Ensemble for the Romantic Century to Return to BAM with 'ANNA AKHMATOVA'

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). 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."

Anna Akhmatova: The Heart is Not Made of Stone is set for Wednesday, April 27-Saturday, April 30 @ 7:30 p.m., Saturday, April 30-Sunday, May 1 @ 2:00 p.m. at BAM Fisher, Fishman Space, 321 Ashland Place, Brooklyn. Train: 2/3/4/5/Q/B to Atlantic Ave; D/N/R to Pacific Ave; G to Fulton; C to Lafayette Ave Tickets: $75 and Up. Students/Seniors $30. To purchase, contact BAM at 718.636.4100 or visit BAM.org.

Set in Leningrad 1945-65, the centerpiece of this theatrical concert is the meeting of Akhmatova with the British philosopher Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997). 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.

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 "a dazzling musical and multimedia paean to human aspiration that will send you into the stratosphere! Head immediately to BAM!"

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.

About Eve Wolf (Playwright/Piano) - Eve Wolf, pianist, is Founder and Executive Artistic Director of Ensemble for the Romantic Century (ERC). For the past 14 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. Ms. Wolf's Tchaikovsky: None but the Lonely Heart, which was performed at BAM in 2014 was praised by critics as "Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful...five star talent..." and Ms. Wolf's playing was described as "achingly beautiful."

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) - For ERC, Jules Verne: From the Earth to the Moon at BAM Fisher, Tchaikovsky: None But the Lonely Heart also at BAM, Van Gogh's Ear with AIER and the Clark Museum, and Shakespeare & Co. and in 2011 Seduction, Smoke and Music at the Tuscan Sun Festival starring Jeremy Irons and Sine?ad 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 Montre?al.

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 Come?die Franc?aise. In 2002, Sanders was made a Chevalier dans L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of the Republic of France. Sanders has been the ERC Director of Theatrical Production since 2004.

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