Bette & Martin Out On The Town

Fox News (ick!)
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
By Roger Friedman

Sting & Trudie: Mad About You, Literally

Yes, that was Bette Midler, who’s so very tiny, sneaking into the New Victory Theater last night with husband Martin von Hasselberg. (Their 19-year-old daughter is away at college, so they’re free to enjoy this type of evening.) They’d come to see rock star/actor Sting and his glamorous wife/actress/producer/activist Trudie Styler in a one off performance of “Twin Spirits.”

British director John Caird fashioned this evening with Sting and Trudie reading letters of Robert and Clara Schumann while a narrator – last night, Jonathan Pryce – guides the audience and a group of musicians plays Schumann’s music. Last night’s show was to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

In June, Trudie and Sting will recreate the evening to benefit more causes in a performance at Windsor Castle. Ian McKellen will take over from Pryce. Many royals will be in attendance, but no Bette Midler. She’s our kind of benign ruler.

In case you don’t know, Robert Schumann was a very famous classical German composer who was born in 1810. He and his wife, Clara, a famous pianist, had a tempestuous, sensational marriage that ended abruptly when Schumann died at age 40 in 1856 – probably of syphilis. He was already mad as a hatter, having tried to kill himself by jumping in the Rhine. Clara had a relationship with Johannes Brahms (you know him, he wrote the Lullaby) that has never been quite explained.

The whole of “Twin Souls” was an unexpectedly moving and well-produced piece. I’m sorry no one filmed it; it would be perfect for PBS. Sting and Trudie were sort of like the hip version of Robert Wagner and Jill St. John, who often perform the less sophisticated “Love Letters” around the country.

The old adage is that couples either have chemistry on or off stage, but never both. Trudie and Sting are the exception to the rule. They caused quite a nice buzz in character, Trudie especially embodying Clara Schumann’s grace as she must come to understand her husband’s madness. She imbued the part with disarming elegance. Sting played off her with a combination of growing distance and a kind of sadness as Schumann realizes his days are numbered.

The music was provided by a group of classical singers and musicians that featured Joshua Bell on violin, Jeremy Denk and Natasha Paremski on dueling pianos, and Alisa Weilerstein on cello. Caird didn’t have much time to prepare, but his lighting and staging made for a very enticing tableau. Again, it would be a shame if they all didn’t reconvene one more time and commit this unusual project to tape or film.

After the show, I did manage to coax away the binder from which Sting read Schumann’s letters as developed by Caird. And what did I find? All through the script, Sting had corrected the misspellings in the text. He actually scrawled the word “spelling” several times as an admonishment. Once an English teacher, you know, always an English teacher.

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