On March 27, Broadway’s beautifully restored New Victory Theatre on 42 nd Street proviided the perfect intimate setting for “Twin Spirits,” a benefit for BC/EFA and Classical Action that fused readings, narration, and selections of music by Robert and Clara Schumann performed by some of the biggest names from several realms of entertainment.
From Sting and his wife Trudie Styler to Jonathan Pryce (currently starring in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) to classical stars including violinist Joshua Bell and Soprano Lisa Saffer, a wealth of talented people came together to present the music of 19 th Century composers Robert and Clara Schumann and the fascinating lives of the couple who created this unforgettable work.
The evening was the brainchild and creation of director, writer and lyricist John Caird, whose Broadway credits includeNicholas Nickleby, Jane Eyre and Les Misérables. This was the first American performance of this acclaimed piece, created as a highly successful fundraiser for the renovation of London’s Royal Opera House and soon to be presented in a special performance at Windsor Castle for Queen Elizabeth II in June.
High Concept, Intimate Presentation
Sting read from the impassioned love letters of Schumann, and Styler countered with the alternately playful and devoted letters of pianist Clara Wieck, the child prodigy who became his wife.
Pryce served as narrator, providing context and transition for the turbulent lives of the talented couple, from their early days as star-crossed lovers (Robert studied music with the Clara’s overbearing father, who blocked their engagement for years) to a fulfilling married life (which included eight children in an 11-year span) to Schumann’s tragic descent into madness, institutionalization and death at the age of 38. Clare lived for another 40 years, dying in 1896 at the age of 78.
Between readings and narration, the evening was enhanced by performances from a select group of brilliant musicians who presented pieces by Mozart and Chopin, in addition to compositions by the Schumanns. The acclaimed performers included pianists Jeremy Denk (Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient) and 18-year old Natasha Paremski (winner of the 2006 Gilmore Young Artist Award). They were joined by Bell (Billboard Magazine’s 2004 “Classical Artist of the Year”) on violin and rising star cellist Alisa Weilerstein, who made her professional debut at 13 and has appeared at Carnegie Hall.
Saffer (acclaimed worldwide for her interpretation of Berg’s Lulu) and baritone Thomas Meglioranza, who will appear with James Levine’s MET Chamber Ensemble in May, provided sweeping vocal support.
Gracious Stars Greet Guests
The performers received a standing ovation from the star-studded crowd (which included Bette Midler, Sarah Gettelfinder andSweeney Todd’s Lauren Molina) and the evening continued with an after-party at Blue Fin – the celebrated restaurant in Times Square’s W Hotel – where Sting, Styler, Bell and other performers relaxed with friends and mingled with fans for several hours.
Sponsors included The New York Times, as well as Smirnoff and Beaulieu Vineyards, who provided alcoholic beverages and wine for the this exciting event.
“John Caird has done a remarkable job of presenting the touching, inspiring, creative and, ultimately, tragic relationship between Clara and Robert Schumann,” said Classical Action Founding Director Charles Hamlen. “Caird’s choice of selections from their correspondence and music, along with his ability to tie them together with a beautifully crafted narration, were all stunning realized by an internationally acclaimed group of artists and actors.”