Arts festival to feature poetry, music program

June 18, 1995|By Rona Hirsch | Rona Hirsch,Contributing Writer

In one of those rare moments when audiences get the opportunity to experience the blended talents of two accomplished artists, actress Claire Bloom and flutist Eugenia Zukerman will perform a program of poetry and music for the seventh annual Columbia Festival of the Arts.

"Words and Music" will be presented at 8 p.m. Friday at Smith Theatre in Howard Community College in Columbia.

The two-hour chamber concert will pair musical performances by Ms. Zukerman and pianist Brian Zeger with poetry readings by Ms. Bloom.

"The poetry is meant to illuminate the music and the music is meant to illustrate the text," Ms. Zukerman said from her home along the Hudson River in Manhattan.

"Words and Music" is just one of several programs this year focusing on female artists in the festival's 60 theater, music and dance events and four art exhibits.

"We were looking for acts by women focused on women, like one-woman shows and orchestras that only play the music of women composers," said Lynne Nemeth, the festival's managing director.

"One piece focuses on acts written about women or by women. Another focuses on performers who are women -- accomplished and well-known artists like Eugenia Zukerman."

Ms. Nemeth first saw Ms. Zukerman perform more than 10 years ago at the University of Maryland College Park.

"She was a fine performer," Ms. Nemeth said. "She was wonderful, very personable. When I found out she was doing this program with Claire Bloom, I said, 'What a spectacular combination. Here we have an acclaimed flutist, and Claire Bloom is a legend.' So we jumped on it."

Ms. Zukerman, who is also a writer and television arts commentator, developed the concert with Ms. Bloom, a friend of years, to work together while bringing audiences a combination of both media.

"We thought it would be a wonderful idea to take pieces already existing and fashion others ourselves by choosing the text to go with appropriate music," said the 50-year-old flutist.

"We think of what works with what music. For example, for Messaien's 'Blackbird,' we thought of the poem 'Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird' by Wallace Stevens."

But she added that the poetry is not intended to be a narrative or backdrop for the concert selections.

"One is meant to sustain the other," she said.

The artists first presented their program in December in a concert on Long Island, N.Y., and last Sunday at the Ojai Festival in California.

A similar concert featuring harpist Yolanda Kondanasiss and the Shanghai Quartet was presented by the women in March at Lehman College in New York.

"The audiences seemed to be so enthusiastic," Ms. Zukerman said. "Claire is one of the great actresses. She has the ability to bring the text to life. It's a unique program, very accessible. People walk away with a lot of resonance. We hope it will happen in Columbia."

In addition to using their respective talents in music and theater to develop the programs, the artists also draw on their other skills and interests.

"Claire has a natural feeling for cadence and timing " Ms. Zukerman said. "And we're both into literature. We are a good combination. She's dark; I'm light."

Ms. Zukerman, who performs about 40 concerts a year nationally and abroad, is the arts commentator on television's "CBS Sunday Morning." Over the past 15 years, she has presented more than 220 pieces on people in the arts.

A native of Cambridge, Mass., Ms. Zukerman attended Barnard College in New York as an English major, then switched to the Julliard School. The former wife of violinist Pinchas Zukerman, she has been married to film producer and screenwriter David Selzer since 1988.

After the birth of her two children, Ms. Zukerman wrote her first novel, "Deceptive Cadence," published in 1981, and "Taking the Heat," published in 1991. She recently completed "The Devil's Trill."

She also has sold four screenplays. "I consider myself a writer, but I am a musician at the center," said Ms. Zukerman, who has also modeled for magazine ads.

Ms. Bloom is an award-winning theater, film and television actress whose career has spanned more than 40 years.

The classically trained, London-born actress has performed opposite Laurence Olivier, Richard Burton, Charlie Chaplin and Woody Allen.

In addition to her many classic theater roles on the British and U.S. stage, Ms. Bloom has appeared in movies including "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold," "Charley," "A Doll's House," "Clash of the Titans" and "Crimes and Misdemeanors."

On television, she has appeared in "Brideshead Revisited," "The Ghostwriter" and "Shadowlands."

For the past year, she has been the narrator of "Medea" with the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra in New York.

The performers hope to present several music and poetry programs this year. "People need the arts more than anything, especially now with funding cuts," Ms. Zukerman said. "They need to be uplifted and reminded of the innate goodness of human beings."

ARTS FESTIVAL

The seventh annual Columbia Festival of the Arts continues through June 25 at venues in and around Columbia. For box office information, call 715-3055.

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