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ChrisDenman

Has anyone else noticed how symmetrical Les Mis is?

I’ve noticed there are only a handful of individual songs in Les Mis, and lots of reprises. I thought this thread might be a useful place to talk about them.

A nice thing is that the show is almost symmetrical; as in many songs that appear early in the first attack also appear late in the second act. For example...

Valjean’s soliloquy is symmetrical with Javert’s suicide – I can’t tell you how powerful I find that musical association. And of course there’s a plot symmetry since both characters are having to seriously reconsider the lives they had led (just with opposite resolutions)
Who Am I is symmetrical with Every Day – the reprise is near the end and Who Am I is near the start. Plot symmetry as well of course, since both are deeply introspective songs, with Valjean admitting his truth
Lovely ladies symmetrical with Turning – I only recognised Turning as using the same melody after a couple of listens, but ever since it has been one of my favourite songs. It’s amazing how the tune can go from one of lewd comedy to deeply sad and mournful (“Nothing changes, nothing ever will…”)
I dreamed a dream is very similar to On my own in melody, which is appropriate since both songs are about how the singer can’t ever hope to enjoy true love
Master of the House symmetry with Beggars at the Feast – a very nice touch since both reinforce the Thenardier lack of morals.
Waltz of Treachery is reprised by The Robbery where Thenadier recognises Valjean again.
Perhaps most powerful of all Stars, which is wonderfully reprised by the Orchestra playing the melody as Javert commits suicide in Javert’s Suicide. Such a touching “link”.

Of course this all revolves around One Day More, which is a sort of pastiche of many of the key songs. The rest of the musical is held together with the tune from “Work Song” and instrumentals of “Do You Hear the People Sing”. There are nice little reprises as well – I like the repeat of the key notes from At the End of the Day at the end of Lovely Ladies, and while Bring Him Home is not really a reprise of Drink With Me I can definitely feel some similarities there, similar tempo, similar singing style, and the fact they are immediately next to each other makes the comparison obvious…

I’ve probably missed a load, but I really wanted to get off my chest how symmetrical a show Les Mis seems to be, with almost all the songs before “One Day More” (which can be seen as the “Central” song) being repeated a roughly equal distance after that song.
Vanessa20

Re: Has anyone else noticed how symmetrical Les Mis is?

Yes, there are a lot of musical motifs throughout the show. Some people complain about it and call the score too repetitious, but I think it's an excellent way of highlighting the underlying similarities of different situations, giving characters specific identities, etc. I mean for goodness' sake, if a revered Romantic composer like Richard Wagner could fill his operas with leitmotifs, why can't a musical theatre composer?

ChrisDenman wrote:
"Who Am I[/b] is symmetrical with Every Day – the reprise is near the end and Who Am I is near the start. Plot symmetry as well of course, since both are deeply introspective songs, with Valjean admitting his truth


Don't you mean that "Valjean's Confession" is symmetrical with "Who Am I?" Because "Every Day" is actually symmetrical with "A Heart Full of Love"- Marius and Cosette in love, while either Eponine or Valjean pines on the side.

Then, of course, there's the parallel that seems to make no sense: why is the music associated with the Bishop later used for "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables?" Does anyone have any ideas about that one?

ChrisDenman wrote:
I dreamed a dream is very similar to On my own in melody, which is appropriate since both songs are about how the singer can’t ever hope to enjoy true love


I personally wouldn't think of those two as parallels, especially since their individual melodies are used separately throughout: "I Dreamed a Dream" at various points, and "On My Own" at both Fantine and Valjean's deaths.

That reminds me. I've been thinking lately that it's kind of interesting that all five of the major, concert-standard solo songs actually aren't quite true to Hugo's characters:

Empty Chairs at Empty Tables: The Amis were only Marius' vague acquaintances.

Bring Him Home: Valjean hated Marius.

On My Own: Eponine wasn't just a sappy little Angsty Sue.

Stars: Javert wasn't a religious fanatic.

I Dreamed a Dream: The most in-character of the five, but still, Hugo writes that Fantine's "heart had hardened" toward Tholomyes by the time she left Cosette with the Thenardiers. So it seems unlikely that years later she would say "And still I dream he'll come to me."


Thanks for posting something that I could respond to. I know I've just been rambling, but it's a relief from being immersed in English studying.
bigR

Re: Has anyone else noticed how symmetrical Les Mis is?

Vanessa20 wrote:


I've been thinking lately that it's kind of interesting that all five of the major, concert-standard solo songs actually aren't quite true to Hugo's characters:
.


In some cases it is true, but I don't totally agree with that

Quote:
Empty Chairs at Empty Tables: The Amis were only Marius' vague acquaintances.


Not really.
Courfeyrac and Marius, vague acquaintances? Hugo repeats several times that they are intimate friends. Yes, Marius is not the most fun kind of friend, but even so, we see them together at lunch, theatre, bals, several times, Courfeyrac provides Marius with jobs and clothes (well, at leat the infamous green coat), Marius lends Courfeyrac money... Oh, and yes, small detail, he shares Courfeyrac's room! And Marius doesn't even ask permission to stay with courfeyrac. He just appears there one night, announces that he is "sleeping with him", and he hasn't moved out in 3 or 4 months. How can Courfeyrac stand Marius, that's a complete mistery, but in any case, it doesn't seem something you would do with an "acquaintance".
And about the others, Hugo says that even if Marius didn't become a member of the ABC, they had remainded good pals, or something like that, and they could always count on their mutual help for everything.

Of course, Marius doesn't grieve for his friends at all in the brick. Because he is a self-centered spoiled brat or because Hugo was desperate for finishing the novel, we will never know. But ECAET is a much needed adition to the musical. The audience would have never understood his total indiference for his friends.


Quote:
Bring Him Home: Valjean hated Marius.


You probably know they story behind that song. They planned on doing the angsty thing "what do I do, do I save him or do I kill him?", but then B&S appeared with this wonderful tune and they realized it could only be a prayer.


Quote:
On My Own: Eponine wasn't just a sappy little Angsty Sue.


I don't agree here. The fact that the bopper fans have made Éponine look like an angsty teen doesn't mean that her song is sappy or that it contradicts the brick. Éponine talks in the brick about her walking alone at night at living in her own head, and seing lights and hearing music in her head. And he is a teenager and she is desperately in love with Marius. And after Marius leaves the masure Gorbeau, she wonders around Paris for weeks looking for him. So, the fact that Hugo doesn't tell what's in her head (that's clever of him, because seen only from the outside Éponine is a much more interesting and misterious character) doesn't make go away the fact that the girl's head in probably mainly occupied by thoughs of Marius.
The line "still I say there's a way for us" excepted, I think that OMO is very faithful to the brick.

Quote:
Stars: Javert wasn't a religious fanatic.


I never understood why so many people claim that Stars is not faithful to book!javert. Because it is probably the most faithful-to-Hugo song in the whole show. Please, read Book 8, Chapter 3 "Javert content". The lyrics for Stars are taken nearly word by word from it.
Fantine

Re: Has anyone else noticed how symmetrical Les Mis is?

bigR wrote:
How can Courfeyrac stand Marius, that's a complete mistery


It must'ave been sweet love.
Vanessa20

Re: Has anyone else noticed how symmetrical Les Mis is?

bigR wrote:

Not really.
Courfeyrac and Marius, vague acquaintances? Hugo repeats several times that they are intimate friends. Yes, Marius is not the most fun kind of friend, but even so, we see them together at lunch, theatre, bals, several times, Courfeyrac provides Marius with jobs and clothes (well, at leat the infamous green coat), Marius lends Courfeyrac money... Oh, and yes, small detail, he shares Courfeyrac's room! And Marius doesn't even ask permission to stay with courfeyrac. He just appears there one night, announces that he is "sleeping with him", and he hasn't moved out in 3 or 4 months. How can Courfeyrac stand Marius, that's a complete mistery, but in any case, it doesn't seem something you would do with an "acquaintance".
And about the others, Hugo says that even if Marius didn't become a member of the ABC, they had remainded good pals, or something like that, and they could always count on their mutual help for everything.


Yeah. I wasn't thinking of Courfeyrac. I was just thinking about the fact that Marius doesn't go into the whole "They all died in vain, I'm sorry I didn't die with them" depressed stupor that he does in the musical.

Quote:
You probably know they story behind that song. They planned on doing the angsty thing "what do I do, do I save him or do I kill him?", but then B&S appeared with this wonderful tune and they realized it could only be a prayer.


Yes, I knew that. Just for fun I've tried to write my own lyrics to the song reflecting the original angsty intent, but I can never think of anything good.

Quote:
I don't agree here. The fact that the bopper fans have made Éponine look like an angsty teen doesn't mean that her song is sappy or that it contradicts the brick. Éponine talks in the brick about her walking alone at night at living in her own head, and seing lights and hearing music in her head. And he is a teenager and she is desperately in love with Marius. And after Marius leaves the masure Gorbeau, she wonders around Paris for weeks looking for him. So, the fact that Hugo doesn't tell what's in her head (that's clever of him, because seen only from the outside Éponine is a much more interesting and misterious character) doesn't make go away the fact that the girl's head in probably mainly occupied by thoughs of Marius.
The line "still I say there's a way for us" excepted, I think that OMO is very faithful to the brick.


You're right. The song can be about her desperate love without necessarily being sappy, but the stereotype of the song is sappy. I was also kind of thinking of the fact that Hugo essentially keeps her mysterious until she dies, while the musical has her pouring out her feelings to the audience all the time.


Back on the subject of the leitmotifs, has any one read "The Musical World of Boublil and Schonberg," and if so, does it explain the various motifs at all? I haven't been able to find it, and I'd like some more explanation... like why is the Bishop's music used for ECAET?


I loved that interview with Herbert Kretzmer that someone posted a link to a long time ago, where he explained that "Lovely Ladies" and "Turning" have the same tune because they're both about women's social suffering- prostitution in the one song, bereavement by war/revolution in the other.

I'd read other speculations about why those two have the same tune (e.g. One is about fallen girls, the other is about fallen boys; that the "Turning" women will probably end up as prostitutes since their husbands and fiances are dead), but none of them rang true for me.
Orestes Fasting

The leitmotifs are brilliant in some places (Valjean and Javert's parallel breakdowns), but I think B&S overused them to the point of laziness. Someone already mentioned the Bishop getting the Empty Chairs melody--the hell is up with that?

Also, I think that they made a mistake in reassigning "L'air de la misère," the most recurring and universal motif of the whole show, to Eponine in "On My Own." It ceases to become an underpinning melody and becomes "her song," grossly inflating her importance and cheapening the melody through overuse.

One other interesting use of repetition: several song titles recur in Valjean's death scene.

VALJEAN:
Alone, I wait in the shadows
I count the hours till I can sleep
I dreamed a dream Cosette stood by
It made her weep to know I die

Alone at the end of the day,
Upon this wedding night I pray
Take these children, my Lord, to thy embrace
And show them grace...

God on high, hear my prayer
Take me now to thy care
Where you are, let me be
Take me now, take me there
Bring me home

[snip]

FANTINE:
Come to me, where chains will never bind you
All your grief, at last, at last behind you
God in heaven, look down on him in mercy...


I thought the last one was coincidence until I realized it's in the French lyrics too: "Dieu tout-puissant, pitié, pitié pour cet homme."
Catherine

Orestes Fasting wrote:

FANTINE:
Come to me, where chains will never bind you
All your grief, at last, at last behind you
God in heaven, look down on him in mercy...




I could have sworn it was come with me in the Finale...
SmallTownIngenue

Nope, it's "come to me," at least in the student edition libretto.
Catherine

Heh, I googled the lyrics and it says "with".
Meh, I dunno.
Orestes Fasting

I've heard both live. It's usually "with," but Lea Salonga used "Come to me."
Vanessa20

Orestes Fasting wrote:
One other interesting use of repetition: several song titles recur in Valjean's death scene.

VALJEAN:
Alone, I wait in the shadows
I count the hours till I can sleep
I dreamed a dream Cosette stood by
It made her weep to know I die

Alone at the end of the day,
Upon this wedding night I pray
Take these children, my Lord, to thy embrace
And show them grace...

God on high, hear my prayer
Take me now to thy care
Where you are, let me be
Take me now, take me there
Bring me home

[snip]

FANTINE:
Come to me, where chains will never bind you
All your grief, at last, at last behind you
God in heaven, look down on him in mercy...


I thought the last one was coincidence until I realized it's in the French lyrics too: "Dieu tout-puissant, pitié, pitié pour cet homme."



I've always liked those little touches too. They're subtle, but help create a nice sense of closure.
Brunnhilde

Well, I usually like Leitmotivs, but Bishop => ECaET just makes no sense...

And I totally like how Javert uses the same "recitativo" melody every time he shows up in "talking" scenes. And the ewoking of "Stars" while he's jumping is beautiful.

Okay, these Leitmotivs are maybe not always logical, but in must cases they work. And don't forget - there was once a Leitmotiv genius, who made this technique perfect. Sometimes, it's against the text, betraying the heroes' real thoughts. (Example: Hagen welcomes Siegfried friendly, and the orchestra screams the Curse!Motiv.)
Moci

Orestes Fasting wrote:

Also, I think that they made a mistake in reassigning "L'air de la misère," the most recurring and universal motif of the whole show, to Eponine in "On My Own." It ceases to become an underpinning melody and becomes "her song," grossly inflating her importance and cheapening the melody through overuse.


Although 'L'air de la misère' breaks my heart in a way that 'On My Own' never has, I always presumed that it was the theme of misery and individual human suffering and therefore an appropriate choice to be reassigned to Eponine's character.

However, although I'm only speculating here, I do think that Trevor Nunn had a knack back then for knowing which songs had a chance at becoming the 'hit' song (in 'Cats', his main lyrical contribution is to 'Memory' and in 'Les Mis' it's 'On My Own'- maybe I'm being a cynic, or maybe somebody knew how to increase their royalties?) and staged it so that it took the limelight as being the main use of that theme, which wasn't how it was maybe intended? He (and John Caird of course) created something which is almost iconic- "the girl in the coat with the lights through the shutters behind her singing the belty number" and gave it the most memorable place in the show for it to occur (I'm near certain that Frances Ruffelle gave an interview for theatreradio, where she said that Trevor Nunn promised when he spoke to her about the part, that the song that she'd be played on the piano would become a bigger number for her and that he'd make sure that it just after the interval if she was interested in the part), but which became far more prominent in the memory of a casual theatregoer than any of it's other uses.
ChrisDenman

Quote:

VALJEAN:
Alone, I wait in the shadows
I count the hours till I can sleep
I dreamed a dream Cosette stood by
It made her weep to know I die

Alone at the end of the day,
Upon this wedding night I pray
Take these children, my Lord, to thy embrace
And show them grace...

God on high, hear my prayer
Take me now to thy care
Where you are, let me be
Take me now, take me there
Bring me home

[snip]

FANTINE:
Come to me, where chains will never bind you
All your grief, at last, at last behind you
God in heaven, look down on him in mercy...

My, I'd never noticed those titles in the songs before. I'm relistening to Valjean's Death now. It's fantastic.

Vanessa20 wrote:
ChrisDenman wrote:
"Who Am I[/b] is symmetrical with Every Day – the reprise is near the end and Who Am I is near the start. Plot symmetry as well of course, since both are deeply introspective songs, with Valjean admitting his truth


Don't you mean that "Valjean's Confession" is symmetrical with "Who Am I?" Because "Every Day" is actually symmetrical with "A Heart Full of Love"- Marius and Cosette in love, while either Eponine or Valjean pines on the side.

Yes, you're right - I was just looking at the track listings from memory... sorry!

Quote:
Then, of course, there's the parallel that seems to make no sense: why is the music associated with the Bishop later used for "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables?" Does anyone have any ideas about that one?

And the music that the Bishop sings doesn't include the epic bit in the middle (in a major key), and most of the instruments are removed. Hmm.... both songs have moral purposes? Not really... you're right, I think Boublil/Schonberg were just cheaping out here. Although it does create the symmetry I'm talking about - near the beginning, near the end.

Quote:
I personally wouldn't think of (I Dreamed a Dream and On My Own) as parallels, especially since their individual melodies are used separately throughout: "I Dreamed a Dream" at various points, and "On My Own" at both Fantine and Valjean's deaths.

Well I commented on it having read the Wikipedia article on it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Songs_from_Les_Mis%C3%A9rables

Quote:
Relation to "On My Own"
Both the plot and music to "I Dreamed a Dream" bears a close resemblance to "On My Own", a solo sung by Éponine in Act II of the play. The two can in many ways be considered reprises of each other.

Some notable relations include:

"I Dreamed a Dream" starts in Eb Major, then E Minor, then F Major - "On My Own" starts in D Major, moving to Bb Major, and ending in F Major.
"I Dreamed a Dream,” outlines unfairness and woe in Fantine's life, the second half dedicated to her former male partner, who deserted her after the conception of Cosette. In "On My Own," Éponine outlines her desire to be with the character Marius, and (similarly to Fantine), dreams and imagines him by her side.
Near the one-minute mark (slightly after in "I Dreamed a Dream"), the final key signature change is made and the music and singing grows louder and more intense, as is done in On My Own.
When Éponine sings her solo, it is the same tune as "Come to Me" also sang by Fantine.
Similarly, the duet between Cosette and Marius in "One Day More" is the same tune as Fantine's "I Dreamed a Dream", though higher/lower in pitch and accented differently: their words are of happiness, a great contrast to Éponine and Fantine.


Also, it's interesting how all of Fantine's tracks "die" with her - in the Fantine-focussed segment of the show, there is lots of repetition of the tune behind I Dreamed a Dream, the notes from At The End of the Day, the other Fantine Theme that is prominent in Fantine's Death, all disappear. They only reappear in One Day More (which I don't view as properly canon to the rest of the show; it's a pastiche theme and it includes a bit of everything and everone). And when Fantine reappears as an angel in the Epilogue/finale, the Fantine themes return. It's just fantastic.

And the other thing I note is the theme from "At the End of the Day" becomes associated with Fantine's downfall; hence, the two repeating notes that are core to that song are part of the letter reading that attracts the foreman who fires her. Those notes are repeated at the end of Lovely Ladies with Bambantois being refused - she attacks him and the notes appear, it just tells the audience something bad will happen.

And most of all, these lines:
Foreman - "Ah yes the virtuous Fantine who keeps herself so pure and clean you'd be the cause I had no doubt of any trouble hereabout..."
Bambantois - "...For this disturbance of the peace, for this insult to life and property, (I beg you do forgive me sir I'll do whatever you may want)..."

That tune is associated with someone abusing their position, power and crediblity to get Fantine into trouble.

So it's only appropriate that those two themes don't return for the brief fantine reprise at the end - she's no longer a mortal.
Vanessa20

ChrisDenman wrote:
And most of all, these lines:
Foreman - "Ah yes the virtuous Fantine who keeps herself so pure and clean you'd be the cause I had no doubt of any trouble hereabout..."
Bambantois - "...For this disturbance of the peace, for this insult to life and property, (I beg you do forgive me sir I'll do whatever you may want)..."

That tune is associated with someone abusing their position, power and crediblity to get Fantine into trouble.



Oh my God! Shocked I never realized that those lines were the same tune! Shocked And I've been a fan for eight years!


Going slightly OT, it's kind of interesting that the musical makes Fantine more a victim of male chauvinism than she is in the Brick- since in the Brick there is no Foreman, and Bamatabois doesn't sexually abuse her but just throws snow down her dress. I suppose it makes the story feel more modern.
Quique

Orestes Fasting wrote:
One other interesting use of repetition: several song titles recur in Valjean's death scene.

VALJEAN:
Alone, I wait in the shadows
I count the hours till I can sleep
I dreamed a dream Cosette stood by
It made her weep to know I die

Alone at the end of the day,
Upon this wedding night I pray
Take these children, my Lord, to thy embrace
And show them grace...

God on high, hear my prayer
Take me now to thy care
Where you are, let me be
Take me now, take me there
Bring me home

[snip]

FANTINE:
Come to me, where chains will never bind you
All your grief, at last, at last behind you
God in heaven, look down on him in mercy...


I thought the last one was coincidence until I realized it's in the French lyrics too: "Dieu tout-puissant, pitié, pitié pour cet homme."



I've always loved those repetitions. I still remember getting immediately teary-eyed the first time I ever heard them after first getting the CSR years ago. Same with the COAC melody after the DWM reprise.
eponine5

ChrisDenman wrote:
Also, it's interesting how all of Fantine's tracks "die" with her - in the Fantine-focussed segment of the show, there is lots of repetition of the tune behind I Dreamed a Dream, the notes from At The End of the Day, the other Fantine Theme that is prominent in Fantine's Death, all disappear. They only reappear in One Day More (which I don't view as properly canon to the rest of the show; it's a pastiche theme and it includes a bit of everything and everone). And when Fantine reappears as an angel in the Epilogue/finale, the Fantine themes return. It's just fantastic.

I like that the tune in the introduction of Come To Me completely remains as Fantine's tune. And I may be reading too much into this, but has anyone noticed that the lyrics 'I love him, I love him, I love him, but only on my own' fit into the orchestral tune at the end of Come To Me? (The same tune which also appears in Fantine's arrest.)
lesmisloony

Um... you mean OMO is basically the same tune as Come to Me? Cos it pretty much is. That's what you were saying, right?
eponine5

No...sorry, my username may be detracting from my comprehensibility.
I was only talking about the last (nearly tuneless) lines added onto the end of On My Own, which otherwise would end exactly where the lyrics of Come To Me end. I was wondering whether the lyric 'I love him, I love him etc.' had originally been written to fit into the tune which appears in between Come To Me and The Confrontation.
wicked_boy

I think the repeated melodies allow the audience to remember the tunes and songs.
Orestes Fasting

Moci wrote:
Orestes Fasting wrote:

Also, I think that they made a mistake in reassigning "L'air de la misère," the most recurring and universal motif of the whole show, to Eponine in "On My Own." It ceases to become an underpinning melody and becomes "her song," grossly inflating her importance and cheapening the melody through overuse.


Although 'L'air de la misère' breaks my heart in a way that 'On My Own' never has, I always presumed that it was the theme of misery and individual human suffering and therefore an appropriate choice to be reassigned to Eponine's character.


That's precisely why I think it was such a boneheaded decision: pinning a theme of misery and human suffering onto a dime-a-dozen unrequited love subplot makes it seem like hopeless teenage infatuation is the apex of human suffering. Especially at that moment in the show.

Now granted, it does help sell tickets to self-aggrandizing teenagers who could write entire Shakespearean tragedies about how that guy in third period never looks at them, but it drags the show away from Hugo's message.
LesMisForever

Re: Has anyone else noticed how symmetrical Les Mis is?

bigR wrote:


Quote:
Empty Chairs at Empty Tables: The Amis were only Marius' vague acquaintances.


Not really.
Courfeyrac and Marius, vague acquaintances? Hugo repeats several times that they are intimate friends. Yes, Marius is not the most fun kind of friend, but even so, we see them together at lunch, theatre, bals, several times, Courfeyrac provides Marius with jobs and clothes (well, at leat the infamous green coat), Marius lends Courfeyrac money... Oh, and yes, small detail, he shares Courfeyrac's room! And Marius doesn't even ask permission to stay with courfeyrac. He just appears there one night, announces that he is "sleeping with him", and he hasn't moved out in 3 or 4 months. How can Courfeyrac stand Marius, that's a complete mistery, but in any case, it doesn't seem something you would do with an "acquaintance".
And about the others, Hugo says that even if Marius didn't become a member of the ABC, they had remainded good pals, or something like that, and they could always count on their mutual help for everything.

Of course, Marius doesn't grieve for his friends at all in the brick. Because he is a self-centered spoiled brat or because Hugo was desperate for finishing the novel, we will never know. But ECAET is a much needed adition to the musical. The audience would have never understood his total indiference for his friends.
.


Mmmm... i tend to agree more the OP.

Even though all what BigR mentioned happened in the book, i NEVER felt that Marius and Courferyac were friends. I think their relationship was purely to advance the plot, that is why we have them sharing many actions, but without real warmth, and deep friendships.
And most of the time we are quickly told what happened rather than the usual leisurley and lenghthy description when Hugo really cares about something.
You could exchange Courferyac with a random character, and the story wouldn't have been any different.

It really pisses me off how Marius is "sexed up". Really, by the end of the book i was on the verge of despicing him. I think Hugo sensed that, so he told us not be harsh on him, lol.

I agree with the second paragraph of BigR though. ECAET is needed, and fits the way he was portrayed.

OF...your comment about "third grade" boy was funny lol, but guys, don't underestimate the power of love (or lust).
I mean who knows how the history of the Roman Empire would have gone if Marcus Antonius didn't go after Cleopatra?
Love/lust/desire is a very powerful emotion for the person in question. It makes people do very strange things.

Oh! btw, i am NOT in love

Laughing
Moci

Orestes Fasting wrote:
Moci wrote:
Orestes Fasting wrote:

Also, I think that they made a mistake in reassigning "L'air de la misère," the most recurring and universal motif of the whole show, to Eponine in "On My Own." It ceases to become an underpinning melody and becomes "her song," grossly inflating her importance and cheapening the melody through overuse.


Although 'L'air de la misère' breaks my heart in a way that 'On My Own' never has, I always presumed that it was the theme of misery and individual human suffering and therefore an appropriate choice to be reassigned to Eponine's character.


That's precisely why I think it was such a boneheaded decision: pinning a theme of misery and human suffering onto a dime-a-dozen unrequited love subplot makes it seem like hopeless teenage infatuation is the apex of human suffering. Especially at that moment in the show.

Now granted, it does help sell tickets to self-aggrandizing teenagers who could write entire Shakespearean tragedies about how that guy in third period never looks at them, but it drags the show away from Hugo's message.


Whilst I agree with you that On My Own is a use of the melody that's beefed up beyond necessary, I don't object to it's use for Eponine. OMO is pretty much Eponine's inner monologue and as you've previously said, there are "self-aggrandizing teenagers who could write entire Shakespearean tragedies about how that guy in third period never looks at them". That's what she's doing. I can't help feeling that LesMisForver is right in the whole love thing being pretty powerful. It's not her misery through poverty situation that's permitting her use of the melody, it's her desperation and delusion through love. In her mind, was she aware of it, I think that Eponine would think herself to be in as much misery and suffering as Fantine or Valjean. I do think that the way the motif manifests itself through 'On My Own' isn't the best way it could have been used (although as showstoppers go, as a combination of melody, orchestration, lyrics and performance, it can be wonderful), but I think that the use of the theme is appropriate for use by Eponine at that moment.
Orestes Fasting

I don't disagree that Eponine, at that moment, merits the use of the L'air de la misère motif, but she and her teenage-love issues should not have merited the biggest, most memorable, and most climactic use of that motif. It overshadows the more relevant sufferings of the other characters.

Hopeless love is an aspect of human suffering, but in this particular plot, with its particular message, it shouldn't be presented as the most important one.
curlyhairedsoprano91

Orestes Fasting wrote:
I don't disagree that Eponine, at that moment, merits the use of the L'air de la misère motif, but she and her teenage-love issues should not have merited the biggest, most memorable, and most climactic use of that motif. It overshadows the more relevant sufferings of the other characters.

Hopeless love is an aspect of human suffering, but in this particular plot, with its particular message, it shouldn't be presented as the most important one.

Applause Applause Applause Applause Applause Applause Applause Applause Applause Applause
Vanessa20

Re: Has anyone else noticed how symmetrical Les Mis is?

LesMisForever wrote:
It really pisses me off how Marius is "sexed up". Really, by the end of the book i was on the verge of despicing him. I think Hugo sensed that, so he told us not be harsh on him, lol.


Just curious... what do you mean "sexed up"? What does how he treats Valjean have to do with sex?
LesMisForever

Re: Has anyone else noticed how symmetrical Les Mis is?

Vanessa20 wrote:
LesMisForever wrote:
It really pisses me off how Marius is "sexed up". Really, by the end of the book i was on the verge of despicing him. I think Hugo sensed that, so he told us not be harsh on him, lol.


Just curious... what do you mean "sexed up"? What does how he treats Valjean have to do with sex?


hahahahaha
I am laughing at myself more than anything else.

It has nothing to do with sex,lol. It is a term that started to be used recently in Britain.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexed_up

Basically, you highlight, and exaggerate the things that suits you, while ignoring(or even underplaying) the rest.
So, even though the musical Marius is not outright fake, his association with the students is exaggerated. We also see only his good side.
Vanessa20

Thanks for clearing that up. Being American, I was confused.
LesMisForever

Vanessa20 wrote:
Thanks for clearing that up. Being American, I was confused.


You're Welcome Very Happy
eponine5

Orestes Fasting wrote:
I don't disagree that Eponine, at that moment, merits the use of the L'air de la misère motif, but she and her teenage-love issues should not have merited the biggest, most memorable, and most climactic use of that motif. It overshadows the more relevant sufferings of the other characters.

Hopeless love is an aspect of human suffering, but in this particular plot, with its particular message, it shouldn't be presented as the most important one.

I do think that there is some fault in the way the song is generally acted and directed. The easiest thing for the audience to do is listen to the song and only hear what she is saying about her feelings for Marius.
But as Moci said, the song shows her 'delusion through love'. In the second verse, for example, she romanticises everything around her. This view of 19th century Paris is false, and it is shown to be false later in the song (in the second to last verse) when she admits that without her illusions, her life is basically nothing. (Or at least that's how I interpret it.)
The fault in the song, IMO, is that the references to love are too frequent and take over every aspect of meaning in the song. For example, I think that the song could show more if she simply did not sing 'I love him' as an introduction to the second last verse, and if the lyrics allowed her to linger more on her own position in society than on her position beside Marius (which, if it was described more accurately in the musical, would have introduced the ideas of social class limitations anyway.)
Electricity24601

My personal favorite repeating melodies are during the Waltz of Treachery, when Valjean's part is to the tune of IDaD (reminding us of his mission to care for Fantine's child) and the reprise of Castle on a Cloud with Valjean and Little Cosette in the well scene (because it's so sweet and caring, and because it's literally Cosette's dream coming true).
LesMisForever

I think OMO from Eponine's point of view is fine, and as it should be, especially the way Lea sings it (this is NOT to start again the old Frances v. lea, but to show my view).
The song shows what is going through Eponine's mind.

If there is a fault, then it is in the plot, rather than the song.

OF point is very valid though. Within the context of the novel, and its aim, hopeless love is not the priority.

On a purely personal level, i like the song, and i think it is beautiful.
gretchgretch93

Another great moment is when the melody of Castle on a Cloud is used again right before one day more... right after the attack on rue plumet

"that was my cry you heard papa..."
"there is a lady all in white..."
jdeng

Moci wrote:
Orestes Fasting wrote:

Also, I think that they made a mistake in reassigning "L'air de la misère," the most recurring and universal motif of the whole show, to Eponine in "On My Own." It ceases to become an underpinning melody and becomes "her song," grossly inflating her importance and cheapening the melody through overuse.


Although 'L'air de la misère' breaks my heart in a way that 'On My Own' never has, I always presumed that it was the theme of misery and individual human suffering and therefore an appropriate choice to be reassigned to Eponine's character.

However, although I'm only speculating here, I do think that Trevor Nunn had a knack back then for knowing which songs had a chance at becoming the 'hit' song (in 'Cats', his main lyrical contribution is to 'Memory' and in 'Les Mis' it's 'On My Own'- maybe I'm being a cynic, or maybe somebody knew how to increase their royalties?) and staged it so that it took the limelight as being the main use of that theme, which wasn't how it was maybe intended? He (and John Caird of course) created something which is almost iconic- "the girl in the coat with the lights through the shutters behind her singing the belty number" and gave it the most memorable place in the show for it to occur (I'm near certain that Frances Ruffelle gave an interview for theatreradio, where she said that Trevor Nunn promised when he spoke to her about the part, that the song that she'd be played on the piano would become a bigger number for her and that he'd make sure that it just after the interval if she was interested in the part), but which became far more prominent in the memory of a casual theatregoer than any of it's other uses.


One of a few, official explanations repeated many times by Nunn and Caird for replacing "L'air de la misère" with "On my own" was that Kretzmer, or the core creative team, was unable to find a singable English phrase to mean "L'air de la misère".
jdeng

Orestes Fasting wrote:
The leitmotifs are brilliant in some places (Valjean and Javert's parallel breakdowns), but I think B&S overused them to the point of laziness. Someone already mentioned the Bishop getting the Empty Chairs melody--the hell is up with that?


My far-fetched guess is that "fallen brothers" may be the connection. With corresponding songs of the same melody, the Bishop saves a brother('s soul) while Marius loses his brothers forever.
bigR

Well, I’ve finally have the time to read a few threads I hadn't time to read these last weeks, and I am pumping up this one because I have officially decided to become éponine's champion Exclamation
That’s because all you made very valid points, but when there is a discussion about her I always end up thinking that the character is being accused of sins that aren't her own, but her teenager fangirl's.

Like, when she is accused of teenage infatuation (hi, orestes Wink ). Well, yes, Éponine could certainly be accused of teenage infatuation, but then 99% of the characters produced by the romantic period lcould be accused of the same thing (and even if LM was written during the 60's, it remains a romantic product).
Marius, Cosette and even Fantine are all victims of teenage infatuation. For God’s sake, Marius is “happily” dying at the barricade because he’s grandfather doesn’t give him permission to marry Cosette! Are we going to judge the characters by the romantic literature standards (like products of a world where it is most normal to find you only and true love at first glance) or by our contemporary realistic standards?
And, yes, I know that when there is generalized Éponine bashing it is usually about musical!éponine that we talk about. But again, musical!marius is a guy apparently devoted to politics, until one day he exchanges a glance with a pretty girl, finds her address, has a short conversation with her in her garden, and the next day he doesn’t care about politics, ideals or anything, and is willing to die, because he can’t be with her! At least, in the musicalverse Éponine and Marius, had known each other for a while…
Also, maybe because I’ve been out of the fandom for so long, and 10 years ago, during my 1st obsessive period with Les Mis the internet wasn’t what it is right now, I wasn’t aware of the éponine fangirlishness until less than a year ago. And that’s maybe why I never found OMO annoying… To me it has always been a beautiful song about a girl dreaming about all the things she can’t have. All the shiny things she can’t have. Like most characters in Les Mis, Éponine lives in darkness and she yearns for the light. OMO is a wonderful song filled with light/darkness imagery, the shiny pavement, the lights in the river, the starlight in the trees, things that illuminate the real life darkness of the city and éponine’s life. Marius is the only real luminous thing around her. Her unrequited love for him speaks of all the things she can’t have.
Of course, the three repeated “I love him” and the end of the show , can leave behind the impression that the song is all about unrequited love, and the “there’s a way for us” doesn’t exactly help, but it certainly is also a song about someone who is lost in darkness, like most characters in the brick/show. I don’t know if you’ve noticed than when she says that she is lost and Marius finds her the results of being with him is that her world is suddenly filled with all kind of light.
Of course, we can find silly and exaggerated the way all the light in someone’s life comes from loving another person. But, people, this is Les Misérables, a place where “to love another person is to see the face of God”, an idea that’s also in the brick, where Hugo says than faith and love are everything. The show/brick is filled with characters whose only light come from the person they love: (valjean, marius, grantaire, fantine…)

Could they had toned down the “I love him” side of Éponine’s problems? They certainly could have. But first, in the brick, no matter how hard her life is, she seems to have accepted it. She obviously isn’t happy about it, but she is not actively rebelling either. The thing that makes her act, actively suffer and live, do wild things like confronting the patron-minette, sending marius to the barricade or getting a bullet that was directing to him, is her love. Even if she doesn’t understand it until the end. Love is what makes Éponine’s character act.
And second, if the “there’s a way for us” doesn’t exactly help the rest of the wonderful lines of OMO. What about IDAD? Because talking about symmetries that’s another beautiful song about unrequited love. And Fantine has problems. Serious problems. She has a child to feed and she is jobless. And still she goes on and on about her unrequited love and how she dreams that Tholomyès was with her. And we like it: because the song is beautiful and because it actually IS about broken dreams, and dreams that can not be. Not about unrequited love for a stupid guy. The only difference with OMO is that since Fantine is a mother, she doesn’t have a legion of teenagers identifying with her…

Also, I don’t think that love is a minor theme in Les Mis. Is Les Mis' story about physical misery? Maybe. But I rather think that it is about moral misery (that is often the consequence of physical misery, of course). And they are two things that redeem humanity from moral misery: faith and love, specially love.
And by the way, I can’t believe I never noticed before the lyrics repetitions in the finale!!
jackrussell

New poster here, hope you don’t mind if I join in!

The twinned songs in Les Miserables are interesting and a good example of how reprises can be deployed effectively, without being repetition for its own sake (something a certain Lord would do well to learn from). The main ones are:

Valjean Forgiven / Empty Chairs at Empty Tables
What Have I Done / Javert’s Suicide
Lovely Ladies / Turning
Come to Me / On My Own
Master of the House / Beggar at the Feast
Thenardier Waltz / Wedding Dance
Do You Hear The People Sing / Finale
A Heart Full of Love / Every Day

plus of course there are numerous musical themes which recur throughout the show. The only two I don’t like are, first, the use of the Empty Chairs melody for the Bishop – the tune works excellently as a lament for the deaths of one’s friends but seems totally out of place for the Bishop – and second, the Thenardier waltz (not a particularly strong number the first time round) being recycled as a wedding dance. Having the guests dance to Thenardier’s tune, whilst ironic, does rather undermine the wedding scene (which is far too lavish, in any case).

I agree that On My Own has never worked as well as it should have done. It contains what is probably the strongest melody in the show, and the one that represents the main themes of the show. It occurs at Valjean’s release, Fantine’s death and Valjean’s death, all crucial plot points in the show. As it represents moments of death and suffering, it is the closest Les Miserables has to a title song.

Thus, whilst it is not inappropriate that it should be used for Eponine, it does seem wrong that On My Own is the longest and most “stand-out” presentation of the theme. Whereas most people know that unrequited love is indeed painful, it pales when compared to the suffering of Fantine. I think the previous poster had it right – the song works best when you take Eponine’s whole pitiful life into account, not just her unrequited love for Marius. I believe the producers have admitted that they never got the lyrics of this song quite right. It’s revealing that no fewer than five lyricists are co-credited with this song (compared to two or three for the others) – so many writers is never a good sign!

You can see why it’s happened, though. For the song to have been given such prominence as a Fantine number, it would have to have been placed very close to I Dreamed A Dream, and we would have had a two strong female solo numbers very close together. The producers were concerned that there was very little for the women to do in Act II (hence the inclusion of the nice but superfluous Turning). Thus Fantine’s rendering of the tune is downgraded and becomes a duet with Valjean, while Eponine’s becomes the stand-out number.

Personally I wonder if they should have given it to Cosette – she needs something to give her a bit more personality, and after all it is her face on the posters, as the waif that symbolises what the show is about.
Escalante

jackrussell wrote:


Personally I wonder if they should have given it to Cosette – she needs something to give her a bit more personality, and after all it is her face on the posters, as the waif that symbolises what the show is about.


Oh my God jackrussel! You and I are of like mind Cool I just finished posting this on the "What changes would you make to the musical?" thread.

Escalante wrote:

Hey what about giving OMO to Cosette? With completely different lyrics and subject matter. Please understand this: I mean, you would use the same melody and come up with a completely different song. It would be kind of cool, because Fantine sings the same melody in Come to Me- which she sings to Cosette... It would link the two if Cosette could sing a solo with that melody. I am not sure what the solo could be about- any thoughts? Maybe about Valjean- maybe sung to Valjean?
jackrussell

Escalante wrote:

Oh my God jackrussel! You and I are of like mind Cool I just finished posting this on the "What changes would you make to the musical?" thread.

Escalante wrote:

Hey what about giving OMO to Cosette? With completely different lyrics and subject matter. Please understand this: I mean, you would use the same melody and come up with a completely different song. It would be kind of cool, because Fantine sings the same melody in Come to Me- which she sings to Cosette... It would link the two if Cosette could sing a solo with that melody. I am not sure what the solo could be about- any thoughts? Maybe about Valjean- maybe sung to Valjean?


It would indeed be nice to link the mother and daughter this way. There's enough subject matter for a Cosette song - she had a hard early life, things got better when she was adopted by Valjean but she still had to live in hiding and without knowing why, she has fallen in love with a young man who is likely to get himself killed on the barricade... There's certainly as much to write a song about as there is for Eponine. If they want Eponine not to lose prominence they could always include a (shorter) song using some of her music from the original French version.
lesmisloony

The thing is, Cosette was decidedly NOT angsty in the Book. She was all about moving on and the present. What little Cosette there is in the musical is pretty accurate, in my opinion.
music-man

The music in Les Mis

I think that this thread makes alot of sense. I mean, to me, the fact that anyone could have all of the music to Les Mis, in their head is an amazing concept. Its just so good!

When they use the same melody more than once, its like it summons up countless emotions. For example, when i hear a few bars of red and black, it just makes me want to stand up for the stuff i believe in and against injustice, that sort of thing. But if you play the theme to master of the house, which has been said before, is the same as the waltz of trechery, you get a COMPLETLY different feeling.

Like when someone says a picture is worth a thousand word. or a word is worth a thousand pictures. they're both true. its the same with this music.
x
Escalante

Does anyone care to post which songs stand alone (Are not repeated)? I am trying to think. I believe that In My Life is one. Am I right. I wonder how many songs are not repeated- and I wonder about the thematic significance of that. If it is true that In My Life only happens once maybe it is because it is a new theme that is being introduced in the musical: the dawn of new love and self discovery- which hasn't really been introduced before Older Cosette appears on stage. A Little Fall of Rain is also it's own song that never repeats again. Am I right?
Ulla Dance Again!

The theme for "A Little Fall of Rain" is repeated a little bit at the end of "Eponine's Errand", I think, because the melody for Marius's line "Eponine, find her for me, discover where she lives..." is brought back for "You would live a hundred years if I could show you how, I won't desert you now..."

But as for the actual song itself, I think you may be correct in saying it's not repeated.

Also, I don't think the "Runaway Cart" music gets reused. Or, if it does, it's very slight, I seem to recall one of Javert's pieces being a tinsy bit reminiscent of it ("My memory stirs, you make me think of a man...").

I could be wrong, though. It's been at least a month since I've seen the show last and longer since I've worked on it, so my musical knowledge could be a bit rusty. Smile
EponineMNFF

I'm pretty sure the Well Scene has its own music for this line: "Hush now, do not be afraid of me... Don't cry show me where you live." After that it's pretty obviously COAC, but that one bit doesn't seem to be repeated.

Along with the whole, "Alone I wait in the shadows..." bit, right? Before Valjean falls into the Bring Him Home melody, I think the tune he uses is unique to that part... even though he does recycle some lyrics!

We had a thread about this a while ago, didn't we? About which melodies weren't repeated?
jackrussell

EponineMNFF wrote:
I'm pretty sure the Well Scene has its own music for this line: "Hush now, do not be afraid of me... Don't cry show me where you live."


Slightly offtopic but does anyone know if this music included on any recording? It bugs me to know that my Complete Symphonic recording isn't truly complete as it doesn't include this bit. Thanks!
Orestes Fasting

jackrussell wrote:
EponineMNFF wrote:
I'm pretty sure the Well Scene has its own music for this line: "Hush now, do not be afraid of me... Don't cry show me where you live."


Slightly offtopic but does anyone know if this music included on any recording? It bugs me to know that my Complete Symphonic recording isn't truly complete as it doesn't include this bit. Thanks!


I'm pretty sure it's on the Czech and Japanese recordings, but I can't verify that because my computer has issues.
Mademoiselle Lanoire

Orestes Fasting wrote:
jackrussell wrote:
EponineMNFF wrote:
I'm pretty sure the Well Scene has its own music for this line: "Hush now, do not be afraid of me... Don't cry show me where you live."


Slightly offtopic but does anyone know if this music included on any recording? It bugs me to know that my Complete Symphonic recording isn't truly complete as it doesn't include this bit. Thanks!


I'm pretty sure it's on the Czech and Japanese recordings, but I can't verify that because my computer has issues.


It is. (On the newer Japanese albums, at any rate.)
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