ERC Presents Regional Premiere of VAN GOGH'S EAR Concert in Conjunction With Art Exhibition
Hailed recently by The New York Times as "ingenious," New York City's Ensemble for the Romantic Century (ERC) returns to the Berkshires for the third consecutive summer with the regional premiere of the theatrical concert Van Gogh's Ear. In partnership with the American Institute for Economic Research and the Clark Art Institute, the 10-day, 12-performance series of Van Gogh's Ear complements Clark's art exhibition Van Gogh and Nature and features a special pre-performance discussion August 25th led by the Clark's curator at large, Richard Kendall.
Written by Eve Wolf (former Stockbridge resident and Tanglewood Fellow) and directed by Donald T. Sanders (Director of Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts), Van Gogh's Ear takes the audience on a journey through the artist's final years in the south of France. Based on Vincent van Gogh's letters to his brother Theo, the fully staged production interweaves an original script that dramatizes Van Gogh (played by Simon Fortin) with live performances of vocal and instrumental works by French composers.
From the sunflowers and cypress tress of the Provence region and the hard blue starry sky of Arles to Van Gogh's madness and subsequent self-mutilation, the artist's life, inspirations, and vivid relationship to color, nature, and music, are brilliantly illustrated on stage. "This production offers a glimpse into the intensely emotional inner life of Vincent Van Gogh," says Eve Wolf, founder and executive artistic director of ERC and writer/pianist of Van Gogh's Ear. "In writing this script, I found it extremely moving to read Van Gogh's own words in hundreds of letters (663 to be exact!) - and to then create a work for stage in which music and words interweave to express Van Gogh's vivid relationship to color, nature, and music, his extreme isolation and illness, and his deeply moving connection to his brother, Theo."
The tormented voice of Van Gogh (1853-1890) is revealed in letters discussing his inner struggles and his strong sensitivity to sound. It was well known that Van Gogh derived much inspiration from music. By his own admission, he exaggerated the colors in the same manner that a musician improvises through sounds. In a letter to Theo, Van Gogh expressed that he wanted his paintings to be appreciated in the same manner that an audience listens to "a violin or piano concerto." According to James Melo, musicologist of ERC, Van Gogh's valorization of color and texture as constructive elements in his paintings, is comparable to the layered sonorities of many chamber works by contemporaneous French composers. "French composers achieved a style of great subtlety and refinement, expressed through glimmering musical textures and dazzling sonorities." Fittingly, Van Gogh's Ear features live performances by an esteemed eight-member ensemble of the chamber and vocal music of four of the most representative French composers of Van Gogh's time: César Franck (1822-1890), Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924), Ernest Chausson (1855-1899), and Claude Debussy (1862-1918).
Van Gogh's Ear premiered in 2006 at New York City's Florence Gould Hall in collaboration with The French Institute-Alliance Franc?aise/FIAF, and the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts/MIFA. It then traveled to the Festival de Musique de Chambre Montre?al in Montreal where it received international acclaim. Strad Magazine hailed the production as "the most intriguing and successful program of the entire festival."
About Ensemble for the Romantic Century (ERC)
Celebrating its 14th 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 and Jules Verne: From the Earth to the Moon at BAM Fisher, The Trial of Oscar Wilde and The Sorrows of Young Werther at the Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space, and Beethoven Love Elegies in the Berkshires, MA, at The Stables Theatre at Edith Wharton's The Mount. The productions received rave reviews and played to sold-out audiences.
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 Sinéad 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 Montréal; Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts; the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts (MIFA); the French Institute- Alliance Française (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 São 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.
About Eve Wolf (Playwright/Piano)
Eve Wolf, pianist, is Founder and Executive Artistic Director of Ensemble for the Romantic Century (ERC). For the past 13 seasons, Ms. Wolf has written scripts for more than 25 of ERC's theatrical concerts and has performed in most of the ensemble's 40+ original productions. Critics described Ms. Wolf as "an absolute star on the piano, emitting brilliant light," in ERC's June 2015 production of The Sorrows of Young Werther at Symphony Space.
Praised for her compelling performances, Wolf has appeared in Europe and the United States as a chamber musician and soloist. She received a BA in Art History from Columbia University and an MA in Piano Performance from New York University. She is currently on the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music and Columbia University-Teachers College, and has been a professional mentor at The Juilliard School. Ms. Wolf's central teacher and mentor is Seymour Bernstein, whose life and work is the subject of a critically acclaimed 2015 documentary by Ethan Hawke called Seymour: An Introduction. Other teachers have included Richard Goode, Peter Serkin, and Paul Badura-Skoda. Ms. Wolf has taught her seminar "Confronting Memory: Memory Techniques for Musicians" in the United States and abroad.
About Donald T. Sanders (Director of Theatrical Production, ERC)
For ERC, Jules Verne: From the Earth to the Moon at BAM Fisher Fishman and Tchaikovsky: None But the Lonely Heart also at BAM and Shakespeare & Co. and in 2011 Seduction, Smoke and Music at the Tuscan Sun Festival starring Jeremy Irons and Sinéad Cusack and its reprise at the Napa Valley Festival del Sole where he also directed John Fisher's The Romanovs starring Hugh Dancy and Amy Povitch. Other notable ERC productions include: Beethoven Love Elegies at The Mount, The Trials of Oscar Wilde, The Heart is not Made of Stone, Frankenstein, Dracula, Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Proust, Verlaine & Rimbaud all at the Thalia, Peggy Guggenheim Stripped Bare by her Bachelors at the Florence Gould Hall, Fanny Mendelssohn: Out of Her Brother's Shadow at New York's Jewish Museum; Toscanini: Nel Mio Cuore Troppo di Assoluto at Venice's Teatro La Fenice Sale Apolline; and Van Gogh's Ear at New York's Florence Gould Hall and the Festival de Musique de Chambre Montréal.
He has directed productions at the New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater (The American Pig: an Anti-Imperialist Vaudeville, Naked Lunch from the novel by Wm. S. Burroughs, 33 Scenes on the Possibility of Human Happiness and Thomas Cole, A Waking Dream, both with scores by Henry Threadgill and Edith Wharton's Old New York) as well as off-Broadway productions of the plays of Arnold Weinstein, Eric Bentley, Kenneth Koch and the music works of William Russo. He is a founder of New York Art Theatre Institute (NYATI). He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Bristol, England and the Yale School of Drama. Since 1993 he has been Executive Artistic Director of The Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts (MIFA), where he presents artists such as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Vanessa Redgrave, England's Out of Joint, Complicite, and Shakespeare's Globe Theater, and France's Comédie Française. In 2002, Sanders was made a Chevalier dans L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of the Republic of France.