | © element-s
    © element-s
  • Tartuffe | © photo Elisabeth Carecchio
    © photo Elisabeth Carecchio
  • Tartuffe | © photo Elisabeth Carecchio
    © photo Elisabeth Carecchio
  • Tartuffe | © photo Elisabeth Carecchio
    © photo Elisabeth Carecchio
  • Tartuffe | © photo Elisabeth Carecchio
    © photo Elisabeth Carecchio
  • Tartuffe | © photo Elisabeth Carecchio
    © photo Elisabeth Carecchio
  • Tartuffe | © photo Elisabeth Carecchio
    © photo Elisabeth Carecchio
  • Tartuffe | © photo Elisabeth Carecchio
    © photo Elisabeth Carecchio

It is a great offence to vices to expose them to public ridicule.
Molière

We «speak the language of Molière» just as the Germans «speak the language of Goethe» and the English that of Shakespeare. Molière is the beating heart of our great theater tradition. Molière the playwright is a national treasure. But Molière the novelist ? If he never existed, it is up to us to invent him says Stéphane Braunschweig.

The future director of the Théâtre de la Colline, likes to tackle major plays by pulling out what he calls their « underlying novel ». This method of inquiry, which is as intuitive as it is faithful to the text, allows him to give all the questions raised in the text, their sparkle and shine, just by letting himself be guided by the unexpected surprises they provoke.

In this case, his point of departure is the following: Tartuffe is undoubtedly a hypocrite, but that is not sufficient enough to explain the influence he welds over his main victim. Which means one of two things ; either he is a great impostor - but then the entire Orgon household should have succumbed to his traps, and not only the head of the household ; or his mask of piety is not a very believable one, in which case he shouldn't have fooled anyone, not even Orgon. Which leads him to the question : why does Orgon let himself get taken in by his host ? Why does the « fake » pious and devout Tartuffe fascinate his prey so much that the latter is ready to offer him the hand of his daughter and full possession of all his worldly goods ? And so it appeared to Braunschweig, that Tartuffe is first and foremost a cracked mirror that Orgon uses in order to divert all attention from his own shortcomings. Tartuffe's success should in fact be interpreted as a symptom of Orgon's own sickness. And this is where the novel-conjecture comes in : « One must imagine Orgon's life, his strict education, his relation with his bigoted mother ; his first marriage to a woman whom his mother liked, and who therefore had to be light years from an incarnation of joy ; the compensation he drew from his social and professional success and the steady growth of his material wealth ; his second marriage with Elmire, a young, joyful woman who is sensual and with whom Orgon is able to discover all the joys of the flesh and at the same time, jealousy (...). The obsession with sin, the guilt linked with sex, jealousy that drives one mad, the need for purity in a world that one feels to be completely corrupt, everything comes together to make Tartuffe the providential man, a doctor of the soul, capable of healing the « sickness » that Orgon and his family suffer from (the children being no less immune to its symptoms than their father or their grandmother...)

In this way, Braunschweig continues, beyond the comical dimensions of Tartuffe, to lead an inquiry that he began in his stage productions of Brand, Measure for Measure or Peer Gynt : the theme of spiritual temptation as the hidden facet of all of our materialist obsessions.

Credits

by MOLIERE
direction and scenography by STÉPHANE BRAUNSCHWEIG

costumes : Thibault Vancraenenbroeck
lights : Marion Hewlett
sound : Xavier Jacquot
artistical collaboration : Anne-Françoise Benhamou
collaboration to the scenography : Alexandre de Darden

with Jean-Pierre Bagot, Christophe Brault, Clément Bresson, Thomas Condemine, Claude Duparfait, Julie Lesgages, Pauline Lorillard, François Loriquet, Annie Mercier, Sébastien Pouderoux, Claire Wauthion

production Théâtre national de Strasbourg
created in April 29th, 2008 in the Théâtre national de Strasbourg

length : 2 hours 10 minutes

Director

Stéphane Braunschweig

Stéphane Braunschweig (Paris, 1964) studied philosophy at the ENS (Ecole Normale Supérieure), then entered the theatrical academy of the Théâtre National de Chaillot, directed by Antoine Vitez, where he remained two years.

In 1988, after founding his company, Le Théâtre-Machine, he began to present his first productions, reuniting them three years later under a single title, Les Hommes de neige (The Snowmen). This work earns him his first of many prizes : Theatrical Revelation of the Year, bestowed by the Critics' Syndicate. From then on, while being regularly invited by the Festival d’Automne à Paris, he travels extensively, directing plays in Berlin, London or Moscow. He stages his first opera at the Théâtre du Châtelet (then directed by Stéphane Lissner) in 1992.

From 1993 until 1998, Stéphane Braunschweig directs the Centre Dramatique National/Orléans-Loiret-Centre, where he creates a dozen productions which tour across the country and are presented in the greatest festivals (Paris, Avignon, Edimburg, Istanbul or Rome). The Critics' Syndicate distinguishes his production of Ibsen's uncut version of Peer Gynt as Best Production of the Year by a non-Parisian Theatre (the prestigious Georges Lerminier Prize). During the same period, he is often invited abroad : among other works, he creates a Fidelio in Berlin (conducted by Daniel Barenboim) and other operas in Brussels or Venice ; he also directs Shakespeare's Measure for measure in Great Britain, Il Mercanto di Venezia (The Merchant of Venice) at the Piccolo Teatro in Milano, or Büchner's Woyzeck in Munich (Bayerischer Theaterpreis for Best Production of the Year).

Stéphane Braunschweig directs the Théâtre National de Strasbourg (and its academy) during eight years (2000-2008). He introduces new academic formations (directing and staging ; dramaturgy) while upholding the status of the TNS as a crossroads of European theatre. Among several acclaimed productions, his staging of Ibsen's Brand (2005) and of Molière's Tartuffe (2008) both win the Prix Georges Lerminier. During those years, Braunschweig is often invited by the Festival of Aix-en-Provence, where he presents (among other works) a Ring coproduced by the Easter Festival of Salzburg and the Philharmonic Orchestra of Berlin (conducted by Simon Rattle). In December 2008, he stages and directs Verdi's Don Carlos for the season opening of the Scala, in Milano.

As director of the Théâtre National de la Colline (Paris, 2010-2015), Stéphane Braunschweig invites several resident artists (Stanislas Nordey, Célie Pauthe, Caroline Guiela Nguyen), while staging himself Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author (which he translates, adapts and creates at the Festival d'Avignon), or more recently, the Italian playwright's Mountain Giants, as well as several plays by Arne Lygre (a contemporary Norwegian author), or Ibsen's Wild Duck (this last production, which has been invited in Norway by the Ibsen Festival, has run for two consecutives seasons at La Colline). At the opera, he stages Pelléas et Mélisande, by Debussy, for the Opéra-Comique ; Idomeneo and Don Giovanni, by Mozart, or Norma, by Bellini, for the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées.

In January, 2016, President François Hollande has appointed Stéphane Braunschweig director of the Odéon-Théâtre de l'Europe, where he presents his first production, Tennessee William's Suddenly Last Summer, in March 2017.

Stéphane Braunschweig (who has signed over sixty theatrical or operatic productions and stage designs) is also an author and a translator. Petites portes, grands paysages, a collection of essays, texts and conversations on theatre, is published by Actes Sud. He has translated from the original German, Italian or Norwegian plays by Büchner, Kleist, Brecht, Pirandello and Lygre ; his published translations are available at L'Arche.

 

Excerpt