The Holy Sinner
by Thomas Mann / Peter Redgrove

BBC Radio 3: World Drama

Broadcast: Tuesday 18th November 1975 @ 10:00 p.m.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Thomas Mann's birth and the 20th anniversary of his death. In commemoration, Peter Redgrove has written a play for radio based upon "The Holy Sinner", a novel which Thomas Mann published in 1951, four years before his death.

The story of "The Holy Sinner" has, itself, a long history. Thomas Mann took it from a mediaeval German epic poem which, in its turn, was derived from even earlier French legends. In its mediaeval form, it's a story of piety and miracles about the legendary Pope Gregory who was delivered from the consequences of a great sin by God so that he might forgive all sins in the name of God. Mann has taken this tale of sin, guilt, and redemption and given it an ironical twist. Suggesting, perhaps, that the seeds of Western decadence may have been sown in the Gregorian redemption of the West.

Peter Redgrove has suggested further possibilities of meaning in his radio treatment of the story. Thus the play you are about to hear exists on many levels as there are versions of the story. Incorporating acient traditions together with contemporary interpretations.

Adapted by Peter Redgrove and based upon H. T. Lowe-Porter's English translation from the German of Thomas Mann's "The Holy Sinner", first published in 1951.

With Barbara Jefford [Sibylla], Richard Warwick [Gregorss], Clifford Norgate [Liberius /Roger], Hector Ross [Probus / The Major-domo / Duke Grimald], Nigel Lambert [The Fisherman / The Chamberlain], Constance Chapman [The Fisherman's Wife], Tony Robinson [The Lamb of God / Flen], Trader Faulkner [Maître Poitevin], Sheila Grant [Jeschute], Peter Williams [The Abbott], Pauline Letts [Mahaute], and Steve Hodson [Willo].

Music composed and played on the psaltery by Bob Stewart

Produced by Brian Miller in Bristol

90 min.


Book review

If anything should be made into a film or an opera, it is Thomas Mann's 'The Holy Sinner' Roughly it is his epic story of arch-sinfulness ending in triumph. A brother and sister of noble birth sleep together one evening. She has a child and enters a convent while he goes off to the crusades and is killed. The child is abandoned and then brought up in a monastery. He then sets off to prove his nobility, rescues a woman against invaders and sleeps with her - his mother. Now he goes off to do penance on a rock. After some visions in Rome the Cardinals set off discover this hairy shape on the rock and he now becomes Pope. Eventually mother sets off to Rome to seek forgiveness for her exceptional sins. Hence the climactic greeting - "Father, husband and son!"


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