‘Divine Fire’, created by actress Susan Porrett, with music performed by pianist Viv McLean, is a biographical journey in words and music through the lives of Fryderyk Chopin and authoress George Sand, focusing on the period of their first encounter in Paris up to Chopin’s final days. Theirs was a tumultuous love story, stormy and passionate, which continues to fascinate and enthrall today. The story-telling and readings are interspersed with performances of some of Chopin’s best-loved works for piano, including Nocturnes, Ballades, Polonaises, and the iconic Fantasie-Impromptu Op 66.
I asked Susan Porrett to explain what makes the story of Chopin and Sand so compelling for her, and how ‘Divine Fire’ came to be created:
What interests and excites you about the story of Chopin and Sand?
The lives of the two lovers were so full and rich in incident – my challenge was to distil the essence of their complex relationship into ‘Divine Fire’.
I found the writing of it very absorbing, and most of all I enjoyed reading George Sand’s lively and interesting letters to a variety of friends and selecting passages from her beautiful descriptions of Majorca.
What makes the relationship and correspondence between Chopin and George Sand so fascinating?
From its tender and romantic beginning to its unhappy ending, their nine-year relationship grips the imagination. Sadly, for Chopin, the nature of George Sand’s love for him gradually changed whilst his did not; they grew apart and their affair ended in bitterness and recrimination. After Chopin’s death, almost all of George’s letters to him were given back to her and she destroyed them; one or two of his to her survived – the last one he wrote to her is included in ‘Divine Fire’.
What is it like working with Viv McLean?
Working with Viv McLean is a joy and a privilege. The first concert we did together was ‘Touches of Sweet Harmony’ – a tribute to Shakespeare in words and music. Apart from his great talent, he is so modest and sympathetic. It was, in fact, the wonderful feeling that Viv brings to his playing of Chopin that inspired me to devise ‘Divine Fire’.
‘Divine Fire’ will be performed at St Mary’s Perivale on Sunday 13th October before touring the north of England. Full details here
My review of ‘Divine Fire’ at Bridport Arts Centre
Viv McLean was the first recital I ever attended, at the Purcell Room at the Southbank Centre, probably 15 years ago…
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