Cyrano de Bergerac



  • A heroic comedy by Edmond Rostand, first performed in 1897in Paris with the elder Constant-Benoît Coquelin in the titlerole. Although a lengthy verse play requiring a large cast, it hasenjoyed numerous revivals. A film version starring Gérard Depardieu(1991) also enjoyed international success. Some, however, have foundthe play insubstantial. The critic James Agate wrote: "Cyranois the Crystal Palace of poetry. In this play, Rostand says nothingwith unexampled virtuosity."

    The play is based very loosely on the life of the historicalCyrano, a flamboyant soldier and writer famous for his enormous nose.Because of the latter, he hides his love for his cousin, Roxane, wholoves the handsome but brainless Christian de Neuvillette. Cyranohelps Christian to court Roxane, even composing the tender love lettersthat thrill her with their heartfelt eloquence. When Cyrano is fatallywounded, Roxane belatedly finds out that he was their author.

    The play was the cause of a rift between Laurence Olivierand Ralph Richardson when they planned the 1947 Old Vic seasontogether. Olivier wanted to play Cyrano on stage as a prelude to makinga Hollywood film of the play with his wife, Vivien Leigh. Richardson,however, had first choice of roles, and took the part for himself.Olivier, believing that the other actor really coveted the part ofLear, made that his own choice - not because he wanted to playit, but in the hope of making a deal. Richardson declined, however,leaving Olivier to play the demanding role of Lear when he had littlewish to do so. After this, the two men never acted together on thesame stage.

    When Robert Loraine played the part in 1927 in London, hisrudeness to the stagehands during rehearsals caused resentment. Inrevenge, they deliberately left unfastened the cleats that securedthe tree under which Cyrano sits in the final scene. Loraine suddenlyfound that in addition to acting the emotional death scene he hadto hold up the leaning tree with his back.