" Felix and Fanny "
The Mendelssohn Project is planning to present the magical lives of the two siblings, Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn, live on stage in a series of performances around the world. The stage will be divided into two sections. One will be a bedroom and the salon at the Mendelssohn house in Berlin where they spent time as a child, the other side will be the ever-changing, ever-evolving world which Felix and Fanny inhabited during the first part of the 19th-Century – ranging from the castles of England, to the marshes of Scotland, to the palaces in Prussia, to Rome, Florence, Leipzig Paris, and much more. The backdrops for most of these scenes will be based on Mendelssohn's more than 300 paintings and drawing which Felix Mendelssohn also created in his prolific life.
The people portraying Felix and Fanny (both young and mature), among others, will be high-quality musicians – not professional actors – and will present musical performances live on stage. The music, which will be integrally woven into the fabric of the story, will be further enhanced by an orchestra and chorus. These performances will include well known and beloved works by both of the Mendelssohns, as well as many world premieres.
To further enhance the reality of the story, text from the thousands of recently discovered actual letters by the Mendelssohns and their contemporaries will comprise an integral role in the script.
Felix Mendelssohn (born in 1809), and his sister Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel (born in 1805), shared a sibling relationship almost unlike any other. As children, Fanny and Felix were equally considered as the two most talented young prodigies in Europe. Even Goethe proclaimed that "the two were to be the future of Germanic music." Fanny adored her younger brother, and Felix adored his sister; there was an unparalleled closeness between the two. They did everything together and could not ever have imagined being apart.
As the two moved through their teenage years, Fanny was slowly but surely removed from the world she so craved to prepare herself for being a future house-wife and mother. Felix continued to thrive and grow during this time, and would eventually become the most toweringly powerful and beloved musical figure that 19th Century Europe would know.
As Felix continued into maturity, his sister married the painter Wilhelm Hensel. Hensel recognized the waste of musical talents which his wife was enduring and insisted that she write music for many hours a week. Felix also strongly endorsed this, and even published some of her lieder in cycles of his own. In addition, Fanny started a series of Sunday afternoon salon concerts in her home which would take hold in their beloved city of Berlin and be duplicated by other talented women of the time. A recent exhibition at The Jewish Museum in New York City paid special tribute to their "salons".
After Felix married the beautiful French woman, Cécile Jeanrenaud, the two siblings continued their intertwined lives. The over 1,000 surviving letters between the two are a testimony to their devotion for each other. Even when they were living in different cities, it was as if one could not live without the other.
This would sadly turn out to be all too true. In 1847, at the age of 41, Fanny suffered a fatal stroke. Upon learning of this, Felix, age 38, went into a full collapse and after several futile attempts at recovery succumbed to the same fate as his sister, and died just six months after she did.
At the time of his death, Felix Mendelssohn had reached the zenith of the European cultural world, which included his beloved England. He had become the most universally respected, influential, and popular artist of his time. His music was performed over three times more often than the next most performed composer (Mozart). His talent was deemed to be equal to that of Beethoven and Mozart. No one doubted the greatness of his music. Except one man.
Three years after his death, a young contemporary of his, Richard Wagner, published a debasing book, "Judaism in Music". This book marked the beginning of Mendelssohn's stunningly swift deconstruction in Europe. Wagner's efforts and the dark age of anti-Semitism and German Nationalism that followed came to an end only after the Second World War. The magical legacies of Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn barely survived.
The show "Mendelssohn" will help The Mendelssohn Project achieve its goal to resurrect these priceless legacies.