Ensemble for the Romantic Century

Photo from RomanticCentury posted on OpeningNight.Online
Courtesy RomanticCentury.org

Tonight’s virtual event host, Tiffany Parnes, opened up the program with welcomes and an introduction of Donald T. Sanders, Director of Theatrical Production for the Ensemble for the Romantic Century (ERC). Sanders is our emcee for this evening’s soiree.

The term “soiree” immediately references the famous gatherings Gertrude Stein hosted in Paris (1874-1946), where she entertained the likes of Pablo Picasso, George Braque, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Behind the Scenes

Sanders explained that in tonight’s virtual space, we shall experience a “behind-and-in-the-scenes” showing of work of the past year and previews of what is to come in the development of ERC’s Radio Drama Series. He drew attention to ERC productions, including one themed on the life of Frederick Douglas, Jules Verne: From the Earth to the Moon, and Tchaikovsky: None but the Lonely Heart. He emphasized the critical role of music in these dramatic productions as part of the aural composition of voice, character, drama, and prose.

The Music

Music is carefully selected to support the import of the audio dramas. We see this in the Jules Verne piece, where the music of composers Ernest Chausson, Stephen Foster, Louis Moreau Gottschalk, and Cécile Chaminade are featured.


We listened to a selection from the audio drama Tchaikovsky: None but the Lonely Heart, starring Steven Fry and Vanessa Redgrave. Fry and Redgrave and the music, of course, are sublime. This production focuses on Tchaikovsky and his relationship with his eccentric patron, Baroness Nadezhda von Meck. The drama is developed from letters between Tchaikovsky and von Meck and lends insights into Tchaikovsky’s struggles as a composer. We discover that with von Meck’s financial support, Tchaikovsky could resign from his professorship at the Moscow Conservatory to immerse himself full-time in music composition. We may not discover why Tchaikovsky and von Meck chose never to meet, but it’s certainly clear why the composer dedicated his fourth symphony to her.

To understand the pathos and power of Tchaikovsky’s artistic spirit, listen to his profoundly beautiful and sad “None but the Lonely Heart” from the last of his six songs for voice and piano, Op. 6 (1869). Tchaikovsky dedicated the piece to Alina Khvostova, and Russian mezzo-soprano Yelizaveta Lavrovskaya performed its 1970 premiere.  Here is a link to a marvelous performance by Olga Boradina, accompanied by Larissa Gergieva.

Jules Verne: From the Earth to the Moon

Next was a sizzle piece from the Jules Verne production. Nellie Bly (Meghan Picerno) of the Herald Tribute was to transverse the world in 80 days as a stunt. Bly set aside three hours from her trip to meet in Paris with the Vernes who had inspired her passage.

Tschaikowsky between ca. 1915-1920, Bain News Service. Public Domain

Tschaikowsky between ca. 1915-1920, Bain News Service. Public Domain

Actors Thibault Montalembert and Hélène Babu appeared online from Paris to speak of their part in the Jules Verne production as Jules and Honorine Verne. They spoke of their experience of recording the audio drama, free from the demands of visual drama and able to focus on the voice and sound. They recorded the work in a studio in the Paris San Germain district, where many jazz artists have recorded. St. Germain is the apposite artistic destination, a place filled with the spirits of Ernest Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoirall, Samuel Beckett, and Alberto Giacometti.

Meghan Picerno spoke of her experience in the Jules Verne audio drama from the perspective of playing the role of Nelly Bly. Picerno described her affinity with Bly and their common thirst for adventure. Picerno enjoyed collaborating with the European actors on this project as she opined on the romance and excitement of traveling to new places and meeting new people.

JulesVerne, portrait by Jules Calaretie 1883. Public Domain

JulesVerne, portrait by Jules Calaretie 1883. Public Domain

Audio producer Sue Zizza reemphasized how the dramas contain music to support a virtual world in which the characters live and thrive.


The audience experienced a segment of “The Slave” from The Fifth of July set from a major speech by Frederick Douglas. The preview included a recording of orchestral and choral music from “I Don’t Have a Gun, Stop Shooting” from Seven Songs of the Unarmed. The Fifth of July is planned for release in November 2022.

The upcoming productions’ themes are exciting and include foci on poet Emily Dickinson, conductor Arturo Toscanini, and Ludwig van Beethoven’s music and relationship with his nephew Karl. Each topic and character presents opportunities for artistically and intellectually rich, engaging, entertaining, thought-provoking, and diverse audience experiences.

An exciting upcoming audio drama season is planned for both live audiences and live-streaming productions. The RomanticCenter.Org also offers a free seminar series.

Ensemble for the Romantic Century




Readers may also enjoy our reviews of Love by Mastervoices, Art for the Sake of Art, Arthur Rubenstein performs the Larghetto from Chopin’s F minor Piano ConcertoFlight by Mastervoices, and Within Earshot: Anthems for the In-Between.

Ensemble for the Romantic Century


Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

More to explore...

The home of Electric Lemon at 33 Hudson Yards, New York NY. Photo by Sora Vernikoff

Electric Lemon at Hudson Yards

The Electric Lemon restaurant is located at the top of the five-star Equinox Hotel in Hudson Yards. The rooftop bar boasts an 8,000-square-foot rooftop garden with a monumental Jaume Plensa sculpture. It overlooks the Hudson River and the city skyline. They possess a wide range of food and drinks, from light bites to seasonal offerings at dinner and rooftop brunch on the weekends. It’s open all year round because of the sleek and expansive dining room and fire-pits on the al fresco terrace.

Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Photo from the official trailer. Public Domain

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

I suppose that the title of my blog post, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, is a little misleading because it turned out to be Dinner at Tiffany’s, or more accurately, Dinner at the Blue Box Café. This Cafe honors the romance of the 1961 film starring Audrey Hepburn. Tiffany’s of course was the romantic setting where the lovely Audrey Hepburn went each morning with a pastry and cup of coffee to have breakfast as she window shopped. You might add Breakfast at Tiffany’s to your movie viewing list if you’ve missed it. The song Moon River will have new meaning for you!

Josie de Guzman at The Green Room 42. Photo by Edward Kliszus

Josie de Guzman at The Green Room 42

Two-time Tony Award nominee Josie de Guzman performed her show “Back Where I Started” and enthralled listeners at The Green Room 42.The enchanting and vivacious de Guzman performed a musical biopic of her remarkable stage career. She spoke of the many fellow luminaries with whom she performed and collaborated. The amazing list includes Leonard Bernstein, Nathan Lane, Arthur Laurents, Jerome Robbins, Alan Jay Lerner, and Burton Lane, to name a few.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x