Russian Soul and Wagner’s exile

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Ilona Domnich (soprano)

Two very different, both extraordinary, evening performances at the Rye Creative Centre,  New Road, Rye, were organised at the beginning of the Rye Arts Festival’s two weeks of offerings on September 10 and September 12.

Russian Soul told the story of Rachmaninov in song, beautifully performed by soprano Ilona Domnich, who sang in Russian, Sholto Kynoch, piano and Michael White who narrated. Telling the audience the content helped the enjoyment and connection / emotion of the songs and how they fitted into Rachmaninov’s music, which was beautiful.

The solos and piano pieces were embedded and presented in a spoken commentary with an element of theatre that made for a full evening of glorious music and words.

Susan Bickley on left, Mathew Brook and Victoria Newlyn, right

The vignette “View from the Villa”, of Wagner’s short time in exile in Switzerland was also told through song and his music. Wagner and his wife were supported by a rich benefactor, a couple living in a villa next to them. While Wagner was composing, he got side-tracked by the benefactor’s wife, with their romance watched by their relevant partners, letting it play out.

Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde was the creation which came out of this affair. Not the most endearing characterisation but the piano music (Iain Burnside), the soloist (Susan Bickley), the narrators (Victoria Newlyn and Mathew Brooks) of the story made for an amusing and interesting evening.  Iain Burnside commented “All the music was by Wagner, all the script by me. The original German texts have been wonderfully reborn in a new translation by Jeremy Sams. The music theatre piece explores the art of this fertile, if turbulent time in Wagner’s life, a self obsessed genius.”

Image Credits: Paul Whiteman , Veryan Pollard .

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