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Opus d’Amour And Its Complex Simplicity

by Lina Zeldovich on December 20, 2010

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In the modern day of striking computer graphics, photo-shopped pictures and short attention spans, it is not easy to impress a sophisticated New York theater-goer with a hundred years old romance play in black and white, especially when it’s only acted in the form of ardent letters. Yet, the remarkably talented crew of Opus d’Amour manages to pull us into the story within minutes.

Opus d’Amour is a fictionalized vision of a true romance story of the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin (Ty Hewitt) and the love of his life, Tatiana Shliotzer (Haleigh Spasojevich), which lasted from 1903 until Scriabin’s death in 1915. Inspired by the collection of Scriabin’s letters to his lover, the playwrights Anna Forsythe and Michelle Vugmayster, recreated Tatiana’s side of the correspondence that had been missing since the Soviet era. The play originally premiered at a sold-out performance at the Baryshnikov Art Center in 2008.

It is hard to tell whether the nineteen-years old Tatiana fell for Scriabin or his compositions, or both, but she was the one who wrote the first letter after the performance the composer had given at her house. She signed it Tatiana Feodorovna, using the formal notation – her first name and her middle name, which is always the name of the father. She indicated her hope to see him again soon. Scriabin replied promptly, signing the letter formally as well: Alexander Nikolayevich. As their letters progressed, so did the signatures: they began to address each other as Tatiana and Alexander, then as Tanya and Sasha. Their passionate affair took off, carried and enveloped by the music he wrote and she admired. They were too much in love to care about Moscow society’s stern looks: Scriabin was married and had children, and Tatiana had broken every rule in the Russian aristocracy book. Yet, their blissful ignorance could not last forever and when Tatiana became pregnant, they were forced to seek refuge abroad.

Every talent needs a follower and every creative soul a supporter, and this was Tatiana’s role in Alexander’s life. She was his muse and he was her everything. Yet, while the two needed each other more than air, they were not destined to be together. Divorces were beyond rare in the early twentieth century Russia, and required the consent of both parties, which Scriabin’s wife Vera refused to give. She, in fact, had followed him to Europe so he couldn’t really be with his beloved.

With a simple set of black lacquer chairs and music stands against the white background of the austere walls decorated only with old music sheets, Spasojevich and Hewitt make this long-forgotten story come alive under the thoughtful directions of Nadia Fosklou. And it’s not until Scriabin will finally write his famous love poem Opus d’Amour, will colors lit up the set as a culminating musical accord. Engaged by the play’s beautifully orchestrated duo-chromatic style, we follow the couple through their passion, societal rejection and struggle to be together as if peeking through a delicate gossamer lace of the la bemolle minors and c sharp majors, scribbled on the white music sheets in black filigree.


LUMIATRA Presents Opus D’Amour at the TheaterLab
December 16-19, 2010 at 8pm
TheaterLab, 137 West 14th Street, New York City

this show had a short run and is now closed

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