Featuring the music of Brahms, Robert Schumann and of course, the undeniably talented Clara Schumann, Clara: Sex, Love and Classical Music tells the story of the often-forgotten nineteenth-century German virtuoso pianist Clara Schumann. Using her own musical talent, comedy, and the atmosphere of the pianodrome, Elena Mazzon created an exceptional performance as Clara.
Mazzon takes us on a journey through the virtuoso pianists’ life from the perspective of Clara herself. Clara Schumann was an outstanding woman whose influence on Romantic orchestral music and piano solos, trios and more still impact the classical music community today. Unlike her male counterparts, Schumann wrote her iconic compositions when pregnant, suffered labour contractions whilst performing on stage and battled with societal expectations of a nuclear family at the same time as wanting to have her own piano career.
The play begins with Schumann contemplating going on a date with Johann Brahms however, Clara is more about Schumann’s life and her goals than her relationship with Brahms. Clara is portrayed to be a strong and independent woman who longs to have her own life, one that is not dictated by her father and husband’s wants. Schumann’s father wanted his daughter to have a career as a virtuoso pianist, he aimed for her to compete against male composers and musicians at the time and even trump the talents of those before. However, when Clara chose to marry Robert Schumann, her father saw this union to mean the end of his daughter’s career.
Nevertheless, Clara Schumann proved that women in the nineteenth century could aspire to have their own profession and be a mother. Even though her role as a mother was not one she was fond of, the pianist triumphed above her misogynistic society by rebelling against the idea of the nuclear family and instead became a household name both in her lifetime and after her death. Furthermore, Schumann talks about her sex life with her late husband and her desire for Brahms freely. It is this explicitly honest account of her desires that demonstrates Schumann’s individuality, setting her apart from the stereotypically conservative women at the time.
I believe this is one of the best shows at this year’s Fringe, Mazzon’s undeniably outstanding musical talent showcased by her piano performances, created variety to Clara, and with the help of the Pianodrome, Mazzon successfully transported the audience into Clara’s world. Therefore, allowing them to sympathise and laugh with Clara Schumann and ultimately see what a great musician and woman she truly was.
Clara: Sex, Love and Classical Music is no longer showing at the Fringe. It was performed for one night only on August 14.
Images courtesy of Sav Schulman and Eva Petrillo, provided to The Student as press material.