Notes and Editorial Reviews
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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 7043 (Blu-ray Disc: 206:00) Live: London 12/2007
Photo gallery; Cast talk;
One Heart, One Soul
; Schumann chronology;
—the work of Royal Opera House Education
This is an uncharacteristically small-scale production for writer-director John Caird, who is more closely associated with such spectacles as
. It’s a 90-minute account, through words and music, of the personal and professional relationship between Robert Schumann and his wife, née Clara Wieck, devised in 2005 for the education division of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and since then trotted out for various fundraising events with different performer rosters. This version was recorded before a silent audience in late 2007. Despite the number of artists on stage, it seems quite intimate; the actors are low-key, and the musicians, while rising to the passions of the music as necessary (particularly in the finale of Robert’s Piano Trio No. 1, which closes the program), are direct and obviously under no pressure to play to a large hall.
Although the proceedings are conveyed mainly through close-ups and two- and three-shots, the placement of the performers is interesting and deliberate. In the center, to the rear, on what looks almost like a throne, Sir Derek Jacobi offers bits of introduction and narrative context. Down front, at opposite sides of the stage, sit the actors portraying the Schumanns: pop star Sting, who has always struck me as more intelligent and subtle than he is generally given credit for, and Trudie Styler, best known in America as Mrs. Sting, but in England an accomplished actress with (like Jacobi) a Shakespearean background. Clustered near each of the two main actors is a trio of musicians, divided by gender. On Robert’s side are a baritone and a male violinist and pianist; on Clara’s, a soprano and a female cellist and pianist. The musicians do not remain segregated all the time; obviously, there’s crossover in the trio movement, and both singers deliver Mozart’s “Là ci darem la mano,” which was important in the Schumanns’ personal history. There’s also an arrangement of “Träumerei” that manages to include all the instrumentalists. But for the most part, each historical figure is represented by his or her own group of musicians.
As you might have guessed, the music comes in bits and pieces, mostly songs and instrumental miniatures (by both Robert and Clara), but for the most part each item is complete in itself and only occasionally, mainly in the beginning, do the actors talk over the music. The spoken lines are drawn from the Schumanns’ letters; Caird has heavily edited them and mingled missives from various periods to create a coherent narrative. This overall approach will obviously not satisfy purists who seek an impartial documentary account of the Schumanns, nor music lovers who prefer to hear song cycles and chamber works in their entirety. But that’s not the point of this project; it’s an introduction to the general, intelligent, curious music lover of the personalities behind this music, and to Clara’s essential role in Robert’s life and career.
If Sting and Styler, sometimes reading from scripts but often looking straight into the camera, don’t fully convey the excitement of early love, they are very good at communicating the comfortable intimacy, affection, and mutual respect of an old married couple. Perhaps each is best when
speaking; they can communicate quite a lot in the cutaway shots of one watching the other deliver lines, or in listening to the musicians (who are also seen being quietly attentive during some of the spoken passages). The musical performances are quite good, even if Simon Keenlyside, like most baritones, finds Schumann’s top notes taxing.
Those requiring a more straightforward documentation of the Schumann situation may prefer the 35-minute documentary in which a curator from the Schumann House museum and archive speaks, in subtitled German, about their marriage and careers, repeating some material from the stage presentation but elaborating on other issues. There’s also a surprisingly engaging series of chats with Caird, the performers, and musicologist Daniel Gallagher about the Schumanns and their music. Gallagher’s contributions are especially good, even for non-specialists, and while the actors don’t have much of substance to contribute, they do at least chime in with the occasional smart observation and perceptive question.
The Blu-ray video quality is, as usual, superb, although there’s nothing more technically challenging here than maintaining clarity on a rather dark stage. The aspect ratio is 16:9, and the audio options are limited to PCM 2.0 and 5.0. Subtitles are available for the songs and the German documentary.
Old hands at this subject may feel that its treatment here is too superficial, but take this for what it is: an educational entertainment designed to introduce the Schumanns’ music and cobiography to the uninitiated without insulting their intelligence. “Twin Spirits” surely succeeds on those grounds, most touchingly.
FANFARE: James Reel
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: 1080i High Definition
Sound format: PCM 2.0 and 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 Discs: 1 (BD 50)
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