Described as a song recital with "added narrative plus art works and video to make the music approachable for everyone", I was interested to see how the production would achieve this. Upon arriving at the venue, I was met with exposed walls and wooden stairs owning a historic charm that put the audience in the mood to be transported back to the days of young widower and titular character, Mahler.
The collaboration of music and visuals did exactly what it was meant to do; I felt intrigued by the songs being performed as, despite not understanding the German, I understood the content and intention. The meaning was accessible to all which is something often overlooked when performing classical music to a modern audience.
The visuals, created by Nina Dunn, contributed a physical representation of the content on stage. The video consisted of artworks created in the Vienna Secession including Gustav Klimt and Oskar Kokoschka who were both important men in Mahler's life.
The production was structured in years; an older version of Alma narrated pages from her younger self's diary. Encompassing everything from self-obsessed teenage thoughts to the telling of her daughter's death, the diary provided an insight into the ever-changing life of the vivacious Alma. Narrated beautifully by Sandy Walsh, we were given a peephole into the conflicting decisions that Mahler faced; career or love? Morals or attention? Klimt or Gustav? These decisions meant the story was a rollercoaster of emotions; it was delivered comically but never failed to overlook the heart-wrenching moments of the young woman's life.
The show was intimate and convincing. A combination of the lightbulbs placed around the ceiling, the simplistic staging and live grand piano created a bespoke and warm atmosphere. It felt homely which only added more depth to Alma's personal story. The songs', called lieder, were delivered strongly and needed nothing more than Robert Rice and Alexandra Weaver's undoubtable talent to leave the audience silent.
It was a strong production featuring a lovable female character whose divisive story will resonate with many women today; the production allowed her story to be told in the most intriguing way possible that felt true to her colourful personality. Summing up her general attitude towards life, Mahler's parting words were "Nobody shall ever win me."
"Art Sung: Alma Mahler" was staged on 28th February at Wilton's Music Hall in Tower Hill, London.