'Twin Spirits' with Sting, Trudie Styler, Joshua Bell and John Lithgow at the Mark Taper Forum...
The Robert and Clara Schumann saga might have been the quintessential 19th century love story. He became one of the great composers of the era, she was one of the great pianists (and an impressive composer herself). He first met her when she was a child, having come to study piano with her strong-willed father. She grew up, they fell in love, but her father forbade them to see each other. Love triumphed when she turned 21; they married, had eight children, toured Europe, but Robert's increasing mental instability eventually drove him to a suicide attempt and confinement to an asylum, where he died at age 46.
This tale has been told many times in print and on film, and we can now add one distinguished theatrical presentation, "Twin Spirits" - appropriately staged the night after Valentine's Day at the Mark Taper Forum.
Actor John Lithgow, who had just wrapped up his one-man Taper show "Stories by Heart" two days before, stayed on-site as the narrator. Sting, an old hand by now at classical ventures (having narrated "Peter and the Wolf" and acted in Stravinsky's "L'Histoire du Soldat"), eloquently read some of Robert's letters to Clara, while his wife, actress Trudie Styler, read Clara's to Robert. On cue between the readings, a cadre of musicians performed short selections by the Schumanns, with one Chopin piece and a Mozart duet when the storyline suggested them.
It all worked beautifully - even movingly. Director/creator John Caird simply rooted his cast to their chairs most of the time in a symmetrical layout, letting the words and music do the work. Superstar violinist Joshua Bell played with lyrical restraint and lovely tone, as did Eroica Trio cellist Sara Sant'Ambrogio; baritone Scott Hendricks, soprano Camille Zamora and pianists Natasha Paremski and Jonathan Kelly made sensitive contributions.
Most of all, "Twin Spirits" has hit upon a creative way of presenting classical music to non-classical audiences - a storyline that anyone can empathize with, giving human context to chamber music and art songs that otherwise might not communicate in the usual starchy, formal concert formats. It didn't matter whether or not you understood the German lyrics; the context and the anguish and ardor of the music told all.
A portion of the evening's proceeds will be used to support the Culture Project, the Royal Opera House and Mustardseed Arts Trust. And if you missed it, there's a DVD out on Opus Arte.
(c) Los Angeles Times
Sting, Trudie Styler Make ''Spirits'' Fly in LA Theater Premiere...
Sting was back in Los Angeles last night, fresh from a wildly successful symphony tour of Australia, Japan and New Zealand. He's on his way to Cleveland, Newark, and Lima, Peru, but managed to make a stop at the Mark Taper Forum to co-star in a one off night with wife Trudie Styler in 'Twin Spirits', a dramatic program performed with classical musicans based on the letters of Robert and Clara Schumann. The evening was a charity fundraiser for the Culture Project, and drew the likes of actress Maria Bello, Chad Lowe, and dozens of media types to the sold out theater to see the couple and John Lithgow - who pitched in on an off night from his neighboring one man show - and violinist Joshua Bell.
Sting and Trudie have filmed 'Twin Spirits' for video (you can get the DVD on www.twinspirits.com) but the more they perform it live, the better it gets. The Schumanns's love story has humor and pathos, and is quite romantic. Styler especially underscores their doomed relationship, as Schumann died young. (And Clara - a gifted concert pianist-went on to become the paramour of Brahms - a whole other story!) Styler got rave reviews from the audience - the former member of the Royal Shakespeare Company should be acting more!
After the show, Sting - who's been halfway around the world since the beginning of January - did ask me to catch him up on a few things, like Ricky Gervais on the Golden Globes, and Lady GaGa. He thought Ricky was great, by the way, but went over the line with his attack on Robert Downey, Jr. "It wasn't funny because it was an old story, it wasn't topical," Sting observed. How true!
Next up for Sting: work on the Broadway musical version of 'The Soul Cages'. It will not, he promised, feature any flying or aerial acrobatics! What a relief.
(c) Showbiz411 by Roger Friedman