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The Bald Soprano and other plays by Eugene…

The Bald Soprano and other plays (edition 1982)

by Eugene Ionesco

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940814,585 (3.97)6
The leading figure of absurdist theater and one of the great innovators of the modern stage, Eugène Ionesco (1909-94) did not write his first play, The Bald Soprano, until 1950. He went on to become an internationally renowned master of modern drama, famous for the comic proportions and bizarre effects that allow his work to be simultaneously hilarious, tragic, and profound. As Ionesco has said, "Theater is not literature. . . . It is simply what cannot be expressed by any other means.”… (more)
Title:The Bald Soprano and other plays
Authors:Eugene Ionesco
Info:Grove Press (1982), Paperback, 160 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:drama, french, translation, 20c, absurdism

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Four Plays: The Bald Soprano; The Lesson; Jack, or the Submission; The Chairs by Eugène Ionesco

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» See also 6 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
"The Bald Soprano" is pretty wonderful, but I truly hated "The Lesson." ( )
  middlemarchhare | Nov 25, 2015 |
The title play is the best (and funniest) in this collection, which is remarkable since it was Ionesco's first. Theater of the Absurd is best in small doses, were it not for the length and scope, "The Chairs" would have been better. ( )
  albertgoldfain | Dec 8, 2013 |
Absurdist theatre from one of the greatest masters. Ionesco treats us to the absurdity of human life with four plays that make almost no sense at all, and yet, at the same time, they do make sort of an absurd sense. The nonsensical use of words is reminiscent of Gertrude Stein; the use of strange characters in stranger situations of Samuel Beckett; the use of stark sets is worthy of the staunchest post-modernist, but the works are pure Ionesco, twisting as much absurdity as humanly possible into these four short plays. And in some cases, such as The Lesson, it is easy to believe he had a crystal ball, as some of the conversations were so eerily prescient; the attitude of the student toward mathematics and toward education in general is a picture-perfect portrayal of the millenial student. And I will read a long time before I find a line as sublime as "Philology leads to calamity". ( )
  Devil_llama | Jun 27, 2013 |
Absurd is not my style. I found this frustrating and irritating to read. If it wasn't an assignment, I wouldn't have gotten through ti. ( )
  Snukes | Jun 14, 2013 |
These four plays of Ionesco, among the very first that he wrote, already show him preoccupied with themes that will concern him for the rest of his career in theatre: the futility of language, the terror of ideological conformity, and theorizing about the play within the framework of the play itself. This volume includes "The Bald Soprano," "The Lesson," "Jack; Or, The Submission," and "The Chairs." Needless to say, giving a summary, insofar as one could eve be adduced, would go against the spirit of absurdism generally speaking. After all, the plots are not the most interesting things in the plays.

Ionesco got the idea for "The Bald Soprano" while trying to learn Assimil method. His textbook had two characters, Mr. and Mrs. Smith (who also appear in his play), and who, despite being married to one another, feel compelled to describe one another's physical appearance, tell one another that they are both English as if all of this was genuinely new information. Mr. and Mrs. are the epitome of the English bourgeois, speaking in stock phrases and clichés (How curious it is, how curious it is, how bizarre, and what a coincidence!") so worn with use as to be devoid of any meaning. The dialogue between the characters provides a discursiveness with which he points to the emptiness and futility of language, the hopelessness of communication.

Ionesco describes "The Lesson" as a "comic drama," though I found difficulty founding anything comic in it. In this play, he takes on the subject of authoritarianism as a professor of philology (which "always turns into calamity," according to his maid) relentlessly and unmercifully lectures a female student. When she proves unable to understand much of the material, he grows increasingly violent, with the student ending up dead. At the very end of the play, we learn that she is the professor's fortieth victim. And another one is walking in the door. So much for the victory of Reason.

Unlike the work of other absurdists, Beckett for example, Ionesco's plays are ostentatious, full of lively dialogue, and never inward-looking or contemplative, although many of Ionesco's themes are also Beckett's. The narrativity of drama, or the lack thereof, or even the possibility thereof, is a subject of both of their work.

At least for me, these plays are fun, but only in small doses. The constant litany of illogical non sequiturs and trying to keep track of all the characters that have similar names can become a little taxing and grating if the exposure goes on for too long. Nevertheless, these plays have aged remarkably well, and they remain one of the best introductions to the Theatre of the Absurd for the uninitiated. ( )
  kant1066 | Oct 14, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Eugène Ionescoprimary authorall editionscalculated
Allen, Donald M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The Bald Soprano: Anti-play
Scene: A middle class English interior, with English armchairs.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The Bald Soprano; The Lesson; Jack or the Submission; The Chairs
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