None But The Lonely Heart: The Strange Story of Tchaikovsky and Madame von Meck (Review)

None But The Lonely Heart: The Strange Story of Tchaikovsky and Madame von Meck

Limited Engagement thru August 3

Shakespeare & Co

70 Kemble

Lenox, MA

thru August 3rd


Tchaikovsky. There are few other names that resonate such strength, such bravado, such sullen taps of the keys, such vibrato of the Stradivarius. Often we know an artist, but we’re never quite sure what in their life made them tick. We ask ourselves of the musician where the chaos came from. Or we ask ourselves what the artist sees that we don’t.

These answers—and the questions we ask about Tchaikovsky (in this instance) –are answered, in rather great detail, by Shakespeare & Co’s current presentation of None But The Lonely Heart: The Strange Story of Tchaikovsky and Madame von Meck.

This is a limited engagement: There’s only eight shows, and it ends August 3rd, so do purchase your tickets now.


I am tempted to call this the year of the artist. None But The Lonely Heart is Shakespeare & Co’s momentous re-creation of the life and times of one of the world’s greatest composers. In a nutshell: You wanted a peak inside the mind of a maestro, and you just got one. We know the geniuses are different, but we’re never quite sure why, or how. We always suspected there were other dimensions, and the minds of the artistic greats are merely portals to allow us to see what they see. They see another side of our world, and report back to us with the stroke of a brush, the strum of a string, the voice of an angel, the dance of the sugar plum fairy. It is here, in None But The Lonely Heart, you will find all this, and more, in a kaleidoscope of song, tragedy and soul, of one of the world’s greatest composers.

Capital Repertory recently did this with Red, the dark and mysterious play that took us into the mind of the abstract expressionist. Shakespeare & Co now leads the way with None But the Lonely Heart. While Red used strokes of a brush to peel the lid off of the mind of Mark Rothco, None uses a variety of arrows in its quiver to make the evening a splendid one. Indeed, there is something here for everyone, as we work through Tchaikovsky’s mind, one layer at a time. This is what makes this play so special: Dance, Russian Opera, the joy of a Steinway, and some of the most spectacular string playing I’ve ever seen, are there to lead you down the path of Tchaikovsky’s life. The dialogue is brief and intermittent, sparse but exact, supplemented by splendid performances of his works, by a group of extremely talented singers, musicians and dancers that tell you his life story by performing his very own works.

This play has five star talent, five star singing, five star strings—no, make that ten star strings—and it is here to walk you through Tchaikovsky’s life: A basic plot of a not so basic and tormented life is brought together to serve you one giant helping of culture on a silver tray.

Tchaikovsky was a tormented man: The death of his mother when he was ten; struggles with his sexuality in a land and during a time when such struggles were not unknown but barely accepted (In fact, Russia tried forever to cover up his homosexuality for decades.); and this, his strange relationship with one wealthy philanthropist by the name of  Madame von Meck.

Von Meck became a pseudo mother, in many ways. She had 11 children of her own, and would sponsor Tchaikovsky, send him gifts and money. She was fascinated with him and they wrote each other sometimes daily. They played a cat and mouse relationship with their friendship, never quite bonding outside of letters and occasional sightings. (He married, by the way, but his marriage was inconsequential to him, and was apparently never even consummated). No one really knows to this day why Meck eventually stopped writing: Possibly because the money ran dry, perhaps to hide his enduring secret of homosexuality. The two never met, however, and it is one of the strangest relationships the world has ever known.

All of these events, as you can imagine, wreaked havoc on Tchaikovsky’s mind. He expressed his bitterness, his brilliance, his confusion and his sexuality through his music, and this is where the brilliance of this play shines brightly: As he created music, dance and opera, so too does music, dance and opera come to life on the stage to walk us through his tormented life.

Simply wonderful, wonderful wonderful.

–Richard DiMaggio,


[Photo by Jacqueline Chambord,]

Ariel Bock ( Madame von Meck)

Adrian Daurov (Cello)

Jonathan Epstein ( Tchaikovsky) (Also in Heroes, same theater, a must see play)

Daniel Mantei (Dance)

Susie Park (Violin)

Edwin Vega (Tenor)

Eve Wolf (Piano)

Written by Eve Wolf

Set and Costumes by Vanessa James

Lighting by Beverly Emmons

Stage Manager Anthony Bullock

Choreographer: Daniel Mantei

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