Romancing the Crowd : Charlotte Rampling and Jane Birkin at the Paris Center

A capacity crowd gathered last Tuesday to celebrate German and English Romanticism with two iconic British actresses who have become a recognizable part of French popular culture – Charlotte Rampling and Jane Birkin.

June 09, 2015

The soirée, part of the temporary exhibition celebrating the specialty poetry press, La Délirante, began with a lyrical journey into the German Romantic period. Interpreting the poetry of Heinrich Heine and Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff alongside works by composers Clara Schumann, Franz Schubert, and Richard Strauss, three young artists evoked the mythical figure of the Lorelei, the golden-haired temptress of the Rhineland and muse of Romantic poets.

A poetry reading by two modern muses, Birkin and Rampling, followed with the second half of the evening dedicated to the English poets Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats and W.B. Yeats. Sitting elbow to elbow beneath the warm glow of a reading lamp, Birkin and Rampling alternated stanzas of the original English poems with their French translations. The actresses, who gave every impression of being longtime friends, charmed the crowd with their complicity and humorous asides during their readings of such masterpieces as ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ and ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci.’ Both admitted that their lecture was unrehearsed and their honest reactions to lesser known poems, like Yeat’s ‘A Drinking Song’ and ‘To a Squirrel at Kyle-Na-No,’ delighted the largely French-speaking audience who discovered, along with the actresses, Keat’s often surprising language and Yeat’s advice to ‘not love too long.’

Additional lectures and screenings, associated with La Delirante and organized by the Librairie Tschann with the cooperation of Columbia Global Centers l Europe, will continue through June 23 at Reid Hall.