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Debussy - a bohemian life of scandal, charm and wit

By: stagedoorscribbler - March 9, 2018

Liza Goddard and Robert Powell

Much loved actors Robert Powell and Liza Goddard head for the Codsall Arts festival on Sunday 18th February to present A Passionate Life  which celebrates the extraordinary life and times of the composer Claude Debussy.

Originally staged in 2012 to mark his 150th anniversary, the evening reveals a man who was a revolutionary genius, who lived for love, and attracted drama and scandal wherever he went. It is now the centenary of Debussy’s death and is still proving as popular and ever.

Charismatic, fascinating, outrageously unconventional, Debussy possessed great charm and wit. He was a true Bohemian, equally at home in the lowlife nightclubs of Montmartre as in the aristocratic salons of Parisian Society. 

In an afternoon performance of A Passionate Life Robert and Liza present Debussy’s turbulent times through his own brilliantly vivid, sometimes moving, often humorous writings.

There are also the thoughts and observations of fellow artists and musicians, the words of friends (and enemies!) interwoven with musical interludes which feature Christine Croshaw, who devised the piece, playing the piano and Clive Conway playing the flute. It was first performed at the Yehudi Menuhin School.

We hear of the unfortunate women who were bewitched by this strange and complex man. Debussy’s passionate life was punctuated by  shootings, attempted suicide, adultery, public scandal! Throughout it all flowed the inspired music which shocked the Establishment with its sensuality and daring harmonic language. And how this quixotic genius loved to shock Parisian Society! His wicked sense of humour, and delight in poking fun, is wonderfully revealed in his own words. 

Speaking of one society lady who sang his songs, he remarked:    

“She sings like a locomotive in distress, but her buttered scones are marvellous!”

And after hearing a performance of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, he commented:  

“Weingartner conducted with the care of a conscientious gardener, tidying up the music so neatly. To gaze at the sunrise is more profitable  than to listen to the Pastoral Symphony.”

He dismissed concert-hall audiences as being so hostile and ashen-faced with “boredom, indifference, and even stupidity?” Writing to his wife he described Vienna as “a raddled old city” and complained that in Budapest “the River Danube refuses to be as blue as a certain famous waltz maintains it is. The Hungarians are all liars, but charming!  But I brought back some marvellous chocolates......”

*For more information about A Passionate Life - the Life and Times of Claude Debussy with Robert Powell and Liza Goddard which plays the Codsall Arts Festival at 2.00pm on Sunday go to