Nanovic Fellow brings "Pierrot Lunaire" to film

Author: Anthony Monta

Georgine Resick as Pierrot
Photo Credit: Frederick Hohman

Thanks to Nanovic Fellow Georgine Resick (Professor of Voice), Arnold Schoenberg’s innovative and arresting melodrama, Pierrot lunaire (1912), is now available on high-definition Blu-ray and DVD for the first time as a visual performance.

See the premiere of Pierrot lunaire on Sunday, February 22

A pivotal work in the history of European chamber music, Schoenberg’s setting of twenty-one poems by Belgian poet Albert Giraud renders the breakdown of a comical harlequin (Pierrot). Rendered in Sprechgesang half-way between speech and melody, Pierrot is accompanied by an unusual combination of instruments. Surreal, dissonant, tuneful, the music predates Schoenberg’s ground-breaking compositional techniques, but its sense of comedy tipping inexorably into violence and madness anticipates the descent of European culture into the destruction of the First World War.

Over a hundred years after its debut, Resick and her colleagues presented Pierrot on stage at Notre Dame in 2014. The ensemble was conducted by maestro Tsung Yeh and featured Karen Buranskas (cello), Nanovic Fellow John Blacklow (piano), Amanda Grimm (vioin, viola), Jason Gresl (clarinet, bass clarinet), and Scott Metlicka (flute, piccolo). The quality of the performance and the lack of any visual recording of Schoenberg’s work engaged the interest of Frederick Hohman, producer and engineer of Pro Organo, a CD and film label. Filmed in Leighton Concert Hall at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center at Notre Dame, Pierrot was a challenge to realize visually. Says Resick:

“We recorded audio tracks of each movement before moving on to coordinating music with film (on six different cameras).  The music of every movement was recorded live, giving us the opportunity to patch in audio from previous tracks should something go awry in a video take. This meant the post-production editing process - pulling material from any one of dozens of takes for a given musical/video passage - was long and arduous, but I believe resulted in a successfully even film.”

Professor Resick made her operatic debut in Massenet’s Werther and has sung a wide variety of roles for soprano in performances at the Vienna State Opera, the Chicago Lyric Opera, the Paris Opera, and in festivals in Salzburg, Edinburgh, and Lucerne. She has made international award-winning recordings and been the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, including Notre Dame’s Joyce Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2011.

The disc is interspersed with commentary by Joseph Auner (Tufts University) and by the musicians themselves. The liner notes also feature an essay about Pierrot by Nanovic Fellow Susan Youens, the J. W. Van Gorkom Professor of Music at Notre Dame, who has published extensively on the songs of Franz Schubert and Hugo Wolf.

This project was supported financially by the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, the Department of Music, and the Nanovic Institute for European Studies.

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