Éponine – a sad story that never changes

September 24, 2013 — 89 Comments

CharlotteasEponine

I will be singing Éponine Thénardier’s songs from “Les Misérables” a musical adapted from the book by Victor Hugo on 5th and 6th October 2013 in the Stockport Plaza and Buxton Opera House with the Tideswell Male Voice Choir.

I wanted to dig a little deeper into the character and try to understand the situation that she found herself in.  Here is what I have found out so far about Éponine and Marius’ story:

Éponine’s parents, the Thénardiers ran their own business as innkeepers whilst she was a young child, during this period they were successful she was pampered and spoilt.  They took in Cosette at the age of three when her mother, Fantine, unmarried and abandoned by her lover is left to fight for their survival.  At first Cosette and Éponine play as friends but over time the Thénardiers start to mistreat Cosette and make her wear rags and work in the Inn until her freedom is purchased by Jean Valjean. Eight years later, the Thénardiers Inn goes bankrupt and the family find themselves broke so they move to live in Paris.

Whilst in Paris, Éponine became a wretched adolescence, prematurely ageing due to living in poverty.  She falls helplessly in love with her neighbour, Marius.

Paris1840Small

A Warming House in Paris in the 1840s.

Marius was raised by his rich grandfather, a fierce supporter of the Monarchy.  His grandfather was a mean old man, in his 90’s, who told Marius’ father, a Colonel in Napoleon’s army, that Marius would be disinherited if he attempted to make contact with his son.  Marius is told to write to his father once each month but his grandfather never gives the replies to his grandson.  When Marius turns 18 his grandfather instructs him to visit his father but he arrives seconds after his death.  Marius discovers a note from his father instructing his son to help Thénardier if possible because the Colonel believed he saved his life at Waterloo.

Marius is told by a church warden that his father regularly hid in church during Mass to catch a glimpse of him and the truth about his grandfather.  Marius starts to look up information about his father, he learns he is highly decorated and begins to hero worship his dead father.  He argues with his grandfather and moves out refusing help, his grandfather sends him money but Marius mails it back, his aunt living with the grandfather keeps the money.  Marius begins his studies as a lawyer but descends into poverty; despite this he finishes his studies.

During this time Marius often goes to the Luxembourg Gardens where he regularly sees Cosette, who moved to Paris following her rescue from the Thénardiers, he slowly falls in love with her.

Paris_Porte_Saint-Denis_c1840_small

Porte Saint-Denis, Paris c1840

Éponine first meets Marius at his apartment in the tenement they both live in. She attempts to give him a begging letter off her father who now goes by the name Jondrette.  To impress him she demonstrates that she can read and then writes a sentence, ‘the police are here’, to show her literacy.  She opens up to Marius about her hard life; he feels pity and gives her five francs.  Éponine leaves to present her next begging letter to a local philanthropist and his daughter; they turn out to be Jean Valjean and Cosette.  When they visit the Thénardiers, Marius sees them and begs Éponine to give him their address.

Eponine tells Marius where to find Cosette and he visits her home.  After six weeks of secret meetings they fall in love but Jean Valjean shatters their bliss when he announces he and Cosette are leaving for England.  Marius goes to Cosette’s house but she has fled with Valjean, advised by a voice (Eponine) that his friends are waiting for him, he goes to the barricade hoping to die.

RevolutionSmall

Lamartine, before the Hôtel de Ville, Paris, rejects the Red Flag,” February 25, 1848″. By Henri Felix Emmanuel Philippoteaux (1815–1884).

Disguising herself as a young boy, Eponine goes to the barricade and during the ensuing battle she saves Marius’ life by placing her hand and body in front of the musket of a soldier who was about to shoot him.  Marius is distracted by the fighting all around him and threatens to blow up the barricade to scare away the advancing troops.  He hears Eponine call to him; she is fatally shot aged just 17.  With her last breath she confesses her love for him giving him a letter.  The letter reveals the whereabouts of Cosette.

After reading this tragic account of unrequited love and the terrible change in circumstances suffered by Eponine and others in this sad tale. I want to try to understand a little more about the time in which the character would have lived.  If you have any extra information or posts about France in the 1830’s and 1840’s that you could direct me to reading I would really appreciate it.

Here is a recording of my performance from Gawsworth Hall on 11th August.

 

89 responses to Éponine – a sad story that never changes

  1. 

    You know, you really shouldn’t make an old man cry. It makes an old hillbilly like me feel plumb foolish.

    Seriously: I’m in tears. Fabulous.

  2. 

    One of my favorite songs…!

  3. 

    So talented. Gave me goosebumps!!

  4. 

    Beautiful, Charlotte. I love the way you can hear and understand all the words when you sing. I’d love to hear you sing the whole role.

  5. 

    I love Les Mis – and you rocked it!!!

    So wonderful : )

    BTW – the woman over your right shoulder looks a little bit like a young Princes Diana!

    • 

      Michael, I thought it was Princess Di, too! What a resemblance!

    • 

      Hi Michael, I’m glad you loved the clip, I’ve never played Eponine before although I was little Cosette once in my High School production. The Tideswell Choir Director Dennis likes to give young performers, and there were six of us in the show, these fabulous opportunities to sing to big audiences.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  6. 

    Thank-you! That was so beautiful! Wish I lived closer to see the performance….

    • 

      Hello Julianna, glad you enjoyed it, I’ve got a bit of work to do on it before the 5th October. I wish you were close enough to come and watch it too, it’s a good show Dennis puts together.

      All the best
      Charlotte

  7. 

    Bravo!

  8. 

    You are really into the music not just your singing voice but you are also part of the story too. Excellent!

    • 

      I was into the music, my brother Matthew was in the audience and he’d come up from London to watch the show. It’s his favourite musical and this is his favourite song, so he doesn’t mind telling me if he doesn’t think it’s 100% 🙂 lol.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  9. 

    This is one of my favorites and you do such a beautiful job! Loved it!!

    • 

      Thanks Kristi, best of luck with your newly published book. In some ways it’s worse posting a video than it is actually singing live and then waiting for the feedback so I know how you feel 🙂

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  10. 

    Incredible voice! I love it! :0)

  11. 

    A marvelous, tragic figure. Beautifully presented.

  12. 

    So heartbreaking. You do a wonderful job!

  13. 

    Love Les Mis! Equally love the tragic story of Eponine. What a wonderful experience to portray such a role! As they say in show biz, break a leg!

  14. 

    Beautiful voice! I just saw that play Sunday. You filled in some information for me.

    • 

      Thanks Mike, I discovered Gavroche the young boy who lives on the street and challenges the soldiers is Eponine’s younger brother who was left to bring himself up on the street because his parents didn’t love him. So sad.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  15. 

    It’s a great song, and I am sure you will do it justice. Once a few years ago, I waded through the entire 1,300 pages of Victor Hugo’s avuncular prose. It was well worth the
    trip though you will enjoy many tangential journeys about politics of the day or the gutter cant of the French underclass.

    I think that Eponine has been shaped by the deceit of her parents, and in Marius she sees someone as inflexible for honor as her parents were for ill. Her desire for him is an attempt to cleanse herself from shame – but inside she knows she will never be worthy.

    It was a time of great class separation – the poor were little valued then, much less than even today. In a way, only by a Christ like action ( her taking the bullet for Marius ) can her sin be absolved — and Marius then see her truly. – bw

    • 

      Thanks Bill, I think I’m fated to read more about French history. I read Tartuffe in A level drama set in 1660’s France a theatrical comedy about Le Bourgeois, religion and monarchy and had to do lots of background research to really understand the characters. I loved your interpretation above and appreciate it.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  16. 

    Yes, and love, as it does in this story, often ends in tragedy. Of course ‘happy love’ doesn’t really get much of a look in except perhaps in Rodgers and Hammerstein. I could be wrong.

  17. 

    Amazing performance as always Charlotte! Doing what you do takes a lot of courage (well, for me it would at least. I scare easily when it comes to crowds). I also like the illustrations you found to support their story! 🙂

  18. 

    Charlotte, that’s the first of your performances I’ve seen. Lovely and well done, miss!
    Looking forward to more!
    Hugs from NZ,
    Lizzi

  19. 

    Nicely done! Enjoyed your performance as well as appreciated the backstory you provided. Thank you!

  20. 

    As ever Charlotte, you don’t disappoint! Even though I’ve seen this performance live I still love listening and watching it all over again. Can’t wait to see you perform again next weekend.

    • 

      Hi Gill, It is fabulous to hear what you think considering you came to watch the concert at Gawsworth Hall. I’m glad you can still enjoy the performance on video. Looking forward to seeing you in October.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  21. 

    Oh, this song has been a favorite of mine since I was twelve years old, the first time I heard it I was hooked. Thank you for sharing your version, it is beautiful!
    -Dana

  22. 

    Nicely done! Lovely work on the research/getting into character too.

  23. 

    Great singing. Love the emotion you always put into your performances.

    • 

      Hello Philip, I’m pleased to hear that you like the emotion I put in my performances. That’s the key thing that I’m working on this year, so keep watching 🙂 I enjoyed part 2 of your short story too.

      All the best
      Charlotte

      • 

        Hi Charlotte,

        Physically showing the inner love/emotional impact the music is having on you – in combination with your voice – is what creates the performance. The audience need to see, hear and feel the piece. I think you’re doing a great job!
        Glad you enjoyed the story. However, I don’t have enough time to do this everyday. Part three of the story is planned; I just need to fill in the gaps with dialogue.
        Phil

  24. 

    You have a beautiful voice. Wow!

  25. 

    This was wonderful Charlotte! Really lovely. 🙂 I especially like the fact that you have researched Eponine and her story so extensively, it shows in your performance. Brava! 🙂

    As a side note, what are your impressions of the movie version (if you’ve seen it)? 🙂

    • 

      Hi Cecilia, Thank you for a great comment, if you know all the background information you can really evoke the inside quirks of a character.

      I have seen the film, I prefer the live version on stage as the atmosphere is incomparable! But the acting in the movie was brilliant I thought all the actors did a great job.

      By the way I loved your Angel without Wings track it reminded me of Evanescence songs, out of interest do you cut the vocal arrangement alone or with the band all together in the same studio. Classical meets metal I like it 😉

      All the best
      Charlotte

      • 

        That’s very true. 🙂

        I haven’t seen the stage version yet, though I have heard recordings and seen clips on youtube. Would love to see it live one day though. 🙂
        I loved the movie and thought, like you, that the acting was brilliant. Cried for almost the entire last part of the movie. 🙂 But what impressed me the most was that all the actors actually sang for real when they were filming… the vocals weren’t added in afterwards, like they usually are in a film adaptation of a musical. I thought that was rather impressive. 🙂

        Aww! Thank you! I’m glad you liked it! 🙂
        We record each instrument alone, first drums, then bass, guitars, keyboards and orchestrations (which is plugins at this stage, sadly… but one day there WILL be a full symphony orchestra) and lastly the vocals. 🙂 For this round of re-recording of the old songs we recorded 7 songs in two days and when we recorded the album we did 9 songs in two days. It was completely exhausting and my voice was not entirely happy with me afterwards. But it was worth it. 🙂

        Best wishes,
        Cecilia

      • 

        The Stage version is a must watch, especially if Alfie Boe is playing Jean Valjean, I loved every minute. It’s impressive they sang whilst filming they would need good vocal stamina if there were lots of takes 😉 .

        Thanks for sharing your recording process. I can’t wait to hear you with a full symphony orchestra one day.
        Best wishes
        Charlotte

  26. 

    Quality is defined by its roots. Good work.

  27. 

    What a remarkable voice! You are so lucky to have the talent to do what you are passionate about.

  28. 

    If I could only write as well as you sing. Beautifully done.
    Teige

  29. 

    Charlotte, that was really lovely! You really captured Eponine’s wistfulness and heartbreak. Your voice is strong and beautiful. Brava!

  30. 

    Charlotte,

    I am truly honoured to have been patronised by your support… Great discovery for me you are; I loved your performance… for me, the most moving part after you sung was observing you remaining in character… beautiful…

    The sweetest of lucid dreams to you and I trust that these dreams of mine will richly inspire you… Here are two dreams featuring opera singers…

    http://dreampoetica.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/audience-with-magnetic-old-king/

    http://dreampoetica.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/now-thats-a-hollywood-wife/

    Sweet dreams and magical music-making to you!

    Arvin
    =^..^=

  31. 

    Wonderful ! Eponine is mine and my daughter’s favourite character from Les Mis .

  32. 

    Thank you for the background. Best of luck. I think it is so cool because of this blogging stuff, I can be thousands of miles away and I can follow the career of an up and coming star such as yourself. Hope some day you perform in the States.

  33. 

    I thoroughly enjoyed that Charlotte, and it’s not normally the type of music I like. You truly have a gift. Thank you for sharing.

    • 

      I’m glad you enjoyed it Daisy, I liked your saying about sharing little snippets some you will like, some you won’t, and if you don’t, never mind just move on to the next one 😉 . I hope everyone can find something they like to listen to and some of the tracks grow on you. My family even find themselves humming the songs now 😉 .
      All the best
      Charlotte

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Tips on how to excuse parenthood « Kenny Smith | A few words … - October 14, 2013

    […] This young woman is studying to be a classical soprano in Scotland. She started following my campus blog today. I’ve been listening to some of her performances. It isn’t every day you meet talented singers. She fulfills the requirement. That link takes you to her performance as Eponine. […]

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