“Bach and Bleach”


Make text smaller Make text larger


A new production showed how classical music can bring together a musician and a cleaning lady


Photos



  • Violist Esther Apituley (left) and actress Jenny Sterlin in “Bach & Bleach.” Photo: Erwin Maas




For the average person, classical music can appear inaccessible. Even for someone who loves hearing classical music in films or listening to it at home, the concert hall and its stuffiness can be intimidating. People often decide to just stay at home instead of exploring the unfamiliarity of the classical music world.

This inaccessibility motivated world-renowned Dutch violist Esther Apituley to create her new work, “Bach & Bleach,” which had its American premiere at LaMaMa Experimental Theatre Lab earlier this month. Written by Ko Van den Bosch and performed and conceived by Apituley, “Bach & Bleach” is a play with music about a violist (Apituley) who has a chance encounter with a cleaning lady (played by Broadway actress Jenny Sterlin) right before her concert. At the play’s beginning, the two women find themselves at a stalemate: the violist wants to start her concert immediately, but the cleaning lady wants to finish her task. Eventually, the violist starts playing Bach’s Chaconne, and the music “unlocks” the cleaning lady’s “imagination, helping her to realize that she is more than what she believes herself to be,” Apituley explains. Music brings the two women together, and its unifying power ultimately makes these two women better people.

“The idea is to find a concept which is accessible [for those who] love classical music but have never been to a concert,” says Apituley. “I thought, ‘how can I change things and make them more accessible for the public?’” Apituely thought that putting a regular cleaning lady onstage with an elitist violist would not only make classical music more approachable for the general public, but would also display a class tension between the characters, which would be the basis for an interesting story.

“Eighty percent of the people don’t see a cleaning lady as a person,” notes Apituley. “The cleaning lady has a personality, has a history; you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover ... If you look at her, she has a whole history, and that is what’s happening onstage.” Throughout the play, “we are getting closer together,” Apituley says, “because there are parallels in her job and in mine.” Although “there are two totally different worlds meeting each other on stage ... we will meet and understand each other ... Because I understand her story and she understands my story.”

Apituley’s experiment has worked. She has performed “Bach & Bleach” over 50 times in the Netherlands and in Spain. The play’s unique mix of an onstage choir, live orchestra and a compelling script has the ability to make audiences cry, feel, and experience classical music in a totally new way. And this production’s diverse cast reflected the richness and multiculturalism of New York: a British actress, a German violinist, a Puerto Rican pianist, a French cellist, and of course, a Dutch violist made up the New York production’s cast. All of these combined elements make “Bach & Bleach” a special theatrical experience.

Apituely has enjoyed her first foray in the theater. She has marveled at the relationship between music and text, how what she describes as the “concrete” and “straightforward” nature of text complements the more abstract art of music, which “goes directly to your soul.” Text “helps you explain or tell a story,” she notes, but “music gives it an atmosphere, which adds affects.” She explains that instead of merely comprehending the cleaning lady’s story, music allows you to “feel you can understand the story because you listen to the music.” This combination of text and music “adds to each other; it makes them stronger ... It’s total theater” she says.

But for Apituley, it always comes back to the power of music and the effect it has on her audience. “Music is the strongest art going directly to your soul,” she says. When you “close your eyes and listen to the music ... you really are coming to another level of life; you can go to a lot of other worlds.” Classical music shows you, she says, that “there’s something more than not only drinking and eating and surviving.” Apituley feels driven by a higher purpose to bring her music to the public. “I’m very proud that my mission is to get people who are never going to concerts” to come to her performance, she explains. In Europe, audiences have been “so touched by the way we do it, the way the whole concert is there ... it moves people so much. My mission has succeeded in Europe, and that’s why I hope in New York, they are touched too.”





Make text smaller Make text larger

Comments



MUST READ NEWS

The Chelsea Hotel: A never-ending story
Eight years in, delays continue to dog the renovation of the legendary 23rd Street building
Read more »
Image

Generation Z on the cb

Teenagers as young as 16 are eligible to serve on New York’s community boards


Read more »
Image

Behind the oak doors

A raid on Jeffrey Epstein’s UES mansion and details from his sex-trafficking indictment stunned the nation. But the revelations were not a shock to some NYC journalists...
Read more »

Image

Generation Z on the cb

Teenagers as young as 16 are eligible to serve on New York’s community boards


Read more »
Image

They are the champions of the world

These world-class athletes know how to throw a world-class party


Read more »
Image

VIDEOS



Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Neighborhood Newsletters





MOST READ

Local News
Drawing board
  • Jul 18, 2019
Local News
The Chelsea Hotel: A never-ending story
  • Jul 16, 2019
Local News
Tourists on the town
  • Jul 19, 2019
Columns\Op-Ed
Family reunions that unite all year
  • Jul 17, 2019

MOST COMMENTED