Cyrano de Bergerac
What remains one of the greatest taboos in the age of Instagram, obsessive body culture and self-representation? The answer is simple: ugliness. And the main protagonist of Edmond Rostand’s most famous play could write a book about it (or at least recite many, many verses). Cyrano de Bergerac is eloquent, charismatic, quick-witted, imaginative, an excellent poet, fighter and actor – but also ugly as sin. Or so he thinks; he suffers greatly because of his big nose (which resembles a rock, a mountain top, a promontory, a peninsula!) and his bravado is merely a facade, hiding his conviction that, because of his looks, he will never be loved. He knows from the start that his love for beautiful Roxane is hopeless, especially since she is in love with an attractive man called Christian. Christian, however, is anything but brilliant and so Cyrano offers to help him: He will be the brain in Christian’s beautiful head. Cyrano thus supports the young couple with all his intellectual power, writing love letter after love letter – until Roxane finally comes to love “Christian’s” moving words much more than his good looks…
Edmond Rostand (1868–1918) based his drama on the historical figure of Hector Savinien de Cyrano, a precursor of enlightenment and eccentric author of two proto-science-fiction novels. “Cyrano de Bergerac” was a huge success at its world premiere in 1897 and is still considered one of the best and most widely known plays in the history of French drama. After all, it poses a question that is essential to the nature of theatre: What is behind the mask?
Two new films illustrate the continuing relevance of the play’s topic in today’s world: the German production “Das schönste Mädchen der Welt” and the American retelling “Sierra Burgess Is a Loser” (2018). Carl Philip von Maldeghem directs the thrilling play for the Salzburg State Theatre.