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"Paroles de Femmes" is French for "Words of Women"
What could be more gratifying than a talented group of performers that can deliver a laudable show! Well, that is precisely what we saw on March 27th at the Mid-Manhattan Library in the program Paroles de Femmes, Femmes de Paroles, honoring Haitian Women Writers.
The program was in the French language, naturellement, and featured a montage of Haitian artists who reside in New York. It was made possible through a collaboration with the group Curriculum Galilée-Montaigne led by the philosopher and litterateur Mr. Assely Etienne.
The opening act was a rhythmic Caribbean tune sung by the multi-talented Martina Bruno, who engaged us all in a luxurious cadence. At first, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, although I had read Martina’s biography prior to the performance. What an extraordinary talent Ms. Bruno has! Once she started singing, it was clear she was more than a singer. She is a classically trained musician, a lyricist, a singer, a soprano at that, who had studied Opera in such prestigious schools as the Conservatory of Mantova in Mantua (Italy) among others. It is no wonder she has been called (I found out later) “The Angel of New York”, and with good reason. Her voice is angelic.
In such high fashion, we are quickly introduced to a world of fine literature, exquisite music and grand performances.
A compelling video clip of Marie Vieux Chauvet (1916-1973) followed. Considered one of Haiti ’s greatest writers, Marie Vieux Chauvet’s oeuvre is the cornerstone of Haitian Literature. Her works include Fille d'Haïti (1954), La Danse sur le Volcan (1957), Fonds des Nègres (1961), and Amour, Colère et Folie (1969), the latter published by the prestigious publishing house Éditions Gallimard from Paris with the support of Simone de Beauvoir .
The next presenter, Jeanie Bogart, introduced us to that versatile, award winning Haitian author Emmelie Prophète. Ms. Bogart shared that she chose Emmelie Prophète, first “à cause de l’amour” (because of love), and then because of solitude. Emmelie is for her a lamb amid wolves, Ms. Bogart explained; she is a young woman who advanced in a man’s world, where few landmarks exist for the “second sex”, to quote the great Simone de Beauvoir. A world where a woman must promote herself, create a place for herself, make herself accepted, push to have herself respected. Ms. Bogart, in her extraordinary erudite and gentle nature, revealed a writer full of force, acutely aware of herself, of the world around her, of the times and places in which she lives. In Emmelie Prophète’s Le testament des solitudes, Ms. Bogart continued, we find a woman who after looking into the mirror finds three women in herself, the one who looks to escape reality, the one who wants to be found, and the one who wants to forge an identity for herself.
Upon the scene Michèle Voltaire Marcelin appears. Her brilliant performance in tribute to the iconic Marie Vieux Chauvet left us just breathless. Reciting entire pages from memory, Ms. Voltaire Marcelin gave us a masterful performance of that revered novelist’s work. In her exuberant acting style, she made us sympathize with the characters taken from extraits of “Amour” from the trilogy Amour, Colère et Folie. As background music to her mise-en-scène, Michèle chose the famed Haitian composer Ludovic Lamothe (1882-1953), one of Haiti’s most important classical composers.
A dramatized reading of another great authoress from Haiti, Yanick Lahens, was presented by madame Carmelle St. Gérard-López . Choice readings of the book La couleur de l’aube were the main focus of this splendidly enacted performance. St. Gérard-López’ ability to bring the text of Yanick Lahens to life is extraordinary. We were made aware of every breath, every pause, every accent, every sound and every silence. St. Gérard-López pronounced every syllable of every word as if it were an exquisite delicacy that must be savored bite by bite lest we slight with carelessness a cherished darling love.