Thursday, May 30, 2024

PasticheNYC, The Mount Present The House of Mirth Song Cycle

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PASTICHENYC and The Mount, Edith Wharton’s Home, are pleased to present a special event which includes the complete series of Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth Song Cycle, written and directed by Emily King plus a talkback “Wharton, Rosedale, and Anti-Semitism” with King and Wharton Scholar Lev Raphael. The event will be live-streamed on Thursday, May 18th at 7:00 pm.  You can watch it for FREE on both the PasticheNYC YouTube or The Mount.

Despite being published in 1905 The House of Mirth remains a powerful and relevant work that offers a penetrating critique of the social and cultural norms that continue to shape our lives today. Inspired by the recently deceased Oscar-winning composer Ryuichi Sakamoto’s (Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, The Last Emperor) solo piano album BTTB, the streaming video brings the complexities of New York’s Gilded Age to an international audience. Conceived as a period fancy-dress concert version with piano accompaniment and nine classically trained singers, the diverse cast of socially distanced performers embodies the modern sensibility that race is to the modern audience what class was to Wharton’s Gilded Age. 

Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth, set in New York City during the early 1900s, follows the life of Lily Bart, a beautiful but impoverished young woman trying to maintain her social position in upper-class society. Lily is torn between her desire for a luxurious lifestyle and her moral values, which prevent her from marrying for money. She is trapped in a society that values wealth and social status above all else, and she struggles to find a suitable husband who can provide for her without compromising her principles.

Lily makes a series of poor decisions that lead to her social downfall, including taking on debt to maintain her appearance with a loan from a married man who demands payment in sexual favors. Despite her best efforts to be true to herself, she is eventually ostracized by her social circle and fails to make a living even through menial labor.

House of Mirth is a scathing critique of the New York social elite during the early 1900s, and Wharton uses Lily’s story to expose the hypocrisy, duplicity, and superficiality of the upper class. The story examines the intersection of wealth, social status, and morality in a way that is still relevant. The pressure to conform to societal norms and expectations, particularly in relation to financial success and social mobility, as it crushes genuine human feelings, is something with which audiences can empathize. 

Wharton is also using Lily to powerfully critique patriarchal structures that continue to shape society.  Lily is confined by the lack of opportunities available to women, the pressure to marry for financial security, and the way in which women are objectified and exploited by men, themes that are still relevant today.  She continues to make bad decisions because she cannot break free of the structures that shape her society, and ours.

“Thanks to the confluence of talent, beauty, COVID, and technology, the new artform we call Pastiche has brought beautifully costumed, uniquely talented actor/singers recording in their homes to a background of actual gorgeous backgrounds from New York’s Gilded Age,” explains King. “Edith Wharton’s bittersweet tale of the most beautiful woman in New York’s fall from society’s good graces is told in 10 songs based on the haunting piano works of Ryuichi Sakamoto, award-winning (Oscar, Golden Globe, Grammy, and BAFTA) film composer. The young, diverse, and exceptionally talented cast, supported by supremely talented Israeli pianist Shai Zohar, bring Wharton’s story to life, transcending the page, and bringing her work to a whole new generation, now facing their own troubling future.”

Addressing some of the troubling issues of Gilded Age literature, PasticheNYC has invited Wharton scholar Dr. Lev Raphael, author of the popular fan fiction character expansion, Rosedale in Love, to a talkback after the complete show to discuss with adapter/lyricist Emily King the delicate subject of portraying anti-Semitism in The House of Mirth.

The production stars Carey Blackburn (Mystic Pizza, NYC) as Lily Bart, Yannik Encarnação (Joseph in Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) as Percy Gryce, Sean Gregory (Metropolitan Opera Actors Company) as Simon Rosedale, Teresa Hui (The Big Bang Theory, Off-Broadway) as Bertha Dorset, Robert M. Johanson (Member: The Civilians, Elevator Repair Service, Obie Award 2013, Special Citation: Life and Times 1-4) as Gus Trenor, Emily King (Broadway, Kennedy Center, West End, and Royal Opera House) as Edith Wharton, Mary Jo Mace (Member: I Cantori) as Aunt Peniston, Joseph Parrish (Winner, New York’s 2022 Young Concert Artists Audition) as Lawrence Selden,  and Rebecca Lee Whitcomb (Beauty & The Beast, Grease) as Judy Trenor.

The production features lyrics by Emily King (2021 Roy Cockrum Foundation Grant, Rockland Festival of the Arts), music supervision and sound editing by Emily Duncan.  Pianist is the award-winning Shai Zohar. The video editors are Tony Tom and Kyle Feldman. 

Find PasticheNYC on social media @pasticheNYC.

Image and video courtesy of PasticheNYC

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