HERSHEY FELDER: A PARIS LOVE STORY Featuring the music of Claude Debussy
Needs to prioritize his music
BY Iride Aparicio
Photos Credit: Christopher Ash
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA-- Inside the theatre at the Mountain View Center for The Performing Arts, a male voice, speaking French with a perfect accent, asks the audience to fasten their seat belts because their plane is about to land in Paris. Dim lights bring the stage to life. On its floor, stretched from one end to the other, with a grand piano standing at its center, we see a replica of Paris' Du Pont des Arts bridge. It is night, and at the moment, it is immersed in soft golden light. The effect is "magical" The adjective, expressing the opinion of those in the audience, who recognized the bridge, and voiced their admiration for FELDER's set design.
In Paris, France, the Du Pont des Arts bridge is one of many bridges over the River Seine, probably the most crossed by tourists, because it connects the streets, on its left bank with the Quai des Tuileries, a street on its right bank, which extends from Avenue du Général Lemonnier to the Place de le Concorde that leads to Avenue des Champs Elysées that leads to the Arch de Triomphe, in the heart of Paris.
In the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, the night of April 6th was the World Premiere of "HERSLEY FELDER A PARIS LOVE STORY: Featuring The Music Of CLAUDE DEBUSSY", a SAMANTHA F. VOXAKIS and KAREN RACANELLI Production, presented by Theatre Works Silicon Valley,
Written and performed by HERSLEY FELDER as a one-man's play, and directed by TREVOR HAY, the plot of "A PARIS LOVE STORY: Featuring the music of CLAUDE DEBUSSY" is the imaginary story of FELDER , age 19, going to Paris to meet DEBUSSY. The plot is created by the interwined stories, of DEBUSSY talking about FELDER , which he calls "the young man", and DEBUSSY talking about his life, with piano interludes of DEBUSSY's music played by FELDER in his role of CLAUDE DEBUSSY,
One of the stories begins with FELDER arriving in Paris with his mother. No dates are given to the audience, but they may have arrived at the end of l917 or in the middle of March of l918, because, in the play, DEBUSSY is still alive but very ill. (DEBUSSY died on March 25th of l918).
In his role as DEBUSSY, FELDER tells the audience that this young man and his mother came to Paris is because his mother, who is very sick, loves DEBUSSY's music, that she lissens to when she is in pain, because she believes that lissening to it helps her body heal..
In his role as "the young man", we follow FELDER as he walks through the different streets in Paris describing its sights, some of which we (the audience) see in projections (Christopher Ash). Among others, we see the façade of The Louvre, the Arch of Triomphe, and the illuminated Eiffel Tower. When he goes to the ocean, (which gave DEBUSSY a chance to write his orchestral work La Mer (in which the instruments of the orchestra imitate the sound of waves) we hear a recording segment of the work . Our most interesting walk with the young man, however, was his visit to DEBUSSY's Paris home (located at 80 Avenue Bois de Boulonge) where he had a chance to see the room where DEBUSSY composed his music and meet Emma his wife. Telling us about the visit, gives FELDER a chance to play some pieces from "The Children's Corner, a series of piano pieces DEBUSSY composed for his daughter CLAUDE-EMMA who he called "chauchau" ( which means my Pet in French). The young FELDER' story of his trip to Paris was moving and his piano interpretation of Clair de Lune, on March 25th the night DEBUSSY died, was beautiful.
CLAUDE DEBUSSY (1862=1918)
A leading figure in French Music, CLAUDE DEBUSSY is the most highly regarded composers in the late l9th and early 20th Century, because he changed traditional harmony when he developed a highly original system and musical structure.
He was born on August 22, 1862 in Saint-Germain-en- Laye, France, from a very poor French family with five children. As a child, he showed an early affinity for the piano and began taking lessons at the age of seven. His gift at the piano gained him the help of MADAME MAUTÉ de FLEURVILLE (a woman who was associated with composer CHOPÍN) who made possible for him to get enrolled in the Paris Conservatory at the age of 9. But his genius as a composer was not recognized until 1884 when at age 22, he won the Prix de Rome with his cantata L'Enfant prodigue (The prodigal Son) that financed two more years of study in Italy, He was on his way.
Considered the greatest French Composer, during his life, DEBUSSY did many changes to the sound of music. In his piano works alone, he created the most original style since CHOPIN. He extended the eight-tone scale to twelve tones. He used new harmonies and enriched the musical language and orchestral instrumentation. He experience with new sonorities, contrasts of registers and effects which he obtained by a subtle use of pedals. In his vocal music, he used a form of a supple recitative, that adjusts, perfectly, to the inflections of the French speech. To all this, we could add that his free structures are in the forms of sophisticated improvisations and that he explored new registers in his orchestrations.
FELDER IN HIS ROLE AS DEBUSSY
When FELDER, in his role as DEBUSSY, addressed the audience on opening night, those of us sitting on the back of the theatre could not hear him because there was a technical flaw in the sound. It took a few minutes before the sound was corrected and we began to hear him talking about the time he had entered the Paris Conservatory.
As he continued relating his private life (as DEBUSSY) the story got confused (for the audience) because he began talking about the different women in his life. Some, like Madame de FLEURVILLE, who had helped his career as a boy, others, like Nadeshda von Meck (who previously had supported TCHAIKOWVKY) who became his lover after she hired him to teach piano to her children. The list continued with Dupont, whom he met in Rome and abandoned for Marie-Rosalie Texier "Lilly" who he married after he threatened to commit suicide if she refused him, and continue his talk by telling us how, when he left Lilly for Emma, Lilly shot herself in the chest but did not die, and another who died because of him. DEBUSSY's monologue was interrupted at intervals, by FELDER, playing short pieces at the piano, but , with the exception of those in The Children's corner songs, none of the other pieces were identified.
In a show about DEBUSSY's music, the music which practically started the Twenty Century Music trend, but is not well known to many people, we expected that Mr FELDER, a virtuoso pianist, played it and discuss it
We wished that in his role as DEBUSSY he would explained to us the different sonorities that he accomplished in his music. That he had let us listen to the differences in sounds between a piano piece that uses the twelve- tone scale compared to a piece that uses the eight-tone scale. And perhaps even demonstrate to us (the audience) how he managed to accomplish a completely different sound from the same note by pressing and sustaining his foot on the pedal of a piano. In a show with the name HERSLEY FELDER : "A PARIS LOVE STORY: Featuring the music of CLAUDE DEBUSSY, we expected to hear more DEBUSSY' compositions and learn something about them.
The private life of DEBUSSY the man, was not as perfect as his music. After hearing about it, it made some of us wonder if he could be associated with a "love story." He revealed to us that he married twice, but that he did not love his wives. That he had affairs with many other women during his married life, and that the only woman that he really loved, was his daughter.
But we can not judge DEBUSSY as a man. DEBUSSY was a musical genius. During his life, it took another musical genius to understand him. German composer RICHARD WAGNER describing DEBUSSY said about him: "He was a wonderful sunset, that was mistaken for a dawn."
HERSHEY FELDER "A PARIS LOVE STORY Featuring the Music of CLAUDE DEBUSSY" will continue at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St., Mountain View, CA 94041 until May 5, 2018. For information or to order tickets call (650) 463-1960 or go online to theatreworks.org.