By CAITLIN KNOX
This coming weekend is the world premiere of Dr. Heather Hunnicutt’s “Clara, My Love,” an art song musical inspired by the iconic love story of Robert and Clara Schumann. They were both famous composers and pianists of the 19th century, and each scene incorporates their real-life diaries and love letters. Clara Wieck was an 11-year-old child prodigy who traveled throughout Europe as a famous pianist. Robert Schumann came to her father to study piano, and fell in love with the much younger Clara. The musical plays out their entire life story, from marrying without consent from Clara’s overbearing father, to Robert’s dealing with schizophrenia and the secret love that Johannes Brahms (another famous pianist/composer) had for Clara.
“Their story has always been fascinating to me,” said Hunnicutt, writer, director and producer of the show. It is a story that has interested many hopeless romantics in the past. Books have been published, movies made and plays performed, but this is the first time that Clara and Robert’s story will be set to their actual compositions and put in their own words.
Putting all these elements together in one musical was a long process. “I started by reading everything I possibly could on Robert, Clara and Brahms,” Hunnicutt explained. After becoming an expert on her three main characters, she wrote the script, then added English lyrics to their compositions. Although they are all German-born composers, Hunnicutt stuck to an all-English libretto.
The set is designed by Bob Pickering, a new professor in the theatre department. An expert in lights and set design, he has modeled the set from a concert hall in Warsaw, Poland, with towering arches and a piano as the centerpiece of the room. Located in Radziwill Palace, it is the same room that Chopin performed his first public concert in in 1818. The piano that will be used for the set was discovered in the basement of the LRC. A work of art in itself, it is rumored to be from the 19th century (when the three main characters were living). Pickering recently designed the set for the theatre department’s play “The 39 Steps.”
“Clara, My Love,” will have four performances this weekend. The premiere will be on Friday, Nov. 9 at 8 p.m., followed by two Saturday
performances at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and a final performance on Sunday, Nov. 11 at 8 p.m. Tickets for students are $5, $10 for adults. Children under 10 receive free admission. The show is considered to be “PG-13” because of mature content like sexuality, violence and traumatic scenes, so it many not be appropriate for all children.
You can purchase tickets in The Store, online at claramylove.com or at the door. They are on sale now. For a sneak peek, you can watch the trailer for “Clara, My Love” on their Facebook page “Clara, My Love,” or the show’s website, claramylove.com.