Performing Arts: Music
March 8, 2014
The live musical performance of Tchaikovsky’s “Nocturne” and its mournful melody immediately command attention and set the tone for the dramatic and emotional journey that is Tchaikovsky: None But the Lonely Heart.

Most intriguing is how the evening length concert uses the renowned Russian composer as theatric subject matter, integrating a glimpse at his personal life alongside the art forms he most greatly influenced – namely music, followed by classical ballet. It is an immersive, means of experiencing Tchaikovsky’s legacy.

Adding an element of history and biography to the work, playwright Eve Wolf transforms Tchaikovsky’s own letters, diaries, and memoirs into the dramatic script which unfolds in a series of poetic monologues. Actor Simon Fortin plays Tchaikovsky, accompanied by actress Ariel Bock as Nadezhda von Meck – the woman who became his pen pal and patroness for 16-years. The story of their unconventional friendship provides insight to Tchaikovsky’s personal struggles – the fear of his homosexuality being known, doubts about his work, the adverse affects of his mother’s early death, and torment over his marriage to a woman. “All that’s left is to pretend,” he declares, confiding in von Meck. Meanwhile, her admiration knows no bounds, “Your music makes my life easier and more endurable,” she reminds him.

Under the direction of Donald T. Sanders, the integration of Tchaikovsky’s iconic compositions is seamless; the live music is undoubtedly the pinnacle of the performance. Wolf also performs as the pianist, accompanied by violinist Rachel Lee Priday and cellist Adrian Daurov - who gives a particularly impressive performance. The composer’s well-known “Piano Trio in A minor” becomes a central to the engaging evening, and as the trio performs we learn of Tchaikovsky’s own disbelief at composing for such an “awful” orchestration.

Intermittently, tenor Blake Friedman joins the musicians with his powerful vocals. Another intermittent element comes in the form of dance performance by American Ballet Theatre’s Daniel Mantei. Mantei also serves as the choreographer of the arabesque-ridden solo sections he performs, highlighting his evident technique. Though his beautiful long lines are occasionally hindered by limited space, the dance succeeds in providing dreamy interludes as intended.

The thirteen year old Ensemble for the Romantic Century is dedicated to creating interactive chamber music concerts - certainly achieved in Tchaikovsky: None But the Lonely Heart. Created in partnership with Shakespeare & Company in 2103, the work was presented at BAM's intimate Fishman Space.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY - Jenny Thompson

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