Calling women musicians: Watermill Theatre wants them to join its new play about Fanny Mendelssohn

Calling women musicians: Watermill Theatre wants them to join its new play about Fanny Mendelssohn
Calum Finaly's Fanny in rehearsal at Watermill Theatre (Photo: Pamela Raith Photography)
Calum Finaly’s Fanny in rehearsal at Watermill Theatre (Photo: Pamela Raith Photography)

When Queen Victoria invited Felix Mendelssohn to perform for her at a personal concert and play her favourite song, Italien, the composer had to admit that he hadn’t actually written the song. It was one of his sister Fanny Mendelssohn’s pieces that were published under his name. In fact, Fanny would be over 40 before publishing under her own name and she did so with the encouragement of her husband but in the face of Felix’s disapproval; when it came to the idea of Fanny having a musical career of her own, Felix remained something of a prig.

This story forms the slightly surprising germ for a new play, Fanny by actor/director/writer Calum Finlay which is at The Watermill Theatre, Newbury from 23 May to 15 June 2024, directed by Katie-Ann McDonough, with Yshani Perinpanayagam as musical director. Described as a fun and irreverent new comedy that celebrates classical music, the play imagines that ‘Fanny intercepts a letter addressed to ‘F. Mendelssohn’ inviting Felix to play for Queen Victoria. As the true composer of Italien, she decides to hide the letter, don her brother’s clothes, and take his place at the palace…cueing a race across Europe and a furious Felix.’

In the Irish tradition of the Noble Call, the tradition of calling on guests at a party to share a song, a poem or to respond to the mood of the day, the theatre has invited women musicians to take part; women musicians of all levels, backgrounds and styles are asked to sign-up to play a piece of music at the end of the show each night to continue the work of all the incredible women musicians before them. 

Further information about the Noble Call from Google docs. See the theatre’s website for information about Fanny.


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