DECEMBER 8, 1951
PARIS, Friday—I want to say a word more about the performance at the opera the other night, given in honor of the United Nations officials.
Somehow the opera here is, in a way, much more brilliant as a pageant than anything we have in New York. When the President is attending for a gala performance of this kind, the Guarde Republicaine line the stairs coming from the different entrances and their red coats give great color to the occasion. All the ladies wear their most beautiful gowns, and between the acts everyone wanders about and goes to the foyer for refreshments. The President was served refreshments in his box.
I had never seen "Jeanne au Bucher," which is a poem by M. Paul Claudel, for which the music was written by Mr. Arthur Honegger. It was certainly filled with extraordinary scenic effects and there was a great deal of symbolism, some of which, I am sure, those of us who were seeing it for the first time did not completely comprehend. I thought the music very stirring and I found it an exciting experience.
After the intermission they gave what they call the Defile du Corp de Ballet. From way in the back of the stage, out of a tremendous gold frame, the whole ballet school, beginning with the youngest children, comes slowly forward to the front of the stage and slowly moves off. It is a really beautiful picture. After that the ballet gave a beautiful performance, all of it in "the formal ballet style, with perfect and lovely costumes" and lighting effects but, I thought, a trifle long.
The Theatre Francais players are taking another trip to South America next year, and I have heard more discussion as to whether an audience for classic French plays given in French by these great artists would be found in the big cities of the United States.
I would feel that such a wonderful cast, playing in such well-know plays, would have no difficulty in having full audiences in America. However, I am also told that one difficulty is that our theatre unions insist on servicing these performances whereas the Theatre Francais group always takes all of its personnel, including stagehands and orchestra with it. It would seem to me that the unions themselves in the United States would see the cultural value and be willing to permit a tour of limited duration.
I had the pleasure of spending a little time this week with a group of Congressmen who are touring Europe and the Near East looking into loans made by the Export-Import Bank and finding out what the results actually are. This is no easy trip, since frequently the projects into which the money goes are difficult to visit, and require long railroad and air trips and sometimes even less comfortable methods of travel. I am sure that it is all well worthwhile, however.