Notes and Editorial Reviews
Also available on Blu-ray
); Trudie Styler (
); Simon Keenlyside (bar); Rebecca Evans (sop); Sergej Krylov
(vn); Natalie Clein (vc); Iain Burnside (pn); Natasha Paremski (pn); Derek Jacobi (nar)
OPUS ARTE 994 (2 DVDs: 321:00) Live: London 12/2007
Photo gallery; Cast talk;
One Heart, One Soul
; Schumann chronology;
—the work of Royal Opera House Education
is a live theatrical performance that features narration, impersonation (in an epistolary manner), and chamber music centered on the lives and love of Robert and Clara Schumann. Evidently the work, created and directed by John Caird, toured in smaller venues before being presented at the Royal Opera House. It is indeed a unique experience, the letters of the Schumann’s used as the basis for a story of their lives, dramatized here to excellent effect, and enhanced by their music.
One can think of no more worthy subjects than these two hyper-romantic figures, celebrated in their day and long afterwards, with personal connections tying them into the fortunes and foibles of Brahms, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Joachim, and Chopin. Their love story is one that was well known even in their own day, and their passion for one another is marked only by the equal degree of tragedy and sorrow that graced their short time together.
I will not dwell on aspects of that story here, as it is well known, and if unknown easily found in books and on the Web. Suffice it to say, the story begins with Robert’s first studies with Clara Wieck’s father (Robert was essentially self-taught), his aspirations as a pianist until he ruined his hands, his solicitation of love from Clara and desire to marry her (against her father’s wishes), the frustration they experienced until they could get married, early bliss in their marital life and the success of each, Robert’s seminal decline and mental instability, Clara’s heartrending final years with Robert in an asylum, and her life after Robert’s death. All of this seems like it might be too much for a stage production, but the letters have been carefully vetted in order to keep the action—such as it is—moving along. The story is given general guidelines by Derek Jacobi—superb as usual—and the parts of Robert and Clara taken by Sting and wife Trudie Styler. This might seem an odd choice at first, but Sting seems to have had a late-in-life classical-music conversion (remember his Dowland record?), and his performance as Robert is outstanding, as seasoned as from any actor I can imagine playing the part. Trudie Styler is equally affecting, and her moment of breakdown towards the end is truly distressing.
But this is not a play at all—there is no dramatic movement or stage acting. Most of the time, Sting and Trudie are seated close to one another, and they often lean towards each other when speaking. Jacobi is seated pretty much center stage, and they all can be seen watching each other. Interspersed among the talkers are a series of musicians, an all-male group (baritone, violin, piano) on Robert’s side, and a female group (soprano, cello, piano) on Clara’s side. At different times in the “action,” the music of one of the Schumanns is played by one of these groups, or a portion of each. For the most part, the performances are excellent, the singing of Simon Keenlyside being notable, along with the last selection, the Finale from the D-Minor Piano Trio, op. 63, a real barnburner and triumphant ending to an otherwise factual human misfortune that nonetheless had moments of supreme joy. But its protagonists were certainly as star-crossed as Romeo and Juliet ever were.
If there is a downside, it would be the lack of more representative music on Robert’s part. The very nature and intimacy of this production nixes the idea of large ensemble performances, but one feels like part of the emotional picture is missing without them. Some of the music has been doctored or altered, nothing egregious, but odd sounding to those who know it. This was probably unavoidable in order to make the music portion fuller while using only chamber pieces. The songs are what they are, and there are a few pieces pertinent to the Schumanns at certain times that are by other composers.
The staging is wonderful, making it easy to follow what is happening; the sound is equally pleasing, LPCM stereo or DTS surround (my choice). The music however, is only secondary to the engrossing tale, and is chosen wisely to enhance the story where the words end. As bonuses, we get a substantial amount, the cast talks and the documentary being of more than casual interest. I enjoyed this thoroughly, and I can’t imagine any music lover who wouldn’t.
FANFARE: Steven E. Ritter
Robert Schumann (in words) STING
Robert Schumann (in song) SIMON KEENLYSIDE
Violin SERGEJ KRYLOV
Piano IAIN BURNSIDE
Clara Wieck (in words) TRUDIE STYLER
Clara Wieck (in song) REBECCA EVANS
Cello NATALIE CLEIN
Piano NATASHA PAREMSKI
Narrator DEREK JACOBI
Devised and directed for the stage by JOHN CAIRD
Recorded at the Royal Opera House, London, December 2007.
- Photo gallery
- Cast talk – Director John Caird talks to the instrumentalists, actors and singers, the narrator Derek Jacobi and the musicologist Daniel Gallagher
- Documentary: One heart, one soul
- Robert and Clara Schumann chronology
- My House – the work of Royal Opera House Education
Picture format: NTSC 16:9 anamorphic
Sound format: LPCM Stereo / DTS 5.0
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Menu language: English
Audio Languages: English (spoken), German (sung)
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian + English (songs only)
Running time: 206 mins
No. of DVDs: 2 (DVD 9)
Works on This Recording
Carnaval, Op. 9: no 1, Préambule by Robert Schumann
Trudie Styler (Voice),
Iain Burnside (Piano),
Derek Jacobi (Voice)
Written: 1833-1835; Germany
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