Anna Goldsworthy’s memoir Piano Lessons comes to life in an intimate and candid sharing of her personal story for the stage. Goldsworthy, a renowned international piano soloists and chamber musician, worked with award winning director and dramaturge Michael Futcher to adapt her critically acclaimed work. The result is a delicate and touching performance with much of the story telling reverberating through Goldsworthy’s piano solos, which includes pieces from Chopin, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. It is through these composers and under the mentorship of her enigmatic Russian piano teacher Mrs Sivan, played by actress Caroline Kennison that we see Goldsworthy learn about the enchanting power music has to put into the world what is almost impossible to express with language. In Mrs Sivan’s insightful words, “Music is logically created fantasy.”
Caroline Kennison’s performance as Mrs Sivan never falters and she not only teaches a young Anna from the age of 9 onwards to her early adult years she also imparts her wisdom to the audience. Kennison eases her way through the entire show not once dropping her Russian accent and is a delight to watch as she embodies Mrs Sivan’s fortitude, earthy physicality, generous spirit and obvious passion for music and life. There is a wonderful balance maintained throughout the piece as the often deep life messages given from Mrs Sivan are countered by the comical asides that are the voices of Anna’s family members, also performed by Caroline Kennison.
The memoir is performed in two acts with Goldsworthy and her impressive grand piano centre stage in close proximity to the audience inside the Cremorne Theatre. Toward the end of act one as Anna is learning, “...philosophy and life and music digested.” she captivates the audience with a tender and joyful performance of Schubert’s Impromptu in A-Flat Major Op. 90. The audience is privileged once again before the end of the first act with a flight-full and jubilant performance of Rigoletto Paraphrase from Liszt after Verdi.
In the second act the energy lifts and Anna becomes closer to fulfilling her dreams. We witness her stumble but regain her composure as she recreates her first ever performance alongside a symphony orchestra, a frank insight into how daunting it must feel to be on stage and perform on such a large scale. Towards the end of the act Chopin’s Funeral March is performed with an elegant poignancy that parallels Mrs Sivan’s decline in health. To conclude the memoir Anna softly speaks to the new life growing inside her, “Let me tell you story.” and performs Chopin’s Nocturne in D-Flat Major, Op. 27 No.2.
There is much to be greatly admired in Piano Lessons, Anna Goldsworthy’s sublime piano performances and Caroline Kennison’s fine acting. This Queensland Music Festival world premier is a piece that transports the audience emotionally with honesty and humour through a musical landscape of light and shade, sound and silence into the childhood and continuing life story of Anna Goldsworthy. It is, however, more than a memoir; it is a tribute of gratitude to the gifted piano teacher Mrs Sivan.
Queensland Music Festival presents
Featuring Anna Goldsworthy and Caroline Kennison
Director Michael Futcher
Venue: Cremorne Theatre, QPAC, South Bank, Brisbane
Dates: 26 – 30 Jul 2011