The history of classical music – as with many other fields of human endeavour – sadly too often omits the presence of great women from its cultural and historical memory. Fortunately, writer and performer Elena Mazzon together with director Catriona Kerridge issues a bold challenge to this unjust patriarchal dominion with Clara – Sex, Love and Classical Music, a one-women show devoted to vividly bringing Clara Schumann, née Wieck, the brilliant classical composer, pianist, and later wife to the better-known Robert Schumann, back to life in full colour to tell her story to the world.
Mazzon is superb as Clara, single-handedly carrying the entire show and creating a relentlessly energetic presence so vividly realised that one almost feels as though the former Wieck herself has emerged into the present day. Her performance – ably assisted by Peter Wernock’s voice and movement coaching - is a richly coloured tapestry of shared humanity in everything from her fiery, righteously feminist speech to the subtleties of her bold and confident body language. Mazzon’s beautifully written, evocative monologue charts a course through every aspect of Clara’s storied life from her remarkable childhood through to struggling to be an artistically ambitious, unreservedly sexual woman in 1830s Europe, to the tragic end of her marriage to Robert and beyond.
The skilful performance and writing together, broken up by apropos samples of Clara’s work performed live on the piano by Mazzon to lend proceedings a musica a programma significance thanks to musical director Stefania Passamonte, broadens and deepens our perception of Clara’s lived history, and gradually reveals more and more of a story of human triumph which is by turns dramatic, funny, heart-warming, and tragic in all the ways a life is. As a one-hander performance, Mazzon’s work is a joy to behold; as a first-time debut writer, she proves herself hugely talented and accomplished.
The candlelit interior of Ram Jam Records’ piano bar also proves a beautiful, intimate surrounding, keeping us in close proximity to Clara’s presence throughout, and maintaining the all-too appropriate sense amongst the audience of attending a concert or recital, which, in this instance, with the candlelight seemingly our only light source, creates a thrillingly mystic feeling of séance and resurrection to bolster the sense of the spirit of Clara being brought back to life.
Superbly realised, evocatively written, and beautifully performed drama altogether. A triumph.
Review: Cristopher O'Dea-Giordano