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.
Sisters of the world, let’s gather our power, and shock the men who belittle us by saying, ‘What can women do’?
Komako Kimura (1887-1980), from “The New Real Woman’s Society”
Photo: Komako Kimura at a suffrage march in New York City (1917), Unknown Author
In our November 2021 staged readings of A Women’s Suffrage Splendiferous Extravaganza!, Maestra Impresaria and her dynamic vaudeville troupe present the stories of the trail-blazing leaders and watershed moments of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States. Through unique adaptations of suffrage propaganda, popular music from the Library of Congress Songs of Suffrage Archive, and new songs from NYC-based composers Lacy Rose and November Christine, we endeavor to display the breadth and diversity within this eight-decade long struggle, including the pivotal contributions of suffragists of color, who have been continually marginalized and erased from our collective re-telling of the history of the women’s suffrage movement.
Join us on an exhilarating jaunt to celebrate, explore, and problematize this historic fight to win women the vote! By examining the intersection of the voices of American women of the past and women of today, we ask ourselves and our audience to consider how the fight for equality continues in this quest for the enfranchisement of all citizens in our democracy.
Introducing… our Suffragists!
Led by our daring Maestra Impresaria, the “Great Women of History” will go head-to-head in a fight for the right to vote! The show starts with a bang as “The Sharpshootin’ Suff,” Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) duels with legendary abolitionist Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) over the 15th Amendment. Anthony’s quick on the draw—but her racist rhetoric misses the bullseye.
The next act is Victoria Woodhull (1838-1927) as “The Magician.” A true visionary, Woodhull is a medium, a newspaper editor and the first female presidential candidate. Her power to see the future has the audience mesmerized—until “The Anti Suffrage Sisters” burst on stage. Staunchly against women’s suffrage, The Antis threaten to steal the show with their catchy anti-suffrage tunes. But have no fear, Ida B. Wells (1862-1931) “The Tallest Woman in the World” is here! A world-famous anti lynching activist and leading Black suffragist, Wells truly towers above the rest.
Not to be outshone, enter Mabel Ping-Hua Lee (1896-1966), the “Teen Tamer of Fire.” Her magical lanterns illuminate the struggles of Chinese immigrant women who aren’t allowed US citizenship, let alone the right to vote. It’s a tough act to follow, but Rose Schneiderman (1882-1972), “Star of the Yiddish Stage,” is up for the challenge. A prominent Jewish American women’s trade union organizer, Schneiderman uses Yiddish song—and a bit of humor—to represent working women in the suffrage movement. Next up is Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947) as “The Ventriloquist.” Catt attempts to manipulate her dummy Woody (President Woodrow Wilson) into passing the 19th Amendment—but who’s pulling whose strings?
Impatient for the spotlight, Alice Paul (1885-1977) storms the stage as “The Strongwoman.” She flexes and grandstands, but can’t outmuscle the political system. The final act is Maria Guadalupe Evangelina de Lopez (1881-1977) as “The Spanish Rose.” Preferring unity over divisiveness, Lopez is a bridge between two worlds, using her gift of translation to ignite the suffrage movement in the Spanish-speaking community.
The moment of truth has arrived—will women win the right to vote? The Maestra employs the Vote-O-Meter to determine the verdict. Heavy hitter Susan B. Anthony strikes the mallet and…DING! They’ve won! But their victory is short lived…
To find out how it all ends for the ladies of A Women’s Suffrage Splendiferous Extravaganza!, stay tuned for updates on the development of our show and new performances!
Cast & Creative Team
Press & Media
Read my blog at Peabody Institute’s Creative Wire about the process of creating AWSSE!.
November Christine(she/her/hers) holds a degree in Cellular Biology and Molecular Genetics from the University of Maryland, as well as a BM in Musical Theatre from the East Carolina University School of Music. She produced her award-winning musical MIRROR, MIRROR at the 2015 Hollywood Fringe Festival, followed by a 3-week run in Los Angeles, CA. November’s historical hip-hop drama, LEGACY THE MUSICAL was showcased in London in 2017 and won “Best of Fest” at the 2018 New York Musical Festival.
Her other works include her play IDA, about the anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells, and A WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE SPLENDIFEROUS EXTRAVAGANZA! a vaudeville revue written in collaboration with The Pleiades Project. November is a BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop Lyricist, 2021 Billie Burke Ziegfeld Award Winner, and Co-chair of the NYCLU Artist Ambassador Program.
Caroline Miller is Co-Founder & Artistic Director of The Pleiades Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to championing women’s stories through opera, film, and original music-theater projects. With The Pleiades Project, Caroline has expanded her artistic talents outside of performance, embracing her interdisciplinary skills as a director, writer, programmer, and producer. She produced and starred in the short-film Così, excerpted from W.A. Mozart’s Così fan tutte, which was named an official selection of the NY Indie Theatre Film Festival. Caroline directed the entirety of the 24 Series, a collection of videos based on the 17th and 18th-century song collection, Twenty-Four Italian Songs & Arias.
For the 2020-2021 season, Caroline directed the premiere A Women’s Suffrage Splendiferous Extravaganza!, a vaudevillian revue celebrating and problematizing the US women’s suffrage movement, through a generous grant from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.
A Women’s Suffrage Splendiferous Extravaganza! is made possible in part with public funds from Creative Engagement, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and administered by LMCC.