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Calendar >  San Diego Repertory’s Anna & Sergei

San Diego Repertory’s Anna & Sergei

By   /  May 18, 2021  /  No Comments


Live from Florence Filled with Beautiful Music and the Mystery of Anastasia Romanov

Sergei Rachmaninoff

TR Robertson -The latest online play from the San Diego Repertory Theatre is another outstanding dramatic and music filled presentation from the incomparable Hershey Felder. This time Felder presents the beautiful piano sounds of Sergei Rachmaninoff telling the story of his life, wrapped around his burning desire to maintain some tie to his country of birth and a mysterious connection to a woman claiming to be the surviving daughter of the last Tsar of Russia.

Felder wrote and directed the performance, along with Stefano Decarli. An amazing array of period costumes was put together by Giulia DeRenzo and Lorenna Vedelago. Felder plays all the Rachmaninoff piano numbers, accompanied on several by the I Musicisti Fiorentini Orchestra under the direction of Concertmaster Pietro Horvath.

As the play opens, Rachmaninoff is on his death bed in his home in Beverly Hills, California, dying from melanoma, being administered morphine by Doctor Golitzin, played by Igor Polesitsky, and Nurse Olga Mordovskaya, played by Erika Bendersky. By is side is his wife Natalia Alexandrovna Rachmaninoff, played by Ekaterina Siurina. As the morphine sets in, we visualize Rachmaninoff fingering as if playing the piano. We then see him in a dream state playing the piano as Tsar Nicholas II, played by J. Anthony Crane, listens. The story begins as Sergei begins to tell of his beginning love of piano, his less than desirable family life, describing his father as a “skirt chaser and gambler”. Sergie and the Tsar walk through the home, through gardens and into a church. He speaks of his early influences, his respect for Tchaikovsky, the cruel instructor he had at the Moscow Conservatory he attended at age 19, his first Symphony he wrote at age 24 that was critically ridiculed and the depression this brought on. He also talked about the time he felt like he had a family when his aunt and uncle took him in. To try and lift Sergei out of his depression, his aunt sent him to a hypnotist. All of this is done while various Felder presents several of Rachmaninoff’s piano works. By age 28, he had written Symphony No. 2 in 1901, which was enthusiastically received, and his name was established as a significant composer. Until he fled Russia in 1917, he would remain at the Bolshoi Theatre as its composer.

Hershey Felder as Rachmaninoff and J. Anthony Crane as Tsar Nicholas II

Rachmaninoff’s relationship with the Tsar becomes strained as he speaks harshly to him about his politics, his mobilization of the army and war with Germany, ignoring the citizens of Russia and the poverty many were living in, the killing of citizens by the army in 1917 and the Russian Revolution that ensued led by the Bolsheviks, leading to the Tsar and his family’s imprisonment and eventual death. He also chastises the Tsar for Rachmaninoff having to hide out in the country and then in Moscow and the burning of his home, Ivanovka, and the beautiful gardens he loved.

We hear the story of Rachmaninoff’s escape to Scandinavia, eventually ending up in New York City in 1918. While one of his compositions is playing, a series of vintage black & white film appears showing some of the devastating scenes of the Revolution, firing squads, Lenin and then an imagined sentence and execution of the Tsar, his wife and children as ordered by the Ural Executive Committee.

Hershey Felder as Sergei Rachmaninoff and Ekaterina Siurina as Natalia

The next phase of the musical drama centers around the story of Rachmaninoff in the United States. To keep his family living in the upper middle-class style they were used to, he would tour constantly between 1918 almost up until his death in 1943. During this time, he would only produce 6 pieces of music. We also hear of his contact with a woman he hoped would be the missing Anastasia Romanov, as rumors had been circulated that she might have somehow escaped the fate of the rest of her family. An interesting dinner scene appears where Sergei and his wife are invited to Oyster Bay, New York, to dine with the family who claims Anna, played by Helen Farrel, is indeed alive. Rachmaninoff hopes the girl is the real Anastasia, but there are several issues that makes him doubt she is. He tells us about her eventual stay in a Sanatorium in Germany.

We also hear about a home Rachmaninoff built in Lucerne, Switzerland, called Senar, with gardens to remind him of his Russian home and his encounter at the Disney Studios when one of his compositions was used for a Mickey Mouse cartoon. The end of the production also lets the viewer know about two discoveries in 1991 and 2007 that could answer questions about the Romanov family’s end.

The Romanov Family for the Felder presentation

This Hershey Felder production is set in beautiful locations, period piece appropriate props, decorations and costumes. A large cast assists in playing the Romanov family, guests at the dinner party, Theatre patrons, Bolsheviks, Mourners and others.

The online streaming will be available until May 23rd. contact San Diego Rep at www.SDRep.org or call 619-544-1000 to order or for more information.


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