Marianne and Willoughby
“I find Haydn’s music to be too formulaic.”
“Ah, but he is the father of the string quartet.”
This brief exchange between Marianne and Willoughby in the Old Globe’s Sense and Sensibility sealed the deal.
I’ve been waiting for what feels like an eternity for a new musical that has some intellectual rigor. The wait is over. Sense and Sensibility was the show I’d been waiting for.
It’s not that other shows haven’t tried to be intelligent it’s that they were trying to be intelligent. Sense and Sensibility need not try. It is effortlessly intelligent in the way an upstanding member of that society should be.
How can I claim effortlessness? That little line exchange about Haydn runs deeper than we realize.
First of all, it’s true. Haydn is the father of the string quartet, and his music does trend toward the formulaic.
Yet why would these characters be speaking of Haydn as they enter the scene?
In 1791, Haydn premiered the first of his London Symphonies. Haydn was brought to London by an expatriate German named Salomon. Salomon’s tombstone in Westminster Abbey states, “He brought Haydn to London in 1791 and 1794.”
Haydn’s impact upon English society was significant enough to warrant being mentioned on the tombstone of the impresario who arranged. According to haydn107.com, “An enormous uproar was caused by the fact that during a royal court ball at St. James’s Palace, Haydn was greeted by the Prince of Wales with a noticeable bow.”
I’m making a big deal out of two lines that exist only in passing, but I’m doing it to illustrate the point that the creator of this Sense and Sensibility musical, Paul Gordon, knows his stuff.
This was evident throughout the entire show as references to Voltaire, Rousseau, Byron, Shelley, and the like all felt as if the characters actually knew what they were referencing as opposed to actors saying the names of people they may have heard of but don’t understand.