(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.) – “Van Gogh’s Ear,” a theatrical concert performance by the Ensemble for the Romantic Century (ERC) that explores the connection between the painter’s artistic vision and music of the time, will receive 12 performances at the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) from Thursday, August 20, through Sunday, August 30, 2015. The program takes the audience on a journey through the artist’s final years in the south of France. Based on Vincent van Gogh’s letters to his brother Theo, the fully staged production interweaves an original script that dramatizes Van Gogh (played by Simon Fortin) with live performances of vocal and instrumental works by French composers including César Franck, Gabriel Fauré, Ernest Chausson, and Claude Debussy.
In partnership with the American Institute for Economic Research and the Clark Art Institute, the 10-day, 12-performance series of “Van Gogh’s Ear” complements the Clark’s exhibition “Van Gogh and Nature” and features a special pre-performance discussion on August 25 led by the Clark’s curator at large, Richard Kendall.
The program is written by Eve Wolf (former Stockbridge resident and Tanglewood Fellow) and directed by Donald T. Sanders (Director of Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts).
The tormented voice of Van Gogh (1853–1890) is revealed in letters discussing his inner struggles and his strong sensitivity to sound. It was well known that Van Gogh derived much inspiration from music. By his own admission, he exaggerated the colors in the same manner that a musician improvises through sounds. In a letter to Theo, Van Gogh expressed that he wanted his paintings to be appreciated in the same manner that an audience listens to “a violin or piano concerto.”
According to James Melo, musicologist of ERC, Van Gogh’s valorization of color and texture as constructive elements in his paintings is comparable to the layered sonorities of many chamber works by contemporaneous French composers. “French composers achieved a style of great subtlety and refinement, expressed through glimmering musical textures and dazzling sonorities.”
Fittingly, “Van Gogh’s Ear” features live performances by an esteemed eight-member ensemble of the chamber and vocal music of four of the most representative French composers of Van Gogh’s time: César Franck (1822-1890), Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924), Ernest Chausson (1855-1899), and Claude Debussy (1862-1918).
“Van Gogh’s Ear” premiered in 2006 at New York City’s Florence Gould Hall in collaboration with The French Institute-Alliance Française/FIAF, and the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts/MIFA. It then traveled to the Festival de Musique de Chambre Montréal in Montreal where it received international acclaim. Strad Magazine hailed the production as “the most intriguing and successful program of the entire festival.”
Celebrating its 14th season, the Ensemble for the Romantic Century (ERC) transforms the classical music concert experience by fusing fully staged dramas with live chamber and vocal music. The combination of scripts – all drawn from historical materials such as memoirs, letters, diaries and literature – with chamber music, brings the past to life with an immediacy that has transported and captivated audiences worldwide.
ERC’S 2014-15 New York Season presented Tchaikovsky: None But the Lonely Heart and Jules Verne: From the Earth to the Moon at BAM Fisher, The Trial of Oscar Wilde and The Sorrows of Young Werther at the Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space, and Beethoven Love Elegies in the Berkshires, MA, at The Stables Theatre at Edith Wharton’s The Mount. The productions received rave reviews and played to sold-out audiences.
To date, ERC has created more than 40 original theatrical concerts including Seduction, Smoke and Music: The Love Story of Chopin and George Sand, featuring actors Jeremy Irons and Sinéad Cusack and American Ballet Theater dancers Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky; Toscanini: In My Heart too Much of the Absolute coupled with a CUNY seminar featuring author and Toscanini biographer Harvey Sachs; and four writer-centric productions: The Sorrows of Young Werther (Goethe); Tolstoy’s Last Days; Herself to Her a Music (Emily Dickinson); and Jules Verne: From the Earth to the Moon. Other productions have centered on subjects such as Marcel Proust, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Dracula, Frankenstein, The Dreyfus Affair, Arthur Rubinstein, Erik Satie, Peggy Guggenheim, Anna Akhmatova, Van Gogh, Debussy, Fanny Mendelssohn, Robert and Clara Schumann, Schubert, and Beethoven.
Founded in 2001 by pianist Eve Wolf, who also serves as Executive Artistic Director, ERC’s artistic collaborators include fellow pianist and Co-Artistic Director Max Barros, Musicologist James Melo, Director of Theatrical Production Donald T. Sanders, Production Designer Vanessa James and Lighting Designer Beverly Emmons. They are complemented by an ongoing roster of musicians and actors who have become major interpreters of the ERC vision.
The AIER is located at 250 Division Street, Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Tickets are $85 per performance or $99 for a package ticket that includes admission to the Clark’s “Van Gogh and Nature” exhibition, on view through September 13, 2015. To purchase tickets and view show times, visit “Van Gogh’s Ear.” Tickets can also be purchased by calling 413 458 0524.