Mezzo-soprano Elisabeth Wagner presents The Passionate Muse: The Life and Music of Pauline Viardot-Garcia.
Wagner first learned of Viardot-Garcia when she sang her compositions. When she did research, she learned that this accomplished vocalist was also a composer of more than 200 pieces, and yet, she remains largely unknown to contemporary North American audiences.
The Passionate Muse: The Life and Music of Pauline Viardot-Garcia is the first of three musical plays written by Wagner; it recreates the musical salon and imagined final performance of Pauline Viardot-Garcia and is “very much a theatrical recital”.
Wagner’s second show was The House on Middagh Street, about a 1941 Brooklyn boarding house whose residents included poet W.H.Auden, writer Carson McCullers, Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, and Gypsy Rose Lee. It integrated the cabaret music of Benjamin Britten and Kurt Weill, and other music of the period. The most recent play, produced in 2012, was Earthly Delights: A Day in the Life of Colette featuring French art song from Faure to Poulenc.
Who was Pauline Viardot-Garcia? Few people today know the music and fascinating story of this influential19th Century mezzo-soprano. Born in Paris in 1821 to a musical family, Pauline began her stage career at age 17, after the tragic death of her sister, the celebrated singer, La Malibran. Pauline married Louis Viardot, a theatre director many years her senior, and he managed her career, introducing her to audiences all across Europe, including three years spent in St. Petersburg. There, she met the young Russian novelist, Ivan Turgenev. He fell in love with her and lived with or near the Viardots for the rest of his life. Their close relationship remains a mystery to this day.
Among her friends and colleagues were novelist George Sand and composers Chopin, Berlioz, Saint-Säens and the Schumanns – and either they were her musical and artistic collaborators or she was their muse. When her voice began to show signs of strain in her forties, she left the stage, although she continued to perform privately.
Pauline Viardot-Garcia composed some two hundred songs in the course of her life, including vocal adaptations of Chopin mazurkas, and operas. In her later years, she took up teaching, largely for financial reasons. Pauline died in 1910.
The Passionate Muse tells this story, and includes music she sang over her career by composers such as Schumann, Saint Säens, Gounod, Berlioz, and Tchaikovsky, as well as several of her own compositions. The play was first performed in Victoria in 2006/7, and later in Chicago in 2011. It will be presented again in Victoria, and in Regina for the Regina Musical Club, in November 2013
I had the opportunity to hear Wagner sing during Voices From The Four Directions, and would recommend this recital for aficionados of art song.
The Passionate Muse: The Life and Music of Pauline Viardot-Garcia
written and performed by Elisabeth Wagner, mezzo soprano
Susie Mullen, actor
Charlotte Hale, piano
November 8 and 9 at 7:30 PM
November 10 at 2 PM
Berwick Royal Oak Theatre
4680 Elk Lake Drive
Tickets $15 @ Munro Books,
Russell Books, Long & McQuade
Or at the door
To reserve call 250-590-5742