Debi Wong


The Innovative Classical Performing Arts Society

Dates and Venue 18, 19 & 20 August 2011, 8pm | Pyatt Hall, VSO School of Music, 843 Seymour Street

Performers Emily Forsyth soprano, Debi Wong mezzo-soprano, Damien Jinks piano

Director Adrienne Paulson Lighting designer Alia Stephen Set designer Amanda Larder Make-up Amber Rodan Stage Manager Hersie Nina-Init

Sung in German with English surtitles

Reviewer John Jane

Adrienne Paulson draws a fascinating study of Clara Schumann’s early life -or rather in this speculative and schizophrenic narrative form – her early lives as a celebrated artist, and as a devoted wife and mother. Clara’s story is driven by effulgent songs sung in German and English dialogue, mostly incidental, spoken to herself.

The alluring damaged beauty of Robert Schumann’ s music is not quite realised in this work, but Clara Schumann’s lighter love songs certainly are. Mezzo-soprano Debi Wong and soprano Emily Forsyth deliver the arioso with just the right poignancy and affection for the character(s) and the music.

Partially concealed behind a gossamer scrim, pianist Damien Jinks provides stellar accompaniment for the singers as well as a solo interpretation of Von Fremden Ländern und Menschen (from foreign lands and people) served as an overture at the beginning.

We first meet Clara (Emily Forsyth) as a thirteen-year-old musical prodigy in childlike conversation with a teddy-bear - Was weinst du, Blümlein (why do you cry, little flower) when she realises that she is not completely alone. She discovers that the person she is treating with both natural curiosity and suspicion is her other self (Debi Wong).

The aspirations of Clara’s other self are in direct conflict with her own and thus begins to impose self-doubt - Er ist gekommen in sturm und regen (he has come in storm and rain). Meanwhile, ‘nurturing’ Clara (Wong) is preoccupied with an impending courtship with Robert, one of her father’s student’s, but alas, her father does everything he can to prevent the relationship from proceeding - Du ring an meinem finger (your ring on my finger).

The second act opens seven years on with (both) Clara(s) now twenty. Just as Clara (the musician) is becoming accustomed to marriage, Clara (the wife) breaks the news of her pregnancy – Süsser freund, du blinkest (sweet friend, you see). Unfortunately, Robert’s mental health is fragile and in the summer of 1856 he dies at the age of 46. Clara is heartbroken and offers this lament - Nun hast du mir den ersten schmerz getan (now you have hurt me for the first time). The two Clara now realise that they must reconcile as one in a final duet - Sie liebten sich beide (they both loved each other).

Clara Schumann lived on for another forty years, only ever visited by her other self in dreams.

Attending this fine piece of musical theatre also provided an opportunity to see for the first time the 88-seat recital hall at the VSO School of Music. Or, to give it its complete name: the Dr. H.N. MacCorkindale Stage in the Alan & Gwendoline Pyatt Hall.

© 2011 John Jane