I have had the pleasure of listening to and reviewing many of the Naxos AudioBooks classic recordings narrated by a variety of talented British actors, but collectively my favorite readings are those by award winning actress Juliet Stevenson—whose five interpretations of Jane Austen’s novels remain paramount in my personal audio collection.
Awarded the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award in 1992 and the C.B.E. (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 1999, Ms. Stevenson’s vocal talent is deeply rooted in her classical training at RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts) and her time with Royal Shakespeare Company. While a friend boasts of seeing her stage performance of Hedda Gabler in London in 1989, beyond her audio recordings I have only had the pleasure of her film and television career—and that alone could sustain any lover of finely measured and intimate interpretations of human nature. Some of my favorite Stevenson performances are her tormented, grieving Nina in Truly Madly Deeply (1990), a part tailored for her by screenwriter/director Anthony Minghella, her outrageously pompous Mrs. Elton in Emma (1996), Evie in Being Julia (2004), and the Oracle in Atlantis (2013-2015). Everything she touches turns to gold.
Juliet Stevenson and Alan Cummings as Mrs. & Mr. Elton in Emma (1996)
Narrating a novel is challenging work and I was curious about the process—how a classically trained actress such as Ms. Stevenson choses her projects, interprets nineteenth century language and prepares for multiple characterizations. Happily, she very graciously agreed to an interview via her producers at Naxos in England. The magic of the Internet reaps welcome rewards, and I think that you will be as mesmerized and enchanted by her insightful replies as I was.
I am particularly touched, in light of her largess, by her modesty—and for those astute Janeites—the similarity to Austen’s own comments about her lack of education.
“I think I may boast myself to be, with all possible vanity, the most unlearned and uninformed female who ever dared to be an authoress.” Jane Austen, Letters, December 1815
I am very grateful to Ms. Stevenson for her very educated replies, and to Naxos for satisfying my curiosity. I know that many of my readers will enjoy this interview and be motivated to listening to Ms. Stevenson’s fabulous audio work.
Discover Ms. Stevenson’s Naxos AudioBooks recordings:
- Bliss, and Other Stories, by Katherine Mansfield
- Hedda Gabler, by Henrik Ibsen
- Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert
- Middlemarch, by George Elliot
- Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf
Recording © 2015 Naxos AudioBooks;text © 2015, Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose.com