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The Age of Innocence: A Big Read Documentary

From: National Endowment for the Arts
Series: The Big Read
Length: 29:03

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Actor Alfred Molina shines with masterful readings of excerpts from Edith Wharton's masterpiece. The screenwriter of Scorsese's film adaptation, Jay Cocks, is one of several thoughtful commentators. Read the full description.

Cover_ageofinnocence_small Edith Wharton’s masterpiece, The Age of Innocence, presents the reader with two haunting questions. First, how can a novel with “innocence” in its title be so filled with feverish longing and smoldering desire? Second, how can a love story this passionate express itself with such respectable restraint? The answer to these questions can only be Wharton’s particular genius for portraying the mysterious contradictions of the human heart. 

In 1870s New York, Newland Archer and his fiancée seem the perfect match. But when the alluring Countess Ellen Olenska returns home from Europe, Newland must make the most important decision of his life. 

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Piece Description

Edith Wharton’s masterpiece, The Age of Innocence, presents the reader with two haunting questions. First, how can a novel with “innocence” in its title be so filled with feverish longing and smoldering desire? Second, how can a love story this passionate express itself with such respectable restraint? The answer to these questions can only be Wharton’s particular genius for portraying the mysterious contradictions of the human heart. 

In 1870s New York, Newland Archer and his fiancée seem the perfect match. But when the alluring Countess Ellen Olenska returns home from Europe, Newland must make the most important decision of his life. 

Transcript

Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence
Script
May 2009

Dana Gioia Now, The Big Read.

Music starts low under “Read” ---- Opera track slowly up and under

Alfred Molina [Reads from The Age of Innocence, Chapter 1]

When Newland Archer opened the door at the back of the club box the curtain had just gone up on the garden scene. There was no reason why the young man should not have come earlier, for he had dined at seven, alone with his mother and sister, and had lingered afterward over a cigar in the Gothic library with glazed black-walnut bookcases and finial-topped chairs, which was the only room in the house where Mrs. Archer allowed smoking. But, in the first place, New York was a metropolis, and he was perfectly aware that in metropolises it was “not the thing” to arrive early at the opera; and what was or was not “the thing” played a part as important in Newland Archer’s Ne...
Read the full transcript

Musical Works

Title Artist Album Label Year Length
At the Opera (Faust Opera) Elmer Bernstein The Age of Innocence (Underscore). Columbia Pictures 1993 :00
Four Romantic Pieces, Op. 75 Qian Zhou (violin) and Edmund Battersby (piano) - Antonín Dvorák Dvorák: Music for Violin and Piano, Vol. 1. Naxos of America, Inc. 2000 :00
Violin Sonatina in G major, Op. 100 Qian Zhou (violin) and Edmund Battersby (piano) - Antonín Dvorák Dvorák: Music for Violin and Piano, Vol. 1. Naxos of America, Inc. 2000 :00
Ballad in D minor, Op. 15, No. 1 Qian Zhou (violin) and Edmund Battersby (piano) Dvorák: Music for Violin and Piano, Vol. 2. Naxos of America, Inc. 2001 :00
Slavonic Dance in E minor, Op. 72, No. 10 (arr. Kreisler) Qian Zhou (violin) and Edmund Battersby (piano) Dvorák: Music for Violin and Piano, Vol. . Naxos of America, Inc. 2001 :00
Humoresque, Op. 101, No. 7 Qian Zhou (violin) and Edmund Battersby (piano) Dvorák: Music for Violin and Piano, Vol. 2. Naxos of America, Inc. 2001 :00
Trio in D Major, Op. 70, No. 1 (Ghost) The Stuttgart Piano Trio Beethoven: Piano Trios, Vol. 3 . Naxos of America, Inc. 1994 :00
Sonata No. 23 in F minor (Appassionata) Seymour Lipkin Ludwig van Beethoven: The Complete Sonatas. Newport Classic, Ltd. 2004 :00

Additional Credits

Written and produced by Dan Stone at the National Endowment for the Arts, 2007.

Music licensed by Adam Kampe.

Excerpts from “At the Opera (Faust Opera),” from “The Age of Innocence Underscore” by Elmer Bernstein (1993), published by New Columbia Pictures Music, Inc. (ASCAP), used courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Related Website

http://www.neabigread.org/books/ageofinnocence/radioshow.php