Most Valentine’s Day stories are those of reciprocal love. It is a very popular day for engagements and gift giving. There are also stories of unrequited love. We may fall in love with someone who will never return our love. Only in our dreams will that person ever be our Valentine. Even when someone feels unrequited love, it is still an uplifting feeling. A song that describes unrequited love is “On My Own” from the musical Les Miserables.
Eponine is the one who passionately sings, “On My Own” with gusto. She is in love with Marius. She knows that he will never return her love because he loves Cosette. Since Eponine is so human, we can relate to her. At some point in our lives, we have felt like Eponine. In her heart, she knows that her love for Marius will always be unrequited love. She acknowledges that her love is unrequited in the following lyrics of the song, “On My Own:”
All I see is him and me forever and forever
And I know it’s only in my mind
That’s why I’m talking to myself and not to him
And although I know that he is blind
Still I say, there’s a way for us I love him
Art has the key to unravel the mysteries of the broken heart. Herbert Kretzmer and Claude-Michel Schonberg were two artists who delved deep into the human heart to create the Les Miserables song “On My Own.”
Born on October 5, 1925 in South Africa, Herbert Kretzmer wrote the lyrics to Les Miserables. He also wrote the lyrics to one of the most popular melodies, “On My Own.” Kretzmer’s English lyrics were longer than the French version. The French adaptation of Les Miserables was a two hour show. The English version was a three hour production. First debuting at the Barbican Theatre on October 8, 1985, the English adaptation of Les Miserables became a huge hit. It is still the longest running West End musical in history. For his work on Les Miserables lyrics, Kretzner won Tony and Grammy Awards.
In addition to being a lyricist, Kretzner was also a journalist. He was a reporter for the Johannesburg Sunday Express, the Daily Sketch and the Sunday Dispatch. When he wrote for the Daily Express, he interviewed John Steinbeck, Truman Capote and Louis Armstrong among many others. He also wrote documentary films and was a television critic.
Like Kretzmer, Claude-Michel Schonberg also had an innate ability to create beautiful music. Born on July 6, 1944 in Vannes, France, he composed the music for Les Miserables. He also composed the heartfelt song, “On My Own.” Schonberg also wrote wrote the music for La Revolution Francaise. This musical was France’s first Rock opera in 1973. He also played the part of King Louis XVI during the shows production in 1973.
When Schonberg wrote the lyrics for the song “Le Premier Pas” in 1974, it became a number one hit in France. Selling over one million copies, this melody became highly marketable. He also achieved success for composing the lyrics to Miss Saigon in 1989.
Both possessing a vast artistic vision, Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil came up with the idea to transform Victor Hugo’s timeless work, Les Miserables, into a musical. Opening in 1980, it premiered at the Palais de Sports in Paris. Expanding in 1985 and 1987, the musical, Les Miserables, opened up in London and Broadway.
Not only was Les Miserables financially successful, it was also critically acclaimed. The musical was nominated for twelve Tony Awards in 1987. It won eight Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Original Score. Schonberg was nominated for Best Original Song at the 70th Golden Globe Awards. At the 85th Academy Awards, he received a nomination for the song, “Suddenly,” in the 2012 film version of Les Miserables.
Using their artistic talent, Kretzmer and Schonberg both created a masterpiece of timeless songs for the musical, Les Miserables. Of all the songs, the one that portrays the romance of unrequited love is “On My Own.” Even though unrequited love breaks our heart, our heart eventually mends. As we mature, we may find reciprocal love.