Ranked among the greatest composers of the classical and early romantic era, Franz Peter Schubert is celebrated in this 14 song piece by The Guildhall School. Renowned professor at the Guildhall, Iain Burnside, masterfully brings a new light to 'Schwanengesang', a collection of songs written by Franz Schubert at the end of his short life and published posthumously by interspersing monologues between each song from characters throughout history who describe their deep connection to Schubert.
His friends range from Franz Von Schober (Oliver Higginson) who was a poet and librettist, his laundry girl Liesl (Poppy Gilbert), who amusingly remarks that 'when you find mercury in the sheets, its game over.' Referring to the fact the sheets are ruined (rather than the poisoning of ones body), Tobias Haslinger (Jordan Angell), his publisher who came up with the name ‘Swansong', Ivor Gurney (Declan Baxter), a poet and composer who reflects on Schubert from the city of London mental hospital in 1923, Johannes Brahms (Harvey Cole), a late arrival in Vienna, and Emily (Erica Rothman), an American grad student visiting Vienna in present day.
The construction of the monologues are beautifully written with each actor perfectly executing their narrative to keep in tone with their respective characters time frame. Intelligent direction from Burnside brings a crisp breath of fresh air to my lungs; both effortless and natural. The actors are as much a part of the songs as the singers, and visa versa.
There is no doubt that each soloist is a true professional, with flawless accompaniments from Michael Pandya and Dylan Perez on the grand piano. Particular compliments must be made to the tenor Andrew Hamilton, who makes the German language sound hauntingly romantic. James McKeogh’s slick lighting design gives extra life to the stage, providing its own character. The set is minimalistic, and feels three dimensional with its staggered pillars coated in a canvas portrait of what appears to be Vienna. A truly beautiful piece of theatre. - Alex Grainger