HERSHEY FELDER: A PARIS LOVE STORY Featuring the music of Claude Debussy

Needs to prioritize his music


BY Iride Aparicio

Photos Credit: Christopher Ash

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA-- Inside  the theatre at the Mountain View Center for The Performing Arts, a male voice, speaking French with a perfect  accent,  asks the audience  to fasten their seat belts because their  plane is  about to land in Paris. Dim lights bring  the stage to life. On its floor, stretched from one end to the other, with a grand piano standing at its center, we see a replica of  Paris' Du Pont des Arts bridge. It is  night, and at the moment, it is immersed in soft golden light. The effect is "magical"  The adjective, expressing  the opinion of  those in the audience, who recognized  the bridge, and voiced their admiration for  FELDER's set design.

In Paris, France, the Du Pont des Arts bridge is one of  many bridges  over the River Seine, probably the most crossed by tourists, because it connects  the streets, on its left bank with the Quai des Tuileries, a street on its right bank, which extends from Avenue du Général Lemonnier  to the Place de le Concorde that leads to Avenue des Champs Elysées that leads to the Arch  de Triomphe, in the heart of Paris.

In the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, the night of  April 6th was the World Premiere of  "HERSLEY FELDER  A PARIS LOVE STORY: Featuring The Music Of  CLAUDE DEBUSSY",  a SAMANTHA F. VOXAKIS and KAREN RACANELLI Production,  presented by Theatre Works Silicon Valley,

Written and performed  by HERSLEY FELDER as a one-man's play,   and directed by TREVOR HAY, the  plot  of "A PARIS LOVE STORY: Featuring the music of CLAUDE DEBUSSY" is the imaginary story of FELDER , age 19, going to Paris to meet DEBUSSY. The plot is created by the interwined stories, of DEBUSSY talking about FELDER , which he calls "the young man", and DEBUSSY talking about his life, with piano interludes of DEBUSSY's music played by FELDER in his role of CLAUDE DEBUSSY,


One of the stories begins with FELDER  arriving in Paris with his mother. No dates are given to the audience,  but they may have  arrived at the end of  l917 or in the  middle of  March of l918, because,  in the play, DEBUSSY is still alive but  very ill. (DEBUSSY died on March 25th of  l918).

In his role as DEBUSSY, FELDER tells the audience  that this young man and his mother came to Paris is because  his mother, who is very sick, loves DEBUSSY's music, that she lissens to when she is in pain, because she believes that lissening to it helps her body heal.. 

In his role as "the young man",  we follow FELDER as  he walks through the different streets in Paris describing  its sights, some of which we (the audience) see in projections (Christopher Ash). Among others, we see the  façade of  The Louvrethe Arch of Triomphe, and the illuminated Eiffel Tower.  When he goes to the ocean, (which gave DEBUSSY a chance to write his orchestral work La Mer (in which the instruments of the orchestra imitate the sound of waves) we  hear a recording segment of the work .  Our  most interesting  walk  with the young man, however, was his visit to DEBUSSY's Paris home (located at 80 Avenue Bois de Boulonge)  where he had a chance to see the room where DEBUSSY composed his music and  meet Emma his wife. Telling us about the visit, gives FELDER a chance to play some  pieces  from  "The Children's Corner,  a series of  piano pieces  DEBUSSY composed for his daughter  CLAUDE-EMMA  who he called "chauchau" ( which means my Pet in French). The young FELDER'  story  of his trip to Paris was moving and his piano interpretation of  Clair de Lune, on March 25th the night DEBUSSY died, was beautiful.


CLAUDE DEBUSSY (1862=1918)

A leading figure in French Music, CLAUDE DEBUSSY  is the most highly regarded composers in the late l9th and early 20th Century, because he changed traditional  harmony when he developed a highly original system and musical structure.

 He was born  on August 22, 1862 in Saint-Germain-en- Laye, France, from a very poor French family with five children. As a child, he showed an early affinity for the piano and began taking lessons at the age of  seven.  His gift at the piano gained him the help of  MADAME MAUTÉ de FLEURVILLE (a woman who was associated with composer CHOPÍN) who made possible for him to get enrolled in the Paris Conservatory at the age of 9.  But his genius  as a composer was not recognized until  1884  when at  age 22,  he won  the Prix de Rome with his cantata L'Enfant prodigue (The prodigal Son) that financed  two more years of study in Italy, He was on his way.

Considered the greatest French Composer, during his life, DEBUSSY did many changes to the sound of music. In his piano works alone, he created the most original style since CHOPIN. He extended the eight-tone scale to twelve tones. He used new harmonies and  enriched the musical language and orchestral  instrumentation. He experience with new sonorities, contrasts of registers and effects which he obtained by a subtle use of pedals. In his vocal music, he used a form of a supple recitative,  that adjusts, perfectly, to the inflections of the French speech. To all this, we could add that his free structures are in the forms of sophisticated improvisations and that he explored new registers in his orchestrations.


When FELDER,  in his role as DEBUSSY, addressed the audience on opening night,  those of us sitting on the back of the theatre could not hear him because there was a technical flaw in the sound.  It took a few minutes before the sound was corrected and we began to  hear him talking about the time he had entered the  Paris Conservatory.

As he continued relating his private  life (as DEBUSSY) the story got confused (for the audience)  because he began talking about the different women in his life. Some, like Madame de FLEURVILLE, who had helped his career as a boy, others,  like Nadeshda von Meck (who previously had supported TCHAIKOWVKY) who became his lover after she hired him to teach piano to her children. The list continued with  Dupont, whom he met in Rome and abandoned for Marie-Rosalie Texier "Lilly" who he married after he threatened to commit suicide if she refused him, and continue his talk by telling us  how, when he left Lilly for Emma, Lilly shot herself in the chest but did not die, and another who died because of him. DEBUSSY's  monologue  was  interrupted at intervals, by  FELDER, playing short pieces at the  piano,  but , with the exception of  those in  The Children's corner songs, none of the other pieces were identified.

In a show about  DEBUSSY's music, the music which practically started the Twenty Century  Music trend, but is not well known to many people, we expected that Mr  FELDER, a virtuoso pianist,  played it and discuss it

We wished that in his role as DEBUSSY he would explained to us the different sonorities that he accomplished in his music. That he had let us listen to the differences  in sounds between a  piano piece that uses the twelve- tone scale compared to a piece that uses the eight-tone scale. And perhaps even demonstrate  to us (the audience)  how he managed  to accomplish  a completely different sound from the same note by pressing and sustaining  his foot on the pedal of a piano. In a show with the name HERSLEY FELDER : "A PARIS LOVE STORY: Featuring the music of CLAUDE DEBUSSY,  we expected to hear more DEBUSSY' compositions and learn something about them.

The private life of DEBUSSY the man, was not as perfect as his music. After hearing about it, it made some of us wonder if he could be associated with a "love story." He revealed to us that he married twice, but that he did not love his wives. That he had affairs with many other women during his married life, and that the only woman that he really loved, was his daughter.

But we can not judge DEBUSSY as a man. DEBUSSY was a musical genius. During his life, it took another musical genius to understand him. German composer RICHARD WAGNER describing DEBUSSY said about him: "He was a wonderful sunset, that was mistaken for a dawn."

HERSHEY FELDER "A PARIS LOVE STORY Featuring the Music of CLAUDE DEBUSSY" will continue at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St., Mountain View, CA 94041 until May 5, 2018. For information or to order tickets call (650) 463-1960 or go online to theatreworks.org.