Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher

Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher (Joan of Arc at the Stake) is an oratorio by Arthur Honegger, originally commissioned by Ida Rubinstein. It was set to a libretto by Paul Claudel, and the work runs about 70 minutes.

Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher
Oratorio by Arthur Honegger
Arthur Honegger b Meurisse 1928.jpg
The composer in 1928
Textby Paul Claudel
Performed12 May 1938 (1938-05-12)}: Basel
  • speakers
  • soloists
  • SATB choir
  • children's choir
  • orchestra

It premiered on 12 May 1938 in Basel, with Rubinstein as Jeanne, and Jean Périer in the speaking role of Brother Dominique, with the Basel Boys Choir singing the children's chorus part, and Paul Sacher conducting.[1]

The drama takes place during the heroine's last minutes on the stake, with flashbacks to her trial and her younger days. Honegger entitled his work a dramatic oratorio, adding speaking roles and actors. The work has an important part for the ondes Martenot, an early electronic instrument (played at the premiere by its inventor Maurice Martenot).[1]

Claudel's dramatic frame provided Honegger with a space – between heaven and earth, past and present – where he could mix styles from the popular to the sublime. A hybrid work: partly oratorio and partly opera, Honegger uses all his musical means, monody, harmony and counterpoint to build towards sculpted blocks of sound.[2]

Performance historyEdit

At its première in Basel the piece was an immediate success, with critics almost unanimous in praising a perfect cohesion between words and music.[3] On 6 May 1939 after rehearsals at the Salle Pleyel in Paris, the work was semi-staged with designs by Alexandre Benois at the Théâtre Municipal in Orléans conducted by Louis Fourestier.[4]

The work was heard again in Basel on 12 May 1939 and then in Zurich on 14 May. On 13 June that year at the Palais de Chaillot, it was conducted by Charles Munch (who also gave the United States premiere in New York in 1948). After the outbreak of war the work was performed at the Salle Pleyel on 22 February 1940 and in Brussels on 29 February that year. Sacher and Rubinstein made abortive plans for further performances that year, including the Lucerne Festival.[5] On 26 February 1947 Rubinstein organised a concert performance at the Palais des Fêtes in Strasbourg, conducted by Fritz Münch (brother of Charles), which was repeated the following year on 13 June 1948 in the presence of the composer.[6] The work was first performed in Canada at the Montreal Festivals in 1953 under conductor Wilfrid Pelletier.[7]

In December 1953, Roberto Rossellini directed a staged version of the oratorio in Italian translation at the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples with Ingrid Bergman in the title role. It was subsequently performed at La Scala. Both performances received excellent reviews. Rossellini then staged it at the Paris Opera in the original French, again to critical success. He also filmed the San Carlo production in both French and Italian versions. The film was released in Italy in 1954 under the Italian title Giovanna d'Arco al rogo. It proved to be a box-office failure and the French version was never released.[8][9]

Marion Cotillard has starred as Joan of Arc in live performances of the oratorio several times, first in 2005, in Orléans, France, with the Orléans Symphony Orchestra, directed by Jean-Pierre Loisil. In 2012 in Barcelona, Spain, with the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra, directed by Marc Soustrot. In June 2015, she performed the oratorio with the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall.[10][11]


  • Jeanne d'Arc, spoken (dancer) – Ida Rubinstein
  • Virgin Mary, soprano – Berthe de Vigier
  • St Marguerite/First voice, soprano – Rosa van Herck
  • St Catherine, contralto – Ginevra Vivante
  • Brother Dominique, spoken – Jean Périer
  • Porcus, tenor – Ernst Bauer
  • Heurtebise/Clerk, tenor – Charles Vaucher
  • Second voice/First herald – Serge Chandoz
  • Second herald/Third voice, bass
  • Narrator, spoken
  • Master of ceremonies, spoken
  • Third herald, spoken
  • Duke of Bedford, spoken
  • Jean de Luxembourg, spoken
  • Regnault De Chartres, spoken
  • Guillaume De Flavy, spoken
  • Perrot

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ a b Halbreich 1999, pp. 422–423
  2. ^ Roy 1994, p. 108
  3. ^ Depaulis 1994, pp. 72–73
  4. ^ Depaulis 1994, pp. 78–79
  5. ^ Depaulis 1994, pp. 80–81
  6. ^ Depaulis 1994, p. 98
  7. ^ Denise Ménard; Marc Samson. "Wilfrid Pelletier". Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Retrieved August 21, 2019.
  8. ^ Brunette, Peter (1996). Roberto Rossellini. pp. 177–180. University of California Press. ISBN 0520200535
  9. ^ Padgaonkar, Dileep (2008). Under Her Spell: Roberto Rossellini in India, p. 12. Penguin. ISBN 067008154X
  10. ^ "New York Philharmonic To Stage "Joan of Arc" with Marion Cotillard". Blouin ArtInfo. 23 January 2014. Archived from the original on 26 February 2014. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  11. ^ "Marion Cotillard in Joan of Arc at the Stake". 22 January 2014. Retrieved 10 March 2014.


  • Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). "Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher". L'Almanacco di Gherardo Casaglia (in Italian).
  • Depaulis, Jacques (1994), Paul Claudel et Ida Rubinstein: Une collaboration difficile, Volume 517. Presses Univ. Franche-Comté.
  • Halbreich H. (1999), Arthur Honegger.(Trans: Roger Nichols). Portland, OR: Amadeus Press
  • Roy, Jean (1994), Le Groupe des Six. Paris: Seuil