Hershey Felder adds Tchaikovsky to his ‘Composer’s Sonata’

Right on the heels of the holiday season, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley is staging a one-man show about the composer of “The Nutcracker Suite.”

“Our Great Tchaikovsky” is the third show in Hershey Felder’s “Composer’s Sonata” that TheatreWorks has brought to South Bay audiences. In previous shows for TheatreWorks, the pianist/actor/playwright portrayed Irving Berlin and Beethoven. He also has written and performed shows about George Gershwin, Chopin, Liszt and Leonard Bernstein for international audiences.

Felder developed his Tchaikovsky piece, which premiered a year ago in San Diego, at the behest of Russian producers who had seen his show about Gershwin, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants.

“They thought that, given my disciplines, I would make for a good Tchaikovsky,” Felder says. “Little did I know what would happen thereafter.”

By most accounts (except for the Russian government’s, which in 2013 declared that Tchaikovsky had been straight), the composer lived as a closeted gay man in 19th-century Russia, where being outed meant being sent to Siberia.

Felder’s show addresses the composer’s homosexuality, and given that the climate toward gay men is still pretty chilly in contemporary Russia, “Our Great Tchaikovsky” has never been produced there.

While Tchaikovsky’s life was inherently dramatic, Felder says that as a musician, he always chooses the subject of his shows based on their work.

“Because of the music, the investigation of the life becomes interesting, and that’s how we proceed,” he adds. “The point and raison d’être for all these pieces is the music. If that remains the focus, all the rest falls into place.”

Felder has help making the pieces of composers’ lives fall into place. He calls researcher Meghan Maiya his “in-house mega-brain.”

“While I may know the music, she takes months and months to research every detail of every life we investigate so that she can become a prime resource for facts and figures as I need them,” Felder adds. “It’s a great deal of work to put all the information together so that ultimately I can draw on one simple line to tell an entire story.”

Critics have referred to Felder’s shows as “musical biographies,” but he says he doesn’t think about form when he’s writing them.

“I’ve been told I’ve created a new genre,” he says. “I think that is quite generous and very flattering, but all in all, I am just telling the stories with the mechanisms available to me.

“There were no models for the shows when I created them,” he adds, “in particular, no model for concert-level performance along with character-acting, and somehow melding the two together.”

Given that his shows often play to sold-out crowds, Felder says he hopes other artists will follow suit and “tell the stories that mean something to them with whatever tools they have. The form will find itself along the way.”

Our Great Tchaikovsky” runs Jan. 10-Feb. 11 at the Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St., Mountain View. Tickets are $45-$105 at theatreworks.org or 650-463-1960.

 

 

Source: mercurynews
Hershey Felder adds Tchaikovsky to his ‘Composer’s Sonata’