May 15, 2016
BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
Recreating the atmosphere of Madame de Stael’s Parisian Salon at the Alliance Française represents an idea Paul Krauss, a citizen of the world with his wife Anne, and devoted Alliance members, has held for many years. Alliance Program Director Aimee Laberge relates:
“Paul said to us that we had to celebrate the brilliant French women who changed the world through their salons, where conversation led to revolution. We begin our series at the dawn of the 19th century with Madame de Stael, the most brilliant and most feared of the ‘salonnieres.’ Napoleon forced her into exile in Switzerland in her Chateau de Coppet.”
Readings from Madame de Stael’s writings and depictions of her life – presented by Isabelle David, leader the Alliance’s Woman’s Board book club, and Melisha Mitchell – will be interspersed with music from the period by a string trio: John Sharp, principal cellist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, his wife, Lyric Opera violinist Liba Shacht, and Lyric Opera principal violist Carol Cook. The evening will recreate a post-French Revolution salon, where discussion centered on politics, attended by friends of Madame de Stael, including the world-class survivor Talleyrand.
“I began reading about Napoleon nearly 20 years ago and found that he was so terrified of Madame de Stael’s writings and salons that he exiled her. To the intellectuals of the day, she was a greater philosopher than Voltaire. It is said that Newton’s findings weren’t clear to people until she translated them into French. She was the daughter of the Swiss banker Jacques Necker, who was Louis XVI’s Director of Finance. She was absolutely brilliant, and her salons were opportunities for the finest political discussion before and after the Revolution. Both her fiction and non-fiction books influenced the romanticism movement in Europe.”
Paul plans for the next salon to focus on the eloquence of conversation, centering the program on the writings of Age of Enlightenment author and scientist Madame de Chatelet, saying he has enjoyed his “journey studying the intellectual women of the 18th century rather than the usual focus on mistresses and style setters of the period.”
The Salon (in English) begins at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, May 20 at the Alliance Française, 54 West Chicago Avenue, with tickets priced at $25 for members, $40 for non-members. For further information call 312-337-1070 or visit their website: http://www.af-chicago.org/.