Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2021-09-01



THEATER 'Tchaikovsky' delves into gay composer's symphonies, struggles
by Catey Sullivan

This article shared 648 times since Wed Apr 11, 2018
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

When would-be patrons from Russia approached pianist and composer Hershey Felder about performing a musical biography of Peter Tchaikovsky in the Russian-born maestro's homeland, Felder turned them down flat. "If I told Tchaikovsky's story in Russia, I would be thrown in jail because of their anti-gay laws," Felder said.

Russia's ministry of culture officially and categorically denies that Tchaikovsky—the man who brought the world lush, intricate works including The Nutcracker and Swan Lake—was gay. However, historians and the letters Tchaikovsky left behind tell a very different story. And while Felder won't be taking his one-man musical biography "Our Great Tchaikovsky" to Russia any time soon, the show opening April 11 will offer audiences here a window into the world of a musical wunderkind whose works continue to influence everything from movies ( Black Swan ) to Independence Day celebrations ( The 1812 Overture ).

Felder's performance is part concert, part biography—and is wholly unblinking in its depiction of both Tchaikovsky's demons and his genius. It's a format Felder excels at: His previous concert-bios—sonically exquisite and emotionally resonant takes on Gershwin, Chopin, Bernstein and Berlin, among them—enjoyed critical acclaim and a healthy box office in Chicago.

But Felder has never before taken on a subject whose life was so largely defined by his secrets. Nor has he performed a piece that flat out defies an entire country's political regime.

Russia's minster of culture may have proclaimed Tchaikovsky straight, but as Felder notes: "That's contradicted by basically every single letter Tchaikovsky left behind."

"In shaping this piece, Tchaikovsky's sexuality was a driving force," Felder continued. "I'm not really dramatizing it—it's very clear from his writing that being in the closet was an issue. So much of his music is about what he's hiding from. If you listen, you can hear so much anguish. And so much joy. And humor.

"Harmonically and melodically, the chords and the progressions pull at you. You can analyze and diagram the structure, but the magic of the whole thing is in how deeply it makes you feel. He is speaking to us through his music," Felder said.

Tchaikovsky's life ( 1840-1893 ) dovetailed with the rein of Emperor Alexander III, the penultimate ruler of Czarist Russia. ( His successor, Nicholas II, would be gunned down in the uprising of 1918. ) And while Tchaikovsky's life story is more than a century old, it retains an almost dismaying relevance.

After performing the show last year, Felder got a letter that spoke to the story's stark, contemporary terms.

"It was from a teacher who was gay," Felder recalled. "Grew up with conversion therapy and medication and all kind of 'treatments' to 'fix' her. She wrote about the young people she worked with, and the importance of helping them understand what came before them. Of showing people that you can't take things for granted.

"It seems like since the [2016] election, a lot of people are starting to see how things they've taken for granted can be taken away," Felder continued. "I had one gay couple see the show in New York; they talked to me after ward about how three or four years ago, they felt completely safe walking through their neighborhood holding hands. Now? They don't hold hands in public so much any more. They are afraid. They are looking over their shoulders."

Tchaikovsky spent his life looking over his shoulder. His death, at 53, remains murky. Some say it was cholera; others say suicide.

Music is always at the heart of Felder's shows, whether he's blazing through Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue or Chopin's mournfully ear-wormy funeral dirge. Every once in a great while, he gets hate mail for his exploration of the lives behind the music.

Our Great Tchaikovsky features roughly an hour of music, including two symphonic movements, a piano concerto and portions of The Nutcracker Suite.

"The Russians are trying to erase his life at the same time they're calling him a hero," Felder said. "You can't erase his life. Anymore than you can erase his music."

Our Great Tchaikovsky runs April 11-May 13 at the Steppenwolf Upstairs Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted St. Tickets are $55; call 312-335-1650 or visit .

This article shared 648 times since Wed Apr 11, 2018
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

R. Kelly found guilty of racketeering
On Sept. 27, a federal jury in Brooklyn convicted embattled R&B singer R. Kelly of racketeering by a federal jury in Brooklyn, the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York said, according to ...

Gay News

Next OUTspoken 'Storytelling Night' Oct. 5
--From a press release - Six Chicagoans will tell compelling stories with a LGBTQ+ perspective when another OUTspoken "Storytelling Night" takes place Tuesday, Oct. 5, starting at 7 p.m., at Sidetrack Bar, 3349 N. Halsted St. All attendees must be masked ...

Gay News

THEATER 'Moulin Rouge!,' gay play 'The Inheritance' win top Tonys
Moulin Rouge! The Musical was the runaway winner at the Tony Awards on Sept. 26, snagging 10 awards. Among its honors were Best Musical, Best Performance By an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical ...

Gay News

THEATER REVIEW The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes, Volume 5-SEX!
Title: The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes, Volume 5—SEX! Playwright: David Cerda At: Hell In a Handbag Productions at the Leather Archives and Museum. Tickets: $27-$45. Runs through: It could almost be the premise for ...

Gay News

MOVIES 24-hour horror marathon at Music Box on Oct. 23-24
"The Music Box of Horrors," sponsored by CreepyCo., will return to the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave., from noon on Saturday, Oct. 23 through noon on Sunday, Oct. 24. The event will include special ...

Gay News

THEATER Ex-'Jagged Little Pill' performers accuse production of anti-TGNC behavior
Two former cast members of Broadway's Jagged Little Pill—including Tony-nominated featured actress Celia Rose Gooding—released statements accusing the production of committing "harm to the trans and non-binary community, both onstage ...

Gay News

TimeLine Theatre Company announces 25th Anniversary Season
Video below--From a press release - Chicago, IL, September 24, 2021 — TimeLine Theatre Company, acclaimed for presenting plays that explore today's social and political issues through the lens of the past, is thrilled to announce that it will celebrate its 25th ...

Gay News

'Firebird' opens Reeling Chicago LGBTQ+ Internat'l Film Fest tonight
--From a press release - CHICAGO, Illinois — Tonight, the 39th annual Reeling: The Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival invites audiences to enjoy an in-person pre-party and theater screening of 'Firebird' for Opening Night at the Music Box Theater. Director P ...

Gay News

THEATER Steppenwolf's 'Bug' running Nov. 11-Dec. 12
Steppenwolf Theatre Company will welcome audiences back for in-person performances for the first time in 20 months with its acclaimed revival of Bug by ensemble member Tracy Letts, in the Downstairs Theater on Nov. 11-Dec. 12. ...

Gay News

MUSIC ROUNDUP: Riot Fest rocks and rolls with the punches
Riot Fest is a massive music festival held annually at Chicago's Douglas Park, held this year on Sept. 16-19 Usually a three-day celebration, Riot held a preview party Sept.16 that began at 2:30 p.m. for the ...

Gay News

LGBTQ+ lullaby album to be released Oct. 28
Broadway Records announced the impending release of The Rainbow Lullaby—which the label said is "the world's first LGBTQ lullaby album." The album will be available Thursday, Oct. 28, wherever digital music is sold and on ...

Gay News

THEATER 'Hot Pink, or Ready to Blow' available for download
It's Pompeii meets Heathers as New American Folk Theatre continues its "season of audio theatre" with a new studio recording of its 2018 hit comedy Hot Pink, or Ready to Blow. The production was written by ...

Gay News

Congo Square Theatre Co. announces new Artistic Director Ericka Ratcliff
Congo Square Theatre Company, an African American theater company, announced that longtime company member Ericka Ratcliff will serve as its new artistic director, effective immediately. Ratcliff becomes only the fourth ...

Gay News

THEATER Steppenwolf presenting three Tracy Letts virtual works Sept. 29-Oct. 24
Leading up to ensemble member Tracy Letts' production Bug returning this November to Steppenwolf's Downstairs Theater, the company is bringing audiences a sampler of the playwright's voice to their homes with a trio of new virtual ...

Gay News

Pitchfork Music Festival returns and turns 15 in 2021
Pitchfork Music Festival turned 15 years old in Chicago this year after being cancelled last year because of the pandemic. This lively celebration of eclectic music continued in the same spot (Union Park) with the usual ...


Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.