Thursday December 14, 2017 12:49 pm



sting-styler175-blk      twinspirits-disc2b200     keenlysideevans175
sting-sq150What’s rock ‘n roller Sting doing onstage at the Royal Opera House/Covent Garden? Not his natural milieu to be sure, but on this occasion, he really did belong there, having been conscripted to play the part of the great composer Robert Schumann – not as singer but as actor of the spoken word, reading Schumann’s love letters against the background of his sublime music played by a specially selected chamber music ensemble. It is an unlikely but inspired choice in this day and age for this unique dramatization of classical music’s most enduring real-life love story. That it is Sting’s name that lighted up the “marquees,” so to speak, which announced (e.g. “STING PERFORMS SCHUMANN”) both the original performance and the DVD recording of this quite original multi-genre creation of stage director/writer John Caird’s imagination suggests the likely reason behind Sting’s selection – to draw audiences outside the traditional boundaries of classical music, who could someday become Schumann devotees or at the very least develop a favorable disposition toward the genre.

twin-trudie150And who better to perform the spoken role of Robert’s wife, the supremely talented concert pianist and composer Clara Wieck, than Sting’s real-life wife herself – the actress/film producer Trudie Styler? Caird could not have found a more convincing couple; their highly nuanced delivery made for a compelling perfomance.

“A performance like this is a personal journey,” Sting explains during an interview with the cast that is included as part of a very informative bonus disc accompanying the newly released DVD recording, which is FanFaire’s Fall 2009 GIVEAWAY. “You’re forced to share very private thoughts and make them public, and that creates a tension. This love story – the relationship and the tragedy – provides a great introduction for people who don’t normally listen to classical music. Hearing the Schumanns’ music at the same time as telling their story is a very intimate, engaging and emotional experience.”

“When we started on this adventure with Twin Spirits,” adds Trudie Styler, “I was profoundly moved by the richness and power of the narrative. The passion of Robert and Clara’s love transcends the ages. It is a wonderful and moving story which I believe remains fascinating and relevant to today’s world.” Why TWIN SPIRITS? This VIDEO CLIP of STING and TRUDIE STYLER in performance tells why. WATCH IT!

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twin-keenlyside150twin-evans150The TWIN SPIRITS that were Robert and Clara Schumann are represented in song by one of today’s most sought after baritones, SIMON KEENLYSIDE and the noted award-winning Welsh soprano REBECCA EVANS. Their splendid delivery captures the Schumanns’ intense romance, a mutual obsession which did not fade during 12 years of marriage that produced eight children – indeed, enduring periods of painful, forced separation before (because theirs was a parentally forbidden love) and during the marriage (because of Clara’s seasons of concertizing) that ended tragically with Robert’s death in an asylum following a serious psychological breakdown. They wrote love letters to each other, non-stop, even when together, their correspondence filling three thick volumes, from which the text for this performance were masterfully culled. The singular passion of the Schumanns’ love story is eloquently expressed in this VIDEO CLIP of the duet “Er und Sie” (He and She) composed by Robert Schumann, and exquisitely sung by Keenlyside and Evans. WATCH IT!

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twin-jacobi150And the separations that strengthened rather than enfeebled their relationship are given symbolic significance in the way Caird configured the stage setting: all male performers (Robert’s “quartet” – Sting, Keenlyside, violinist SERGEJ KRYLOV, and pianist IAIN BURNSIDE) on one side, and all female performers (Clara’s “quartet” – Styler, Evans, cellist NATALIE CLEIN and pianist NATASHA PAREMSKI) on the other. The complexities of this poignant love story which found profound expression in the impassioned playing by the instrumentalists of the music of both Robert and Clara, the songs, and the spoken words selectively drawn and translated from their intimate, often anguished but always love-laden letters are tied together by the superbly incisive and empathic narration of Sir DEREK JACOBI (photo at left), the classical stage and screen actor (of I, Claudius fame).

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Twin Sprits was first performed in June 2005 at the Royal Opera House. Other performances have since taken place at Salisbury Cathedral (to benefit the Salisbury Cathedral Girl Choristers), the New Victory Theatre in New York (to benefit Broadway Cares – Equity Fights Aids) and, at the Prince of Wales’ invitation, Windsor Castle (to benefit the Royal Opera House Foundation, and Soil Association). Among other performers who have participated alongside Sting and Trudie are actors Sir Ian McKellen, Charles Dance, and Jonathan Pryce and violinists Vasko Vassilev and Joshua Bell.

Twin Spirits, the DVD, was recorded before a small audience in a studio space at the Royal Opera House shortly before Christmas 2007. All the artists involved donated their talent and time so that everyone buying a copy will be supporting the important work of the Royal Opera House Education Program which provides opportunities for some 90,000 people annually to engage with opera, music and dance. The Program has a significant social impact, reaching people of all ages and backgrounds- including the isolated and elderly, the socially deprived, disabled adults and children, and young offenders, helping them to become enthusiastic and motivated, learn self-respect, discover the potential within themselves and develop a team spirit, and fulfilling a vital part of the Royal Opera House’s mission.

This is a fascinating, innovative production for which John Caird deserves the highest commendation. The 2-disc DVD set (including a bonus disc of cast interviews and informational material) is a MUST SEE / MUST HAVE for lovers of Schumann’s music; and for those who have little or no acquaintance with the Schumanns–or classical music for that matter–this musical dramatization of the Schumanns’ moving personal journey is a most engaging introduction. – GCajipe / FanFaire

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