Hershey Felder—the creator and star of George Gershwin Alone, which played Broadway—brings his lastest musical examination of a composer, Monsieur Chopin, to Chicago on Aug. 30. Joel Zwick directs.
The work was unveiled under the title Romantique at The American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Aug. 1, 2003. (The piece is intended as the second in a trilogy about composers and their music, which was preceded by bon vivant Gershwin and will culminate with that fractious genius, Beethoven.)
In its Boston version, Chopin followed the story of the Polish-born composer, including his relationship with his love, authoress George Sand, and friend, painter Eugène Delacroix, while highlighting Delacroix’s art, Sand’s tales and Chopin’s music. The work was set one summer evening in 1846 when the composer and painter make what would be their final visit to the scribe's retreat.
For its Chicago premiere, the work is described as beginning at "Chopin’s salon at 9 Square d’Orléans in Paris. Monsieur Chopin will teach a piano lesson that actually took place on March 4, 1848, just days after the February 1848 revolution. As Monsieur Chopin’s piano lesson unfolds, he reveals secrets about the art of the piano and composition, as well as secrets about himself."
Like Gershwin, Chopin died young, at the age of 39. (Gershwin was 38 when he passed away.) A musical prodigy, he was composing before the age of 10 and played for royalty while still a teenager. He often drew on Polish folk music when writing his compositions. Moving to Paris in 1931, following the defeat of Poland at the hands of Russia, he was sought out by the most fashionable artistic circles and salons. One of the most accomplished pianists of his time, he was also popular as a music teacher. He met the cross-dressing authoress George Sand in 1936. The writer was a firm and loving supporter of Chopin, who enjoyed his most productive period during this time. Always frail and sickly, he died of pulmonary tuberculosis on October 17, 1849.
Felder appeared on Broadway in George Gershwin Alone, which he has performed over 1,200 times in several major venues across the country as well as Back on Broadway with James Barbour. Other credits include Stempenyu in Stempenyu, Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night, Waiting for Godot, Gigi, Fiddler on the Roof and Ellis Island.