The Ensemble for the Romantic Century, now in its 16th Season, has set out to achieve the impossible: Time Travel.
Our unique productions merge dramatic and fully staged scripts with music, recapturing the past with a sense of immediacy that transports, illuminates, and captivates. The scripts, drawn from historical material that includes letters, diaries, memoirs, newspaper articles, poetry, and literature create an intricate counterpoint to the musical program. The subject matters span across centuries, from Tolstoy to Toscanini, from Verne to Van Gogh, all brought to life through the fusion of drama and sound. We believe that one can understand Freud more deeply by listening to the erotic cabaret music of fin de siècle Vienna, that one can appreciate Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata more profoundly by listening to him speak of his tortured love life and his debilitating deafness. By illuminating the interplay between literature, biography and music we have transformed the concert experience.
The Romantic Century was about imagination and experimentation. Elevating the human condition through art: that is the spirit we hope to summon.
A New York Times Critics’ Pick for two years in a row, the Ensemble for the Romantic Century’s April 2015 production of Jules Verne: From the Earth to the Moon was hailed by The New York Times as “a dazzling musical and multimedia paean to human aspiration.” In 2016, The New York Times praised Anna Akhmatova: The Heart Is Not Made of Stone as “…engrossing…gorgeous,” and with “…rapturous accounts of Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff and Shostakovich…muscularity and shimmering lyricism of its music, so reflective of the Russian character.”
Ensemble for the Romantic Century, now in its sixteenth season, was founded by pianist Eve Wolf in 2001, with the intention of creating an engaging and innovative approach to chamber music concerts. ERC’s stellar team includes Eve Wolf, Executive Artistic Director and fellow-pianist; Max Barros, co-Artistic Director; James Melo, Musicologist; Donald T. Sanders, Director of Theatrical Production; Vanessa James, Production Designer; Beverly Emmons, Lighting Designer; and David Bengali, Projection Designer, as well as a roster of some of the finest actors and musicians active today. ERC’s theatrical concerts interweave letters, memoirs, diaries, poems, and other literature with chamber and vocal music; the music’s historical context is reinforced through its connections with history, politics, philosophy, psychology, and the other arts to create a compelling new performance experience.
ERC has, to date, created over 40 original theatrical concerts. ERC has partnered with or performed at such institutions as BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music); Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, MA; The Jewish Museum of New York; the Archivio Fano of Venice, Italy; the Festival de Musique de Chambre Montréal; theMassachusetts International Festival of the Arts/MIFA; the French Institute-Alliance Française/FIAF, New York; the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies at Columbia University; the Italian Cultural Institute of New York; and the City University of New York (CUNY). Since 2007, ERC has been a musicological affiliate in residence at the Barry S. Brook Center for Music Research and Documentation at the CUNY Graduate Center, where ERC has established an annual series of interdisciplinary seminars for each of the Ensemble’s concerts. The seminar series is now officially recognized as one of the academic projects of the Barry S. Brook Center for Music Research and Documentation. ERC’s artistic excellence has been recognized through professional performance grants from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA). These grants are a testimony to the growing recognition of the Ensemble as one of the most innovative chamber music groups in New York.
ERC’S PROGRAMS ARE DISTINGUISHED BY THEIR ARTISTIC EXCELLENCE, BREADTH OF REPERTOIRE, AND VARIETY OF SUBJECT MATTER.
Highlights of ERC’s past fifteen seasons include: Seduction, Smoke and Music: The Love Story of Chopin and George Sand (2010-2011 season), a theatrical concert written and conceived by Ensemble for the Romantic Century and Barrett Wissman, Executive Producer, Barrett Wissman and IMG Artists was performed in Italy at The Tuscan Sun Festival, with Hollywood superstar Jeremy Irons as Chopin and Sinéad Cusack as George Sand, and with ballet greats Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky of American Ballet Theater. This same production was featured in the Festival del Solein Napa Valley on July 19th, 2012.
ERC opened its 2013-2014 season with Tchaikovsky: None but the Lonely Heart at BAM Fisher Theater after a critically acclaimed summer debut of the same production at Shakespeare & Company’s Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre in Lenox, MA. This season was concluded with widely praised performances of The Trial of Oscar Wildeat Symphony Space, with Musical America praising it as “one of the best chamber-music concerts I heard this season… thoroughly entertaining.” ERC’s 2012-2013 sesason, Monsters, featured performances of Jekyll & Hyde, Dracula, and Frankenstein, explorations of the famed 19th century novels paired with dramatic music.
ERC extended its interdisciplinary scope in the 2009-2010 season, Artists in Exile, with the presentation at Columbia University’s Italian Academy of a Toscanini mini-festival that included a performance of Toscanini: In my Heart too Much of the Absolute, a CUNY seminar with distinguished author and Toscanini biographer Harvey Sachs, and a preview showing of the documentary film Toscanini in His Own Words. This production was then performed to a sold-out audience in the Sale Apollinee at Venice’s historic Teatro La Fenice, with an Italian script and Italian actors.
In the 2007-08 season, Imaginings, ERC embarked on a revealing journey through the imaginations of four writers, with The Sorrows of Young Werther (Goethe), Tolstoy’s Last Days (Tolstoy), Herself to Her a Music (Emily Dickinson), and Jules Verne: From the Earth to the Moon, a large multimedia production that incorporated video design.
In its sixth season, The Paris Project, ERC created a series of four theatrical concerts that evoked the artistic, literary, and political changes that electrified Paris at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. In The Dreyfus Affair, ERC created a large political and musical canvas with seven actors and seven musicians, contrasting the bohemian and ebullient world evoked in Satie: Bohemian from Montmartre. The season ended with a gala performance, at Florence Gould Hall, New York, of Peggy Guggenheim Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, a complex multimedia theatrical concert with music from the 1920’s through the 1980’s. This production was a collaboration with the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts/MIFA and the French Institute-Alliance Française/FIAF, New York.
In 2005, ERC completed a commission by the Jewish Museum in New York for a production based on the famous Sonntagsmusik salons of Fanny Mendelssohn. The concert, Fanny Mendelssohn: Out of Her Brother’s Shadow, was related to the Jewish Museum’s exhibition The Power of Conversation, showcasing female salonnières from the 18th through the 20th centuries; ERC also served as music consultant for the exhibition. Van Gogh’s Ear, an ERC collaboration with The French Institute-Alliance Française/FIAF, the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts/MIFA, and the Festival de Musique de Chambre Montréal, was performed at Florence Gould Hall, New York, and then in both French and English in Montreal, where it received international acclaim. Strad Magazinehailed the production as “the most intriguing and successful program of the entire festival.” In 2004, the Ensemble presented The Young Arthur Rubinstein at the Arthur Rubinstein Hall in São Paulo, Brazil during the Eleazar de Carvalho Week, to overwhelming success. In the spring of 2004, Schubert’s Dream was performed while ERC was in residence at Williams College in Massachusetts.
In its relatively short history, the Ensemble for the Romantic Century has enriched the music scene with highly innovative productions that are also historically informed, aesthetically exquisite, and emotionally transporting.