What names come to mind when you think of the songs of German Romantic composers? Schumann? Mendelssohn? Schubert? If you imagine Robert, Felix, or Franz, you may want to think again. With the film series “German Romantics,” The Pleiades Project challenges how we define this group of composers by insisting that we not forget the women.
Clara Schumann (1819-1896) was a virtuosic pianist, composer, and piano pedagogue. From the age of eleven, she maintained a sixty-one-year concert career, touring throughout Europe. Her success as a concert artist secured essential income for her family, including her husband, the renowned composer Robert Schumann (1810-1856), and their eight children. She began composing as a child, and her compositions later included solo piano pieces, chamber music, choral works and songs (or Lieder).
For German Romantics: Clara, The Pleiades Project re-conceptualizes the three Lieder of Clara’s Op. 12, originally part of a twelve-song collection jointly published by Clara and Robert to poetry by Friedrich Rückert. In 1841, soon after their marriage, Robert urged his wife to collaborate on a compositional project. Although she was initially ambivalent about composing, Clara began to work on the songs of Op. 12.
While these songs may have marked the beginning of Clara and Robert’s union, the protagonist of German Romantics: Clara navigates Op. 12 as she copes with the end of an important relationship. As she confronts the end of this chapter in her life, her imagination travels to vibrant fantasy worlds of the past. In becoming the heroine of her own story, our protagonist reaches closure and the ability to move forward.
In German Romantics: Clara, I made my film debut and served as dramaturg. For more information about Clara Schumann and Op. 12, check out my research and writing!
German Romantics was made possible by the generous support and in collaboration with Washington-DC based opera company, IN Series.
German Romantics was conceived to be watched on INVision: The Logan Opera House Without Walls. Created in response to performance restrictions imposed by COVID-19 and embracing the opportunity to collaborate broadly and reach worldwide audiences, INVision is IN Series’ first-of-its kind multi-venue digital performing arts center dedicated to disseminating new, transformative works of operatic theater free of charge.
German Romantics: Clara was created from September to October 2020 on location in Washington DC. While making a short film during the COVID-19 pandemic was challenging, we relied upon testing, masking, virtual recording, and lip-synching to safely achieve our creative goals. By delving deeply into the Lieder of Clara Schumann, we took inspiration from her courage, artistry, and pioneering spirit. We ultimately believe that the legacy of Clara Schumann and her fellow Romantic-era women composers shape our voices as contemporary women in classical music.
Click here for more information from The Pleiades Project on series’ installments: German Romantics: Louise and German Romantics: Fanny.