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Hershey Felder's latest in a string of successful one-man shows

Tchaikovsky at San Diego Repertory Theatre

Hershey Felder as Leonard Bernstein.
Hershey Felder as Leonard Bernstein.

The music of Tchaikovsky has long been a favorite of everybody except the most obtuse of emotional constitution. He, along with Puccini, is the master emoter.

Video:

Beethoven, As I Knew Him

...at the Cleveland Play House

...at the Cleveland Play House

Whereas Puccini was almost exclusively a composer of opera, Tchaikovsky emoted across all idioms of classical composition from the chamber to the concert hall to the opera stage to the ballet.

Hershey Felder is similar to Tchaikovsky in that he also excels in a broad range of related areas. He is a concert pianist, playwright, actor, arranger, and composer. Felder has dramatized the life and music of George Gershwin, Chopin, Beethoven, Leonard Bernstein, Liszt, Irving Berlin, and now Tchaikovsky.

Our Great Tchaikovsky is receiving its world premiere at the San Diego Repertory Theater. Previews start on January 12, 8:00 PM. The performances are at Horton Plaza’s Lyceum Theater.

I met up with Mr. Felder during a break at the theater. We sat and chatted as the crew continued working on the set and lighting in the background.

The obvious question is why Tchaikovsky?

“I always wanted to do a Russian [composer] because I’m first generation North American [Felder was born in Canada and now lives in New York and Paris]. I’ve got Russian blood, Polish blood, Hungarian blood, Romanian blood, and god knows what the hell else but I grew up surrounded by Russians. Who knew that I would choose to do a Russian composer and the whole world say, ‘Ah Felder is doing A Russian composer. We need to make everything about Russia?’

What’s going on in the world is scary. I don’t want to say it is fortuitous that our play and its material are lining up world events because I don’t think there is anything fortuitous about what’s going on. What I do think is that it’s scary that the world is lining up. You’d think that a lot of this stuff would have been left in the 19th Century. Nope.

You read crazy things everyday. The truth has nothing to do with it anymore--which is essentially what this play is about. You know Tchaikovsky has to live in this untruth his entire life. He didn’t want anyone to talk about his personal business. He had to live in this untruth and be ashamed of it. He brought that out in his music and we are the beneficiaries.”

In light of current events I wanted to know how political Tchaikovsky was.

He couldn’t stand the Tsar really but he was quiet about it. He was not political in that he was interested in the law and government. I mean he got of the school of jurisprudence. He did what he was told to try to be a good boy but in terms of being political — look here was someone who was clearly a gay man but felt he had to get married because he was frightened. I don’t know how terrified you could be to not even stay single but to get married. The marriage was too hard — she was nuts. Had she been a caring wife who really saw value in his music, who really loved him and all that then maybe it would have been a relationship of platonic caring — he had that with his patroness Nadezhda von Meck so he was able to make a relationship with a woman work and he was able to emote with her. I believe he was a homosexual man in a time when you couldn’t be that without serious retributions. Lord knows our country is trying to go in that direction again.”

Our Great Tchaikovsky runs through February 12.

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“I needed to provoke myself to throw up five minutes before our set time.”
Hershey Felder as Leonard Bernstein.
Hershey Felder as Leonard Bernstein.

The music of Tchaikovsky has long been a favorite of everybody except the most obtuse of emotional constitution. He, along with Puccini, is the master emoter.

Video:

Beethoven, As I Knew Him

...at the Cleveland Play House

...at the Cleveland Play House

Whereas Puccini was almost exclusively a composer of opera, Tchaikovsky emoted across all idioms of classical composition from the chamber to the concert hall to the opera stage to the ballet.

Hershey Felder is similar to Tchaikovsky in that he also excels in a broad range of related areas. He is a concert pianist, playwright, actor, arranger, and composer. Felder has dramatized the life and music of George Gershwin, Chopin, Beethoven, Leonard Bernstein, Liszt, Irving Berlin, and now Tchaikovsky.

Our Great Tchaikovsky is receiving its world premiere at the San Diego Repertory Theater. Previews start on January 12, 8:00 PM. The performances are at Horton Plaza’s Lyceum Theater.

I met up with Mr. Felder during a break at the theater. We sat and chatted as the crew continued working on the set and lighting in the background.

The obvious question is why Tchaikovsky?

“I always wanted to do a Russian [composer] because I’m first generation North American [Felder was born in Canada and now lives in New York and Paris]. I’ve got Russian blood, Polish blood, Hungarian blood, Romanian blood, and god knows what the hell else but I grew up surrounded by Russians. Who knew that I would choose to do a Russian composer and the whole world say, ‘Ah Felder is doing A Russian composer. We need to make everything about Russia?’

What’s going on in the world is scary. I don’t want to say it is fortuitous that our play and its material are lining up world events because I don’t think there is anything fortuitous about what’s going on. What I do think is that it’s scary that the world is lining up. You’d think that a lot of this stuff would have been left in the 19th Century. Nope.

You read crazy things everyday. The truth has nothing to do with it anymore--which is essentially what this play is about. You know Tchaikovsky has to live in this untruth his entire life. He didn’t want anyone to talk about his personal business. He had to live in this untruth and be ashamed of it. He brought that out in his music and we are the beneficiaries.”

In light of current events I wanted to know how political Tchaikovsky was.

He couldn’t stand the Tsar really but he was quiet about it. He was not political in that he was interested in the law and government. I mean he got of the school of jurisprudence. He did what he was told to try to be a good boy but in terms of being political — look here was someone who was clearly a gay man but felt he had to get married because he was frightened. I don’t know how terrified you could be to not even stay single but to get married. The marriage was too hard — she was nuts. Had she been a caring wife who really saw value in his music, who really loved him and all that then maybe it would have been a relationship of platonic caring — he had that with his patroness Nadezhda von Meck so he was able to make a relationship with a woman work and he was able to emote with her. I believe he was a homosexual man in a time when you couldn’t be that without serious retributions. Lord knows our country is trying to go in that direction again.”

Our Great Tchaikovsky runs through February 12.

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