Music & Lyrics Carmel Owen
Book Joan Ross Sorkin
Revolution, romance, mystery and one painting that changed everything…
Great art often results in great sacrifice. This is true for Claude Monet, the inspiration for Imagining Monet, a musical about the life of Claude Monet, long before “Water Lilies” and Giverny, a story of one man’s passion that changed the world and the price he paid
to do so.
The musical begins in 1901, when Monet comes before a French magistrate to claim a painting, “Morning at Le Havre,” recently discovered in the basement of the Beaux-Arts Salon. The problem is Monet disclaimed it thirty-seven years before. Monet offers to explain, and we go back in time.
It is Paris, 1863, a pivotal period in art history when the classical Beaux-Arts Salon feels threatened by a group of young upstarts, later known as the Impressionists. Enter Monet and his friends Renoir and Degas with their new art that depicts everyday people and everyday things with their bold colors and broad brush strokes, enhanced by their love affair with light. These artists are pitted against the Marquis, the director of the Salon who targets Monet and enters into an unholy alliance with art critic Louis Leroy to discredit Monet and destroy his career. As part of the plan, Marquis accepts to the Salon an inferior painting, “Morning at Le Havre,” attributed to Monet, despite Monet’s protestations that the painting is not his. Leroy skewers the work and the careers of Monet and his friends, by association, are stopped in their tracks.
But Monet has far greater obstacles to overcome than the Salon and the press. Not only is his friendship with Degas and Renoir constantly tested, but he also becomes destitute when his Aunt Elise cuts off his allowance when he falls in love with his model Camille and marries her because she is expecting their child. Their woes escalate and their relationship frays as Monet becomes more and more obsessed with his work. Even when he begins to enjoy some success as an artist, Monet is blind to Camille’s contribution to his life and his art. Only when she dies in his arms and reveals the truth about “Morning at Le Havre” does Monet realize that he sacrificed far too much for his work. By seeking to reclaim “Morning at Le Havre” years later, Monet acknowledges how much he owed Camille for his success and how their love is what he cherishes most in life.
The musical, grounded in the history of the Impressionists, reflects the passion of Monet not only to paint, but to love. Though as writers, we take great pains to reflect the true history of the times and events surrounding Monet’s life, we have taken some dramatic license to dramatize Monet’s struggles as an artist, husband and father. Thus, Imagining Monet.
Cast of 10. Running time: approximately 2 hours.
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Full score available upon request.
(previously titled Monet)