Performance Art

Adam's Passion

Adam's Passion performance art event. Music by Arvo Pärt. Stage direction, set design, and lighting concept by Robert Wilson. Choreography by Lucinda Childs who also performs (we think) as well as dancer Michalis Theophanous. Tõnu Kaljuste conducts the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir. Directed for TV by Andy Sommer; produced by Paul Smaczny. Released 2015, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

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Twin Spirits

Twin Spirits, a poly-discipline performance art concert, portrays the lives of and love between composer Robert Schumann and his pianist wife, Clara Wieck. It appears this was the brainstorm of June Chichester, a member in 2005 of the Board of Directors of the Royal Opera, who wanted a special program to raise charitable donations for the opera and other causes. Chichester recruited John Caird, a director at the Royal Shakespeare Company, to create a play with a narrator, actors to speak the roles of Robert and Clara based on their actual words in letters and other surviving documents, and musicians to perform excerpts from their music. Specialists know well the stranger-than-fiction story of Robert's and Clara's passionate and all-conquering love cut short by Robert's gruesome early death. But the purpose of Twin Spirits was to introduce this to a wider audience while recruiting celebrities to donate their services.  (You can see on the back of the keepcase that part of the purchase price of a Twin Spirits HDVD goes to charity.)

The best I can tell, Twin Spirits has been performed perhaps 20 to 30 times in the UK and the US in the last 10 years, usually in small theaters to audiences that can pay up to, say, $500 for tickets to the show and maybe a cocktail party with the stars. A good number of top artists have contributed. But it seems that every performance so far has featured Commander Gordon Sumner, whose stage name is "Sting," and his wife, Trudie Styler. I suspect that Sting has always been the bankroll behind Twin Spirits. And it's poignant to have a modern celebrity married-couple play the roles of Robert and Clara, whose real-life love story is one of the best-documented and most-celebrated in history.

John Caird had a world of good material to work with. He came up with a show that is high-brow enough to please the fastidious but also engaging and dramatic enough to drain every tear duct in the house. It's all true, but the facts have been massaged for effect. The music is presented in small excerpt doses and is rearranged in all kinds of ways to keep the story moving while giving the musicians opportunity to show off. Here are works from which music is derived:

1. Robert Schumann (RS) "Préambule" from Carnaval
2. RS "Bittendes Kind" from Kinderszenen
3. RS "Hasche-Mann" from Kinderszenen
4. RS "Von fremden Ländern und Menschen" from Kinderszenen
5. Chopin "Adagio" from Variations on 'Là ci darem'
6. RS "Stille Tränen" from Zwölf Gedichte
7. Clara Schumann (CS) "Er ist gekommen in Sturm und Regen"
8. RS Duet: "Er und Sie"
9. CS Piano Concerto in A minor---Romanze
10. RS "Romanze No. 2" from Drei Romanzen
11. RS "Marche des Davidsbündler contre les Philistins" from Carnaval
12. Mozart Duet: "Là ci darem" from Don Giovanni
13. RS "Die Rose, die Lilie, die Taube, die Sonne" from Dichterliebe
14. RS "Wenn ich in deine Augen seh'" from Dicherliebe
15. RS "Ich grolle nicht" from Dicherliebe
16. CS "Sie liebten sich beide"
17. RS "Ich habe im Traum geweinet" from Dicherliebe
18. RS "Stille Liebe" from Zwölf Gedichte
19. RS "Traümerei" from Kinderszenen
20. RS "Frage" from Zwölf Gedichte
21. RS "Trio No. 1 in D minor---Finale: Mit Feuer" 

The words and music of Clara Wieck are portrayed by Trudie Styler (actress), Rebecca Evans (soprano), Natalie Clein (cello), and Natasha Paremski (piano). The words and music of Robert Schumann are portrayed by Sting (actor), Sir Simon Keenlyside (baritone), Sergej Krylov (violin), and Iain Burnside (piano). Special arrangements of various musical selections are by Martin Ward. Recorded in 2007 and released 2009, disc has 5.0 PCM sound. Grade A+

Enough of words; time for screenshots. Since this is a celebrity charity event, there will surely be celebs also in the audience such as Sir Alfred Brendel and Commander Willard White:

Below is Trudie Styler as Clara. Her words here ("Farewell from your Clara, true to you to the death") come from a letter Clara wrote as a teen-ager desperately in love with Robert. Here she means that she would be willing to die for him. These words become an ironic leitmotif for Twin Spirits. They came true, but not as Clara imagined it. When Robert died, Clara the widow was only 37. She lived for another 40 years. But after she lost Robert, she wore only black and never remarried:

Here's another shot of Clara with two of her alter-egos, Natalie Clein on the cello and Natasha Paremski on piano:

Clara's third alto ego is the soprano Rebecca Evans, here singing "He came in storm and rain", a song Clara composed. In this review I'll focus on the story rather than the numerous musical excerpts, but I do have at least one screenshot of every musician:

Sting as Robert:

 

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