Napoleon Bonaparte was not known for bursting into song, but Sean Richarz, music teacher at Seattle's Bishop Blanchet High School, is turning the tumultuous 100 Days of the emperor's career into a musical.
Napoleon Bonaparte was not known for bursting into song, but Sean Richarz, music teacher at Seattle’s Bishop Blanchet High School, is turning the tumultuous 100 Days of the emperor’s career into a musical.
He and Blanchet choral teacher Craig Schell will perform the first songs from the planned 2 ½-hour work next month at the International Napoleonic Congress on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, Napoleon’s birthplace.
“I’m not a Napoleon worshipper,” said Richarz, 50. “One author described him as a great, bad man. But I’m fascinated by people who accomplish things through will and personality, such as Alexander, Napoleon, Gandhi.”
“The 100 Days of Napoleon,” the title of the musical, is based on the period in 1815 when Napoleon escaped from confinement on the island of Elba, reseized power in France and was defeated a final time at the Battle of Waterloo. The musical begins with Bonaparte’s abdication before Elba, and continues with his imprisonment and death on St. Helena and the eventual return of his remains to France.
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Richarz still has the A-plus paper he wrote in seventh grade on Waterloo and is a scholar of an epic life too crammed with adventure to fit into any one musical. His interest was heightened when he learned an ancestor, Martin LeTot, was a drummer in Napoleon’s army. His father’s World War II bomber crash-landed near the Waterloo battlefield in Belgium.
In his youth, the teacher toured with a rock band called “Tremor” — inspired by Mount St. Helens — and wrote a pop musical called “Rising Star” that Blanchet performed in 1995. The first songs in “Napoleon” have a more operatic tone reminiscent of “Les Miserables.”
The first recordings have Schell as Napoleon, drama teacher Maureen Mershon singing as Josephine in a dream, Richarz on trumpet and Christine Dunaway on violin.
The Napoleonic ambition to tackle such a vast subject with song comes from the teacher’s fascination with emotion in a romantic, tragic, epic era. “What was that like before Waterloo, sitting out in the mud and rain at night knowing that the next day you’re going to have a great battle?”
One general was wounded 27 times and his loyalty never wavered. “That kind of thing shows what an unbelievable personality Napoleon was.”