Burns and Cane Review Sarah Jeanette Taylor as “Clara” (Schumann) at Ventfort Hall [Berkshire on Stage]
Review by Gail Burns and Roseann Cane
Clara is written and directed by Mary Guzzy and features Sarah Jeanette Taylor in the title role.
Gail Burns: Many people look forward to the summer show at Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum in Lenox because it always focuses on a woman of the Gilded Age, and usually one with some Berkshire ties.
I have been saying all summer that we need to hear the stories of strong, intelligent women now more than ever, so even though she has no link to the Berkshires I was really glad to hear that this summer’s show would be about celebrated 19th century pianist and composer, Clara Wieck Schumann.
Roseann Cane: Although Ventfort Hall wasn’t built until 1893 (for Sarah Morgan, sister of J.P.), it serves as a lovely home for Clara. The library provides an evocative setting for the story of the remarkable Clara Schumann (1819-1896), one of the most acclaimed pianists of the Romantic era. She was, in fact, famous long before she married then-unknown Robert Schumann.
Gail: Each Ventfort play has introduced me to the story of a woman I knew little to nothing about previously. At least I had heard of Clara Schumann, but I hadn’t known that she was a more famous musician than her husband.
Roseann: Clara, who publicly performed at the age of nine and made her formal debut at 11, played music from memory, something rarely seen at the time. She studied with her musician father Friedrich Wieck, a strict and cruel teacher who managed her tours through Germany, France, and Austria during a period when women who were not singers just did not perform in public. She was also a prolific composer; sadly, much of her work remained unknown until the later 20th Century. None of her (known) compositions date after 1853.