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Schumann: Twin Spirits: The love of Robert & Clara Schumann DVD (Opus Arte/ROH 2007)

Twin Spirits (DVD)

Portraying the love of Robert & Clara Schumann in words & music

Twin Sprirts DVD

Director: John Caird
Sir Derek Jacobi, Narrator
Sting, Robert Schumann in words
Trudie Styler, Clara Wieck in words
Simon Keenlyside, Robert Schumann in song
Rebecca Evans, Clara Wieck in song
Sergej Krylov, Violin
Natalie Clein, Cello
Iain Burnside, Piano
Natasha Paremski, Piano
Recorded: live on Thursday 20 December 2007 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in aid of The Royal Opera House Foundation
Released: (UK) 28 September 2009
Language English
Subtitles: Dutch, English, French, Italian, Spanish
Region: All Regions
Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
Number of discs: 2
Classification: Exempt
Studio: Opus Arte
Run Time: 206 minutes
ASIN: NTSC B002KJ7ODA / Blueray B002KJ7ODK

From the Twin Spirits website

Twin Spirits is a unique and intimate, live theatrical performance by a chamber ensemble of actors, singers and musicians, portraying the deep and ultimately tragic love between the composer Robert Schumann and his pianist wife Clara Wieck. In this intensely moving performance of words, song and music, the Schumanns’ long separation, so formative an influence on their lives, is reflected in the division of the ensemble into male and female groups.

Robert’s letters to Clara are read by Sting and his songs sung by Simon Keenlyside, with accompaniments and instrumental music played by Iain Burnside and Sergej Krylov. Clara’s letters to Robert are read by Trudie Styler and her songs sung by Rebecca Evans, with accompaniments and instrumental music played by Natalie Clein and Natasha Paremski.

The narrator, Derek Jacobi, links together the letters and lyrics to complete the essential outline of the story. Conceived and directed by John Caird, Twin Spirits was first performed in June 2005 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London and has since been experienced only at private performances for charity by small audiences of all ages and interests, leaving them deeply touched and inspired.

Chapter list

1.    Robert Schumann: “Preambule” from Carnaval, Op 9, arranged by Martin Ward for two pianos, violin and cello. Sergej Krylov, Natalie Clein, Ian Burnside and Natasha Paremski

2.    The story begins

3.    Robert Schumann: “Bittendes Kind” from Kinderszenen, Op 15.  Ian Burnside and Natasha Paremski

4.    The child Clara

5.    Robert Schumann: “Hasche-Mann” from Kinderszenen, Op 15.  Ian Burnside and Natasha Paremski

6.    Reflections

7.    Robert Schumann – “Von fremden Ländern und Menschen” from Kinderszenen, Op. 15

8.    A mystical proposal

9.    Chopin’s Variations on “Là ci darem la mano“. Ian Burnside and Natasha Paremski

10.                       Forbidden love

11.                       Robert Schumann: “Stille Tränen” from 12 Kerner Lieder. Simon Keenlyside and Ian Burnside

12.                       The thunderstorm

13.                       Clara Schumann: “Er ist gekommen in Sturm und Regen.” Rebecca Evans and Natasha Paremski

14.                       Separation

15.                       Robert Schumann: Duet “Er und Sie“. Simon Keenlyside and Rebecca Evans

16.                       Clara’s career

17.                       Clara Schumann: Andante from her Piano Concerto. Natasha Paremski and Natalie Clein

18.                       The shepherd’s daughter

19.                       Robert Schumann: second of his Op. 94 Romances. Sergej Krylov and Ian Burnside

20.                       A marriage diary

21.                       Robert Schumann – “Marchedes Davidsbündler contre les Philistins” from Carnaval, Op. 9

22.                       The most beautiful present

23.                       Mozart: “Là ci darem la mano” from Don Giovanni. Simon Keenlyside, Rebecca Evans

24.                       The year of the song

25.                       Robert Schumann – “Die Rose, die Lilie, die Taube, die Sonne” from Dichterliebe, Op. 48. Simon Keenlyside

26.                       Robert Schumann – “Wenn ich in deine Augen seh’” from Dichterliebe, Op. 48.  Simon Keenlyside

27.                       Robert Schumann – “Ich grolle nicht” from Dichterliebe, Op. 48. Simon Keenlyside

28.                       Mortality

29.                       Clara Schumann:  “Sie liebten sich beide“. Rebecca Evans and Natasha Paremski

30.                       Parting

31.                       Robert Schumann: from Dichterliebe “Ich hab’ im Traum geweinet”. Rebecca Evans and Natasha Paremski

32.                       The last embrace

33.                       Robert Schumann:  “Stille Liebe” from 12 Kerner Lieder. Simon Keenlyside and Ian Burnside

34.                       Alone in his room

35.                       Robert Schumann: “Träumerei” from Kinderszenen. Sergej Krylov, Natalie Clein, Ian Burnside and Natasha Paremski

36.                       Married in eternity

37.                       Robert Schumann: “Frage” from Zwölf Gedichte, Op. 35. Simon Keenlyside and Rebecca Evans

38.                       Written in the stars above

39.                       Robert Schumann: Trio No.1 in D minor, Op. 63 – Finale: Mit Feuer. Sergej Krylov, Natalie Clein and Ian Burnside

What the critics say

Article in The Telegraph, 26 September 2009

Sting appears in Twin Spirits, a celebration of Robert Schumann

Sting and Trudi Styler explain why they are celebrating the life and work of Robert Schumann.

How I made these love letters sing! Sting has fallen for the music of Robert Schumann and is now playing the composer on stage in an ambitious new project. Jasper Rees reports

It’s a bizarre sort of ensemble, a kind of genre-busting supergroup. Distributed carefully about the stage in a smallish studio theatre are stars of theatre, opera, the recital hall and, in a random invasion from left field, the stadium. The assembled include Derek Jacobi on spoken voice, Simon Keenlyside on sung voice, Natalie Clein on cello and Iain Burnside on piano. And wandering in beardedly from the rock and roll hall of fame, that’ll be none other than Sting. Plus his wife Trudi Styler.

What possible cause can this disparate gallery of superstars have to muster on the same stage somewhere in the intestinal labyrinth that is the Royal Opera House?

Here’s a clue: Sting has not brought his guitar, or indeed his lute. He and Styler are appearing as actors. They sit in well-upholstered armchairs. From his, Sting delivers the words of Robert Schumann, while around him, male musicians perform Schumann’s music. Meanwhile, Styler recites the letters of Clara Wieck, the pianistic virtuoso who became Frau Schumann, interleaved by performances from the trio of female musicians.

Twin Spirits is a celebration of the life, love and music of the Schumanns. At times romantic and tragic, it traces their early infatuation, the thwarted hope as Clara’s father refused Schumann access to his daughter, their eventual marriage, followed all too soon by the composer’s illness which killed him at the age of 48.

The title refers to their conspiratorial habit, when banned from meeting as young sweethearts, of arranging to play the same piece of piano music at the same time.

“I didn’t know much about the letters,” Sting cheerfully concedes in a break during rehearsals. “We went to the first rehearsal and started to read the story and then the music started to come to life.

“It became much less abstract. It became about their passion and their difficulties. It’s a very compelling and emotional story. Audiences who see it or hear it are as deeply affected. It’s a real tear-jerker. Clara is quite something.”

Needless to say, it’s all for charity. Sting and Styler were first embroiled in the lives of the Schumanns when asked by their Wiltshire neighbour Lady Chichester, whose brainchild Twin Spirits is. “I think she asked us because we were cheap,” Styler says.

Twin Spirits has been performed to an audience on four previous occasions, first in Salisbury, latterly in New York, with a variety of musicians, each time to raise money in the field of musical education. But this time it is being memorialised on film under the direction of John Caird, before an intimate audience including Willard White and Alfred Brendel.

No one will ever mistake Sting for a great actor, but he has a useful role to play in breaking down the barriers between his world and the one represented here onstage.

Songs from the Labyrinth, his collection of mainly John Dowland songs performed on the lute, was a classical chart-topper in 2007. On it he read a letter from Dowland to Robert Cecil. “It just makes it come to life,” he says. “Classical music for most people is very distant and abstract. You put a story to it and it brings people in. It’s a good strategy; if you want people to listen to this music more, then tell the story.”

There will be a queue of purists – devotees of the Kinderszenen and Dichterliebe – who might baulk at the notion of Schumann being voiced by the author of De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da. Sting makes no grand claim to artistic kinship, but would argue that on a deep level all composers draw from the same well. “I don’t suffer from bipolar depression which it seems Robert Schumann did, but I certainly have a tendency towards melancholy. A lot of musicians do. We tend to see life through the prism of minor keys.”

And then there is intensely wrought musical voicing of Schumann’s passion for Clara. There’s certainly an overlap there. “As a songwriter, 99 per cent of songs are about relationships – longing for love, failed love, missing love. Of course that’s what people want to hear: the mystery of man and woman.”

The money raised from the DVD sales of Twin Spirits will go towards a Royal Opera House education programme to bring young people into the building who aren’t normally exposed to classical music, ballet or opera.

“It’s their culture as much as anybody else’s,” Sting says. (Not that he professes to go much himself. He can’t recall attending Covent Garden. The last opera he saw was “probably Tosca at the Met”.)

With his former teacher’s hat on, Sting has just put his name to the Government’s National Year of Music which aims to encourage children to learn a musical instrument as early as possible. “If you get the chance to learn an instrument when you’re young, take it,” he says, “as who knows where it will lead you?

“Music and songwriting can be rewarding careers.” It’s appropriate to add a rider that not many are going to end up quite as rewarding as Sting’s. But for all the wealth, copiously augmented by the reunion tour of the Police, Sting professes still to be learning.

“I’m a student musician. I tend to listen to music not for relaxation or necessarily enjoyment. I tend to listen to learn. So I don’t listen to very much pop music because I’m not quite sure I’m learning anything there. But classical music, definitely. Harmonically, in terms of counterpoint arranging, I can learn a great deal.”

Having flirted with Dowland and the lute, what else does he listen to?

“My tastes are to the baroque. I love Bach. It is a lifetime study. I don’t have time for much else. I play very badly but I can get through the partitas and the cello suites on guitar and even the lute now.”

It leaves little room for practising his thespian craft. At the height of the Police’s fame he made cross-border forays in Quadrophenia (1979) and Dennis Potter’s Brimstone & Treacle (1982).

In recent years he has been confined to playing himself in the likes of Little Britain USA and Ally McBeal and, most recently, Brüno. The last time he played a character not called Sting was 11 years ago in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

As he and Styler look devotedly into each other’s eyes, they evidently don’t have to work too hard. “We’re reading letters,” he says. “It’s not as if I have to learn Othello.”

Classic FM magazine (CG) November 2009

Twin Spirits portrays the life and love of Robert and Clara Schumann through readings of their surviving letters. These are read by Sting and Trudi Styler, with Derek Jacobi authoritatively filling in any gaps in the story. In one sense it’s a static production, with everyone seated throughout, but it’s actually engrossing – perfectly paced and beautifully filmed.

It’s impossible not to emerge with both a true empathy for the Schumanns and a renewed or awakened interest in their music. The acting stays just the right side of luvviness, with Sting and Styler delivering strong, subtly believable performances. They’re supported by beautifully executed musical interludes from a top line-up of soloists. This is tender, moving, well put together, and supplemented by an enlightening bonus DVD.

Jeremy Nicholas, Gramophone magazine, November 2009

Twin Spirits sets out to tell the oft-told story of the relationship between Robert and Clara Schumann, one of classical music’s great love affairs. John Caird’s entertainment, first staged at the Royal Opera House in 2005 as a charity fund-raiser, was recorded in front of a small audience in a studio space at the ROH in December 2007. All the artists involved donated their services free, and everyone buying a copy of the DVD will be supporting the work of the Opera House’s Education Programme.

Sir Derek Jacobi is the narrator; Sting and Trudie Styler (aka Mrs Sting) read from the letters between Robert and Clara; the musicians intersperse the text with music by Robert, Clara, Chopin and Mozart. Despite the best intentions of everyone, it proves an enervating experience on film. Sting’s hope that it will provide “a great introduction for people who don’t normally listen to classical music” is sadly optimistic: the unrelieved solemnity of the occasion and reverential text, filmed in a matching sepulchral gloom, are unlikely to inspire anyone coming anew to classical music. Indeed, it will confirm their worst fears.

Twin Spirits might fare better on radio: no one moves at all during proceedings. Sir Derek reads his script from the depths of an upstage throne; Sting and Miss Styler – the two lovers – are sat on opposite sides of the stage and thus never physically contact one another. Sting brings his charismatic presence to the composer; vocally and facially, Miss Styler is a one-dimensional Clara. The musicians, often perversely playing arrangements of Robert’s solo piano works, are dutiful rather than inspired (the exception being Keenlyside’s magnificent rendering of “Ich grolle nicht’). It is all bum-numbingly somnolent.

If you really want to find out about the Schumanns, musicologist Daniel Gallagher has some interesting insights in conversation with the director and cast on disc 2. Best of all is Dr Gerd Neuhaus from the Schumann Museum in Zwickau who talks about Robert and Clara without pause for 36 minutes, though it is in German and you have to be a quick reader to scan the non-stop subtitles. “Schumann,” he stresses, “is inconceivable without Clara … one heart and one soul – they cannot be separated.” Twin Spirits in life but, alas, not on stage.

Toronto Star, 17 November 2009

3 ½ out of 4 stars

Sting has been taking ever braver leaps into the classical music world over the last few years. As someone who doesn’t enjoy his singing, I heaved a sigh of relief that he is on speaking duty in this fascinating musical dramatization of the often difficult, artistically inspirational, romantically fulfilling relationship between composer Robert Schumann and Clara Wieck. Sting is Robert to Trudie Styler’s Clara as they sit with narrator Derek Jacobi on the Covent Garden stage, surrounded by exceptional musicians, including tenor Simon Keenlyside, soprano Rebecca Evans and violinist Sergei Krylov. Excerpts from the lovebirds’ letters are interwoven with Schumann’s music (and a bit of Mozart and Chopin).

Once you get into the slow, black-backdropped pace of the story, you come to appreciate what an amazing job director John Caird has done to make the 90-minute show absorbing. A second DVD has more than an hour of extras, including background interviews and a documentary. This is inventive classical programming at its best, though music purists might prefer to hear uncut versions of many of the pieces on the program.

Judith Malafronte, Opera News, December  2009 , vol 74 , no.6

In his lifetime, Robert Schumann remained in the shadow of his wife Clara Wieck, whose concert career as a pianist took her all over Europe while he labored as a music journalist and largely unrecognized composer. Clara’s overbearing father had taught them both piano, but his callous objections to the growing romance between Robert and Clara resulted in a physical separation that — happily for musicologists — left hundreds of letters detailing the musical and emotional development of this fascinating couple. While in different cities, they would often arrange to play the same piece at the same time, and then write to each other about the emotions aroused; once they were finally married, they kept a joint “marriage diary” for three and half years that recorded their musical and domestic happiness.
Sting and his wife, actor Trudie Styler, are joined by Derek Jacobi, soprano Rebecca Evans, baritone Simon Keenlyside, and four instrumentalists for Twin Spirits, an educational project from London’s Royal Opera House that presents the lives and works of Clara and Robert Schumann. Sting and Styler portray the couple in words, Keenlyside and Evans in music. Jacobi narrates. Devised and directed by John Caird, the show was recorded live in an intimately arranged and lit studio space at the opera house. It weaves together musical excerpts, love letters, diary entries and narration to tell the story of their love and marriage, tragically shortened when Robert’s mental illness forced his commitment to an asylum.
The show itself, which has been given as charity performances since 2005, is both informative and affecting, with spontaneous and energetic musical contributions, especially Evans’s urgent rendition of Clara’s “Er ist gekommen” and Keenlyside’s sweeping “Ich grolle nicht,” capped by a powerful high A. Evans’s controlled voicing of “Ich hab im Traum geweinet” and Keenlyside’s “Stille Liebe” are also effective. Most of the musical selections are short, and many have violin and cello additions, which lend an appropriate salon atmosphere, though the opening of “Carnaval” sounds odd with strings. Because of its placement in the storyline (and the use of Chopin’s variations on its tune), “Là ci darem la mano” receives an odd interpretation, but Keenlyside’s and Evans’s skill and naturalness are winning.
Another huge plus is Styler’s warm, expressive delivery. With her wispy hair, vulnerable face and a faraway look in her eyes, Styler embodies the romantic, artistic spirit who rejoices in her soul mate; in passages detailing the end of Robert’s life, Styler makes Clara’s pain palpable. Sting’s spiky, contemporary look is a bit of a jolt, but his connection to the material and identification with the obsessive, suffering composer are genuine. All the artists contributed their time to the project without remuneration; only Jacobi (whose presence undoubtedly signals “class”) seems arch and distanced in his narration.

Several bonus offerings include lengthy, round-table discussions in which the singers, instrumentalists and actors speak of how powerfully the interaction of words and music affected their interpretations and delivery. A thirty-five-minute lecture at the Robert Schumann Haus in Leipzig provides biographical details and background on the Schumanns’ careers and training, as well as on their marriage and children. All proceeds from DVD sales benefit outreach projects of the Royal Opera House Education Programme.


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