On Air Now
Smooth Classics at Seven with Zeb Soanes 7pm - 10pm
25 January 2023, 11:23 | Updated: 25 January 2023, 11:26
A virtuoso violinist, celebrated composer and champion swordsman – Chevalier de Saint-Georges will finally have his story told in a new biopic. Here’s all you need to know, from the cast and release date to the soundtrack details.
2023 appears to be the year of the classical music film – from Cate Blanchett’s award-winning portrayal of fictional conductor Lydia Tár, to Bradley Cooper’s telling of Leonard Bernstein’s story in the upcoming Maestro.
Another significant release this year is Chevalier (2023), starring Kelvin Harrison Jr in a portrayal of a forgotten 18th-century composer and violinist. Inspired by the largely untold story of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Chevalier will explore the life of the master swordsman, violin virtuoso and composer who delighted the courts of 18th-century France.
While not much is known about his musical training, we do know that Boulogne began his career with the Les Concerts des Amateurs in Paris, rising to the helm of the orchestra in 1773. Under his baton, it became regarded as one of the finest orchestras in Europe.
Boulogne also led 800 infantrymen and 200 cavalries in Europe’s first all-Black regiment, and was described by US president John Adams as “the most accomplished man in Europe”.
Here’s all you need to know about the plot details, cast and release date for Chevalier.
Read more: The life of 18th-century composer Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges
Chevalier will open during the young prodigy’s early years. Born the illegitimate son of a young Senegalese slave and a plantation owner, Boulogne was taken from Guadeloupe to France as a boy and introduced into French society.
Using his skills with a sword to help him to climb up the social ladder, Boulogne rose to improbable heights as a celebrated violinist-composer and master fencer.
He became a music teacher in the court of Marie Antoinette (pictured in the trailer above), who in the biopic promotes Boulogne to the title of Chevalier.
Harrison Jr is heard saying as Boulogne in the trailer, “I realised the more I excelled, the less I was alone”.
Chevlier was originally penned the ‘Black Mozart’ biopic, a controversial nickname attributed to Boulogne’s musical prodigy, as well as popular theory that Mozart swiped Chevalier’s musical ideas.
Read more: Angelina Jolie to play legendary opera star Maria Callas in new biopic ‘Maria’
Kelvin Harrison Jr. (Cyrano, 12 Years a Slave) stars as Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges. When the first film trailer was published in November by US production company Searchlight Pictures, it had millions of views in its first 24 hours with many praising Harrison Jr.’s performance.
Other cast members include Lucy Boynton (Marie Antoinette), Samara Weaving (Marie-Josephine), Alex Fitzalan (Philippe) and Hollywood royalty, Minnie Driver (Marie-Madeleine Guimard).
The film is directed by Jamaican-Canadian director Stephen Williams (Westworld), and scripted by Emmy-nominated screenwriter Stefani Robinson (What We Do in the Shadows).
Read more: First look at Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein in Netflix biopic ‘Maestro’
Chevalier follows the story of a forgotten artist whose musical aptitude delighted 18th-century French society, but whose music has only in recent years begun to reappear in the classical canon and be performed by the world’s orchestras.
The original score comes from Kris Bowers, whose previous work has included the soundtracks for Netflix period drama Bridgerton and 2018 Academy Award winner Green Book, in which he also played Mahershala Ali’s piano hand double in some scenes.
The score will contain music written by Boulogne, which consists as far as we know of three sets of string quartets, two symphonies, eight symphonie-concertantes, six operas comiques, three violin sonatas and 14 violin concertos, with many more likely lost during the French Revolution.
To deliver a convincing performance as a violin virtuoso, Harrison Jr. trained with American violinist and on-set coach Ronald Long, who has played with major UK orchestras including the London Philharmonic and Chineke! Orchestra.
Chevalier had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and is set to land in UK and US cinemas on 7 April 2023.