The Seven Deadly Sins
Adjoa Andoh and Rory Kinnear explore human sins with poetry by Milton, Spenser, Shakespeare, Carol Ann Duffy and Stevie Smith and music by Kurt Weill, Mahler and Takemitsu.
Adjoa Andoh and Rory Kinnear visit the sins of pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth with poetry and prose by Milton, Carol Ann Duffy, Spenser, Shakespeare, Stevie Smith, Emily Dickinson and Christopher Marlowe and music by Kurt Weill, Mahler, Takemitsu, Verdi and Shostakovich. Rory and Adjoa explore the misery of sin experienced by Hamlet, Iago and Lady Macbeth alongside the idle enjoyment felt by Huckleberry Finn, the exhilaration on discovering that Einstein was a fellow Scot and the thrill of a feast in Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’.
Producer: Fiona McLean
Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes
Dr Faustus, read by Adjoa Andoh
Othello, read by Rory Kinnear
Carol Ann Duffy
Warming Her Pearls, read by Adjoa Andoh
Othello, read by Rory Kinnear
Wild Nights, read by Adjoa Andoh
Echo and Narcissus, read by Rory Kinnear
On Gut, read by Adjoa Andoh
from The Anatomy of Melancholy, read by Rory Kinnear
The Faerie Queene, read by Adjoa Andoh
A Christmas Carol, read by Rory Kinnear
Alone in the Woods, read by Adjoa Andoh
Paradise Lost, read by Adjoa Andoh
Julius Caesar, read by Rory Kinnear
Macbeth, read by Adjoa Andoh
Alba Einstein, read by Rory Kinnear
Pride and Prejudice, read by Adjoa Andoh
Huckleberry Finn, read by Adjoa Andoh
The Seven Deadly Sins are a list of what was - and is - seen in the church as cardinal sins, the worst vices that cut someone off from God’s grace, sins with roots in the human desire for excess. They are envy, gluttony, wrath, sloth, greed, extravagance and lust and pride. They have inspired writers and composers for centuries. A few years ago one of the Pope’s close allies, Monsignor Girotti, suggested that we should be thinking of new list of modern sins. For him those sins are carrying out experiments on human beings, polluting the environment, causing social injustice, inducing poverty, becoming obscenely wealthy and taking drugs are the new sins. Perhaps, like him, we all have a sense of what we consider a sin.
We begin with Christopher Marlowe’s Renaissance play ‘Dr Faustus’ in which the demon Mephistopheles introduces Faustus to the seven deadly sins. Envy tells that he cannot read and so wishes that all books be destroyed, Sloth is so shattered he cannot be bothered to describe himself. Faustus finds the sins laughable, Marlowe’s way of showing us that he is on the side of the devil. Janacek’s overture ‘Zarlivost’ or ‘Jealousy’ begins with thundering tympani and fury and was written as the opening to an opera about a violent and jealous man, a fitting introduction to Rory Kinnear’s Iago from Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’. Campion’s ‘Fire, fire, fire’ takes us into the sin of lust. Carol Ann Duffy’s beautiful poem ‘Warming Her Pearls’ is a monologue from a servant who wears the pearls to warm them before they are put around her mistress’ neck. The reader can see her strong feelings as a profound love, lust and possibly envy. You’ll hear the poem followed by Debussy’s ‘Chansons de Bilitis’, musical settings of deeply erotic poems by Pierre Louys.
The sin of Gluttony starts with Adjoa Andoh’s reading of Ben Jonson’s ‘On Gut’, his pessimistic view of the nature of man heard with the American composer Robert Beaser’s ‘Gluttony’ from his ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ with words by Anthony Hecht.
Wrath begins with Stevie Smith’s ‘Alone in the Woods’, an unusual poem from Smith in which the trees rail at their fury with man at the destruction of nature. Satan’s fury in Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ - as well, perhaps, as his greed and pride - is heard with Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony, premiered in 1953 after the death of Stalin whose brutality is heard in the breath-taking second movement, a furious indictment of Stalin’s existence in the world.
Hamish MacCunn’s ‘Dirk Dance’ is followed by Robert Crawford’s ‘Alba Einstein’, envy but in an understandable way in the story of the Scots discovering that Einstein was, yes, one of them.
We end with a gentle view of sloth from Mark Twain’s ‘Huckleberry Finn’, Twain conveying the romantic beauty of the Mississippi and the idyll of a lazy life on the river, heard with Ferde Grofé’s ‘Sunrise’ from his ‘Grand Canyons Suite’, inspired by Grofé’s memories of the sun rising as he slept outdoors.
Producer: Fiona McLean.
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