This play is a beautiful and timely examination of how, in so many ways, very little has changed for ambitious, driven and talented women who marry and have children.
Back in Europe in the 19th century, even in the far more radical world of the arts, a wife was second to her husband. If she wanted to enjoy a sex life she should expect to remain permanently pregnant or risk imprisonment for the crime of birth control.
Well, perhaps there has been some progress…
Elena Mazzon has created something very, very special. She takes the stage as Clara with a piano as her costar and then walks us through Clara’s early life, her relationship to her unyielding father who guided and controlled the formation of her spectacular talent as a pianist. Then her marriage to Robert Schumann, causing a lifelong rift with her father. Her struggle to cope with her subsequent numerous children, being able to tour and to continue to write her music, the difficulties with her relationship with her husband and his mental deterioration, financial woes and the friendship and then love affair with Johannes Brahms. She has done all this with unflinching pragmatism and humor celebrating Clara as she exposes the hypocrisy and the frustrations of a woman’s life then and now.
What a life she had, this brilliant, celebrated and yet, to most of the world at least, much forgotten woman. She was considered one of the most distinguished composers and pianists of the Romantic era, yet have you heard her name?
Elena plays a little of her music while she embodies Clara so brilliantly on stage. But once the play itself is over and after a short break, we were treated to the phenomenal concert pianist Stefania Passamonte performing six of Clara Schumann’s gorgeous pieces, with her own personal take on what really happened between Schumann and Brahms and how much she truly loved her husband.
This is an evening of grace, humor, revelation, deeply and thoughtfully wrought and beautifully written conversation with an icon of feminism from a time long before that term even existed.
Elena Mazzon is breathtaking as Clara. I cannot thank her enough for her performance and her brilliance, her devotion to the story, her creativity in its execution and for the music…the glorious, sublime music of Clara Schumann performed by the wonderful and warmly talented Stefania Passamonte.
Sometimes, on a rainy night in a small theatre in Sherman Oaks, magic happens…