Ghost Variations By Kim Feltkamp Dramatis Personae Clara Schumann – mezzo Johannes Brahms – soprano Robert Schumann – baritone Florestan – soprano Eusebius – mezzo Dr. Franz Richarz – tenor Marie Schumann – soprano Set Details The stage is split in half: stage left is the Schumanns’ living room in Düsseldorf and stage right is Robert’s cell in the asylum in Endenich. The two spaces share a wall, which has a door in it that swings both ways. The Schumanns’ home has a piano with a bench, a couch, and a small table. The cell has a cot and a hard chair.
Act I, Scene 1 February 1854, Düsseldorf ROBERT, middle-aged and cagey, bends over at the piano in his home, composing, as FLORESTAN and EUSEBIUS look on from their place in the dimly-lit cell. FLORESTAN and EUSEBIUS are genderless and ageless with an impish, ephemeral quality to their movements; in short, they are the embodiment of chaotic neutral. ROBERT plays snatches of the first song in his Gedichte der Königin Maria Stuart. Meanwhile, FLORESTAN picks up a clarinet and prepares to play. Suddenly, ROBERT’s composing is interrupted by a single, sustained A: FLORESTAN on the clarinet. ROBERT gets up from the piano in frustration. ROBERT The fear of death is a trifle to the fear of losing one’s mind. CLARA (from off-stage) Robert, my love, is something wrong? ROBERT It’s only that infernal ringing again. A solitary A will not leave me in peace! EUSEBIUS Florestan, you play with the soul of a poet. FLORESTAN Why, thank you, Eusebius. Perhaps you have an ear for talent after all. EUSEBIUS Don’t be a prick. FLORESTAN Don’t be an ass! CLARA enters, followed by their 12-year-old daughter, MARIE. CLARA has a quiet strength about her, starkly calm against ROBERT’s restlessness. CLARA Should we call the doctor?
ROBERT Don’t bother— he does nothing for me but prod and question until I feel worse than before. The ringing will pass. CLARA Rob, dear, take a seat. Rest for a minute. You know how agitation makes everything worse. MARIE Father, why don’t you play Dominos with me? It always makes me feel better. FLORESTAN changes to a B as Marie sets up the game. ROBERT Wait, it’s changing. CLARA What do you mean? ROBERT Wait… FLORESTAN stops playing and giggles. EUSEBIUS joins in. MARIE It’s your turn, Father. CLARA Robert? FLORESTAN (in a ghostly voice) Robert! It’s me, the ghost of Schubert! I’ve come to help you compose. FLORESTAN prances around like an elf. ROBERT Schubert? CLARA Schubert?
EUSEBIUS No, it’s Mendelssohn, the true master! FLORESTAN Do shut your trap, Sebb. to ROBERT No, it’s Schubert! I’m sending you my very best: this new and beautiful melody. FLORESTAN'S ARIA (with verve, taking on the sprightliness of Schubert) Some philistines assert that I devote myself solely to those most noble of sentiments: the lofty handprint of God, the secrets of immortality, the wild courses of the stars above. But, no! No, no, no. Though the blossoms of my floral crown do reach toward the Heavens, my feet are firmly rooted in this: my beloved Earth! EUSEBIUS claps and wipes his eyes.