Fidelio teams with Lynn Redgrave to tell historical story through music

Lisa Gomez

Simplicity encompassed every aspect of Fidelio’s “Sisters of the Garden: A Portrait of the Mendelssohn and Boulanger Sisters” concert held in the packed Buckman Theater last week; except the talent. Only a spotlight, a music stand and piano were needed to serve as the set for the star of the show, Lynn Redgrave, who lit up the stage with humorous yet magnetically powerful acting.

The free performance, open to the public, was a biographical historical drama that delved and explored the lives of two highly musical families and the relationships between sisters Fanny and Rebekka Mendelssohn and Nadia and Lili Boulanger. Critically acclaimed actress, two-time Golden Globe winner, and Emmy and Tony Award nominee Lynn Redgrave portrayed all four women separately in four increments. Each woman is at a very different stage in their life during the performance. Fanny,41, and Rebekka, 36, live in Berlin while Lili, 24, and Nadia at age 92 reside in Paris.

Redgrave prepared thoroughly for her roles, explaining to the audience how she acquired the performance’s dialects. “The accents are very tricky (French and German) so I had a session with a dialect coach and we worked out kind of a different quality for each of the people because there is nothing else really to show except for a little bit of body language and expressions and I recorded my notes for the different accents on tape and I would drive around and work at it. Once I found the different qualities of the characters voices it all sort of came together,” Redgrave said.

Redgrave flawlessly narrated the story as musical numbers written by the Boulanger’s and Fanny Mandelssohn were performed beautifully by Fidelio cellist and artistic director Harry Clark and pianist Sanda Schuldmann.

The Fidelio Series which performs classical music in innovated ways was co-founded by Clark and Schuldmann and is in its 11th season at Quinnipiac.

“The Fidelio series is overseen by the college of liberal arts and Harry Clark who, as the cellist, is the creative force behind Fidelio and he has a tremendous number of connections in the arts community so he is very good at nabbing famous people to get them to come in and do these kinds of things. He happened to have the opportunity to get Lynn Redgrave and it was really wonderful,” David Valone, Director of the Liberal Arts Cultural Programming at Quinnipiac said, of the university’s Artsists-in-Residence.

The concert was enjoyed by the many that attended.

“I think she [Redgrave] is a very fine actress and the compositions were lulling and played beautifully and I love music,” Caroline Richmond Reed, United Nations representative and Hamden resident, said.

Barbara Simmons, a sophomore veterinary technology major who learned about the concert through her church community that Redgrave is also a part of, echoed Reed’s sentiments.

“I absolutely loved it the performance it was fantastic. At first, the piece is difficult to follow with [Redgrave] doing the vocal and then the others playing the music, but you soon get used to it,” Simmons said.

Redgrave greeted fans after the show to autograph the book she co-wrote with her daughter “Journal: A Mother and Daughter’s Recovery from Breast Cancer.” The performer found it easy to enjoy herself during the Quinnipiac performance, and appreciated the intimacy of the venue.

“I love theater, and there is something special about this cozy little venue because you really feel in touch with the audience here,” Redgrave said.