Marie-Antoinette, the last queen of France , was an artist. She sang, composed and acted. Her songs were popular in her own time, althrough they are unknown today. Her patronage of opera and theatre allowed famous and varied talents to develop among whom are Mozart, Gluck and Beaumarchais. In 1780, in spite of protocol, Marie-Antoinette had her own theatre built for private performances where she played leading parts. At the time of the scandal surrounding the queen's diamond necklace in 1785, she was busy in rehearsal for the role of Rosina in the Barber of Seville by Paisiello, in a translation which allowed her to speak Beaumarchais lines in place of the recitatives. It is a supreme irony that Marie-Antoinette was a followers of Rousseau's philosophy which was among the influences which brought about her downfall. Because of her execution, there is a tendancy to denigrate her as a frivolous woman. Her pretty songs speak with an eloquence that outreaches any political considerations and the masterpieces she fostered continue to delight audiences around the world.
Rhonda Bachmann had sung Les Nuits d'Ete (Summer Nights) at the time she played Harriet Smithson (l'Idee Fixe), in The Life of Berlioz (TF1, Pathe Cinema. 6 hrs miniseries). Later, when she married the conductor and musicologist Arthur Hammond who was the first to restore the original version of Benvenuto Cellini in 1957, she sang Teresa's cavatina. While she was preparing a recital on Berlioz in London, she discovered the original lyrics of the English translation of the death of Ophelia, that Berlioz had prepared but had never been able to perform at Covent Garden in 1848, and which she sang in its world premiere for BBC Scotland in 2001. As a tribute to the marriage of Harriet with Berlioz, with their shared love of Shakespeare, we have filmed the programme in the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London, where Berlioz conducted and where Harriet had played Shakespeare twenty year earlier. Rhonda Bachmann and Peter Gellhorn have filmed this Idee Fixe, as Berlioz called his obsession for Harriet, around the music he composed for her.
In June 1815, Queen Hortense closes up the castle of Malmaison after Napoleon's defeat and exile which followed on from his failure at Waterloo. Before his departure, Hortense sewed her diamond necklace inside a black belt and gave it to him. The death of her mother, Empress Josephine, the previous year after Napoleon's first abdication, weighs on her memories. She closes each room for the last time and remembered the happy days when she sang her own songs for the Emperor, and the music of his Empire in an atmosphere her mother had created.
Sir Michael Costa, Wilhelm Ganz and William Kuhe were all Grand Organists at the United Grand Lodge of England, although the opera director, Carl Rosa and the great actor, William Terriss also pursued important careers in the world of opera, theatre and concert at the time of Queen Victoria. As international artists and freemasons, they achieved a level of excellence in each discipline. The installation of the Prince of Wales as Grand Master in 1875 marked a turning point in the development of English Freemasonry and introduced masonic music into new milieux, heightening social acceptance of the artistic profession at the time of Queen Victoria. Adelina Patti was the uncontested star of Covent Garden under Costa, and she maintained close personal friendships with Ganz, Kuhe and Harris as well as the Prince of Wales who had been an admirer of her art since the beginning of her career. Rhonda Bachmann and Peter Gellhorn have recreated the format of a banquet given in 1886, when she sang, accompanied by Wilhelm Ganz in the presence of the Prince of Wales.This was filmed in the Freemasons' Hall in London, which is an extraordinary Art Deco building located on the same site as its Victorian predecessor. Rhonda Bachmann is the grand-daughter of Otis Burns Hyndman, a 50 year member of the Black Hawk Lodge in Hamilton, Illinois, USA. Her late husband, the music director Arthur Hammond collaborated with Albert Ganz, the son of Wilhelm Ganz to write a book, BERLIOZ IN LONDON (1950), and was a life-long friend of Wilhelm's daughter, Adelina, named for Patti, who left him memorabilia and Victorian furniture which had belonged to her father, Wilhelm Ganz.
Rhonda Bachmann has recreated Jenny Lind's repertoire in opera as well as song literature: in particular the famous aria in Lucia di Lammermoor, taken from the story by Sir Walter Scott (Donizetti), I Puritani (Bellini) and La Fille du Regiment (Donizetti). Rhonda Bachmann was trained in the grand tradition of bel canto of the 19 century which Arthur Hammond and Peter Gellhorn passed onto her from the singers in the Carl Rosa Opera and Sir Thomas Beecham's British National Opera Company among others. Gifted with the same vocal range, extending 3 octaves, she bears a striking ressemblance both physically and vocally to Jenny Lind, which also allows her to present this peformance perfectly in its context. After six months of musical research and the use of authentic period versions, Rhonda Bachmann and Peter Gellhorn have reverted to the original musical versions of all the arias they are performing. Rhonda Bachmann is singing in an identical copy of the gold dress worn by Fanny Persiani for the first performance of Lucia di Lammermoor. Jenny Lind was recognized for her idealistic personality and the strength of her Lutheran faith.Since she herself is the daughter of a Lutheran minister, Rhonda Bachmann is also living out her musical vocation. Her company La Reine Artiste is celebrating its 24th year in 2016.
In The Nightingale at Song, Rhonda Bachmann interprets the portion of Jenny Lind's repertoire which related to freedom of expression, to which all artists in an ideal world are entitled and which is embodied in the birdsongs she often imitated in her coloratura vocalises.
On September 15,1935, a young conductor, who was half Jewish through his father, was in hiding at the home of his friend, Inge Camphausen, a coloratura soprano in Saarbrücken.That day Peter Gellhorn left her to cross the border to France in order to obtain asyslum in England.They never met again, and on February 13,1945, Inge was killed in the Dresden bombing, the same date on which Peter died in 2004. Rhonda Bachmann, whose voice reminded him of Inge, pays tribute to her accompanist and musical colleague for the company La Reine Artiste from 1992-2004 with 95 performances in 19 programmes of which 6 are filmed for dvd, and many arrangments for La Reine Artiste. Juan Biava, who was himself a refugee from another conflict in Argentina, accompanies Rhonda Bachmann on the organ, with readings by Pierre Courtel and Eveline Coste.
This programme, entitled Aloysia in Exile, is the story in music of the relationship between Mozart and his muse, the coloratura soprano Aloysia Weber, and his travels through Europe,in search of himself as well as for recognition as a composer.In 1778, Mozart left Salzburg to seek a position in Paris, and on the way he stopped in Mannheim where he met Aloysia Weber. He fell in love with her as a young soprano whose musical virtuosity inspired him to dream of touring Italy with her. Aloysia's agile voice and exceptionally wide range, her own repertoire and what she inspired him to compose, revolutionized his style of vocal composition during the thriteen years that followed. Throughout these years, Aloysia had established herself as a star in Vienna and Mozart had confirmed his excellence as a composer.