Ellen McLaughlin Joins Ensemble for the Romantic Century's 'ANNA AKHMATOVA' at BAM
Celebrating its 15th season, the Ensemble for the Romantic Century (ERC) returns to BAM Fisher for six performances of Anna Akhmatova: The Heart Is Not Made of Stone. Written by Eve Wolf and directed by Donald T. Sanders, this multi-media production examines the troubled relationship between artistic creation and totalitarianism through the perspective of the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966) played by Ellen McLaughlin (Angels in America). This tale of passion, love, political repression, and redemption is interwoven with music by Russian composers Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich.
A legend in her own time, Akhmatova was loved for the brilliance of her poetry and admired for her unwavering resistance to political oppression. Persecuted by the Soviet regime because of her "eroticism, mysticism, and political indifference" to the ideals of the State, she is now revered as an icon of Russian culture and universally acknowledged as one of the most important poets of the 20th century.
"This is really a story about the power of Art to transcend brutality," said Eve Wolf, Founder and Executive Artistic Director of ERC and writer/pianist of Anna Akhmatova. "It is echoed in the music of all three composers-Shostakovich, Prokofiev, and Rachmaninoff-whose works are part of this production. Anna Akhmatova bears witness to the fact that no dictatorial regime can control the mind and imagination."
Set in Leningrad 1945-65, the centerpiece of this theatrical concert is the meeting of Akhmatova with the British philosopher Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997) played by Jeremy Holm (House of Cards). The consequence of this visit, the utter ruination that it brought upon her, as well as the great, enduring love that it evoked in her, are traced in a dramatic story interwoven with scenes that include Stalin, the KGB's surveillance, the final emotional meeting of the two literary giants, and the drama of great music. "What is most moving to me is the fact that one meeting, one evening, had such brutal consequences, both political and personal," said Wolf. And yet Anna had the ability to hold onto that one brief moment of real human connection for 20 years, only in her mind!-and to use it to survive. She survived because she transformed that meeting, that love, into Art." Set to text from Akhmatova's and Berlin's memoirs, actual KGB reports on Anna, Akhmatova's poetry, and more, Anna Akhmatova features music by artists who, like Akhmatova, had to find ways to deal with the irrational demands, artistic and intellectual surveillance, and capricious persecution under the shadow of Stalin's regime. From Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet (for violin and piano) and adagio from Cinderella (for cello and piano) and Rachmaninoff's Variations on a Theme of Corelli and Prelude in G-sharp minor, to the haunting Shostakovich Trio in E Minor and Cello Sonata, the concert's music selections represent an all too familiar pattern of established power.
Anna Akhmatova: The Heart is Not Made of Stone runs Wednesday, April 27-Saturday, April 30 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, April 30-Sunday, May 1 at 2:00 p.m. at BAM Fisher (Fishman Space), 321 Ashland Place, Brooklyn, NY 11217. Tickets: $75 and Up; Students/Seniors $30. To purchase, contact BAM at 718.636.4100 or visit BAM.org.
Eve Wolf's show premiered in 2012 at Symphony Space, New York City. Directed by Donald T. Sanders, Anna Akhmatova's team includes: Production & Costume Designer: Vanessa James; Video Designer: David Bengali; Lighting Designer: Beverly Emmons; Actors: Ellen McLaughlin (Anna Akhmatova), Jeremy Holm (Isaiah Berlin), Kate Konigisor (Lady Berlin), Robert Ian Mackenzie (Boris), Michael Lewis (Ivan), and Tommy Schrider (Lee Gumilyov); and Instrumentalists: Andrew Janss (cello), Eve Wolf + Max Barros (piano), and Victoria Wolf Lewis (violin).
Celebrating its 15th season, the Ensemble for the Romantic Century (ERC) transforms the classical music concert experience by fusing fully staged dramas with live chamber and vocal music. The combination of scripts - all drawn from historical materials such as memoirs, letters, diaries and literature - with chamber music, brings the past to life with an immediacy that has transported and captivated audiences worldwide.
ERC'S 2014-15 New York Season presented Tchaikovsky: None But the Lonely Heart at BAM Fisher, The Trial of Oscar Wilde and The Sorrows of Young Werther at the Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space, and productions in the Berkshires, MA, including Beethoven Love Elegies at The Stables Theatre at Edith Wharton's The Mount, and Van Gogh's Ear at AIER with the Clark Museum. The season's highlight was ERC's production of Jules Verne: From the Earth to the Moon at BAM Fisher. The New York Times hailed it as "
To date, ERC has created more than 40 original theatrical concerts including Seduction, Smoke and Music: The Love Story of Chopin and George Sand, featuring actors Jeremy Irons and Sine?ad Cusack and American Ballet Theater dancers Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky; Toscanini: In My Heart too Much of the Absolute coupled with a CUNY seminar featuring author and Toscanini biographer Harvey Sachs; and four writer-centric productions: The Sorrows of Young Werther (Goethe); Tolstoy's Last Days; Herself to Her a Music (Emily Dickinson); and Jules Verne: From the Earth to the Moon.
Other productions have centered on subjects such as Marcel Proust, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Dracula, Frankenstein, The Dreyfus Affair, Arthur Rubinstein, Erik Satie, Peggy Guggenheim, Anna Akhmatova, Van Gogh, Debussy, Fanny Mendelssohn, Robert and Clara Schumann, Schubert, and Beethoven.
ERC has partnered with and/or performed at The Jewish Museum of New York; the Archivio Fano and the Teatro La Fenice of Venice, Italy; the Festival de Musique de Chambre Montre?al; Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts; the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts (MIFA); the French Institute- Alliance Franc?aise (FIAF); the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies at Columbia University; the Italian Cultural Institute of New York; the City University of New York (CUNY); the Tuscan Sun Festival in Cortona, Italy; the Festival del Sole in Napa Valley; and New York's Florence Gould Hall and the Eleazar de Carvalho Festival in Sa?o Paulo, Brazil.
Since 2007, ERC has been a musicological affiliate of the Barry S. Brook Center for Music Research and Documentation at the CUNY Graduate Center, where ERC has also established an annual series of seminars - one for each of the Ensemble's programs. ERC also served as music consultant for the Jewish Museum's 2005 exhibition, "The Power of Conversation," and was in residence in 2004 at Williams College in Massachusetts.
Founded in 2001 by pianist Eve Wolf, who also serves as Executive Artistic Director, ERC's artistic collaborators include fellow pianist and Co-Artistic Director Max Barros, Musicologist James Melo, Director of Theatrical Production Donald T. Sanders, Production Designer Vanessa James and Lighting Designer Beverly Emmons. They are complemented by an ongoing roster of musicians and actors who have become major interpreters of the ERC vision.