Paris comes to Staten Island an evening with Music’s Modern Muse

October 27, 2003 | College of Staten Island

Step back in time to the allure, charm, and mystique of high-society French salons for a one night musical journey to turn-of-the-century Paris with A Soiree with the Princesse Edmond de Polignac.

One of the era’s most influential and colorful personalities, the Princesse Edmond de Polignac, a powerful and passionate lover of the arts, used her colossal fortune to benefit the 20th century world of music, letters, science, and culture, and her influences on these domains remain incalculable.

Sylvia KahanOn Tuesday, November 11 at 7:00 p.m. at the College of Staten Island, Sylvia Kahan, narrator and pianist, presents this world premiere performance based on her recently released book Music’s Modern Muse: A Life of Winnaretta Singer, Princesse de Polignac, published by University of Rochester Press.

Princesse Edmond de Polignac, born Winnaretta Singer, was the 20th child of sewing machine magnate Isaac Merritt Singer; her mother was Paris-born Isabelle Boyer, who, according to legend, was the model for Frédéric Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty. After the death of her father, she inherited a substantial part of the Singer Sewing Machine fortune, making her a millionaire at the age of eighteen.

Her 1893 marriage to Prince Edmond de Polignac, an amateur composer, brought her into contact with the most elite strata of French society. After Edmond’s death in 1901, she used her fortune to benefit the arts, science, and letters.

Sylvia Kahan, chair of the Performing and Creative Arts department at the College of Staten Island (CSI), spent a dozen years researching this legendary Yonkers-born Parisian in the European archives of the Singer and Polignac families. Kahan was particularly assisted in her work by Prince Edmond de Polignac, great-great-nephew and godson of the arts patron.

The performance will be presented in the Recital Hall of the College of Staten Island’s Center for the Arts on Tuesday, November 11, 2003 at 7:00 p.m.

Michael Shugrue and Sylvia KahanKahan will be assisted by Janet Pranschke, soprano; Olivier Fluchaire, violin; James Hopkins, viola; and Jieun Cecilia Kim, cello. The event is presented by Michael Shugrue, the Friends of CSI, and the Performing and Creative Arts department.

Tickets for the nearly sold out premiere cost $20 and may be purchased by calling the college’s advancement office at (718)982-2342. All proceeds benefit the music program of CSI and student scholarships.

photography available

MUSICAL SELECTIONS include:

Gabriel Fauré: “Mandoline” from Cinq Mélodies de Venise

Edmond de Polignac: Lamento

Maurice Ravel: Pavane pour une infante défunte

Igor Stravinsky: Renard (recorded excerpt)

Erik Satie: La Mort de Socrate (recorded excerpt)

Manuel de Falla: El Retablo de Maese Pedro (recorded excerpt)

Igor Stravinsky: Eclogue I from Duo Concertant

Francis Poulenc: “Le Garçon de Liège” from Trois Poèmes de Louise de Vilmorin

Gabriel Fauré: Quartet No. 1 for Piano and Strings in C Minor, Op. 15 (•Allegro molto moderato, •Scherzo: Allegro vivo, •Adagio, •Allegro molto)

BACKGROUND: A Soiree with the Princesse Edmond de Polignac

WINNARETTA SINGER’s most significant contribution to the 20th century was in the musical domain: in addition to subsidizing individual artists (Nadia Boulanger, Clara Haskil, Arthur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz) and organizations (the Ballets Russes, l’Opéra de Paris, l’Orchestre Symphonique de Paris), she made a lifelong project of commissioning new musical works from composers, many of them unknown and struggling, to be performed in her Paris salon.

The list of works created as a result is long and extraordinary: Stravinsky’s Renard, Satie’s Socrate, Falla’s El Retablo de Maese Pedro, and Poulenc’s Two-Piano and Organ Concertos are among the best-known titles. In addition, her salon was a gathering place for luminaries of French culture such as Proust, Cocteau, Monet, Diaghilev, and Colette. Many of Proust’s memorable evocations of salon culture were born during his attendance of concerts in the Polignac music room.

Singer-Polignac supported the work of several women composers, including Ethel Smyth and Adela Maddison, using her influence to have their operas mounted in major European theaters. The Princesse de Polignac also was a patron of the Ballets Russes and the composers whose music became associated with the troupe’s productions. Her patronage extended to the worlds of science and architecture as well, and she counted among her protégés Marie Curie and Le Corbusier.

SYLVIA KAHAN is chair of the Performing and Creative Arts department at The City University of New York’s College of Staten Island. She is a member of the music faculties of the CUNY Graduate Center and the College of Staten Island.

Kahan has written extensively on late 19th-century and 20th-century French music and culture. Her book, Music’s Modern Muse: A Life of Winnaretta Singer, Princesse de Polignac (University of Rochester Press) has been recently released. She has been featured in prestigious concert series in major cities, including the Tuesday Matinees Series (Merkin Concert Hall, NYC), the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts (Chicago) and the Fondation Singer-Polignac (Paris). Her concerts have been broadcast on WQXR and WNYC (New York) and National Public Radio. She has performed at the Tanglewood, Aspen, Waterloo, Delta, and Nancy summer festivals, and has collaborated with the English Chamber Orchestra, sopranos Roberta Peters and Shirley Verrett, the Meridian String Quartet, and members of the New York Philharmonic and Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.

Sylvia Kahan earned degrees in Music from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Michigan State University, and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and continued her piano studies with distinguished artist Richard Goode.

JANET PRANSCHKE was a national finalist with the Metropolitan Opera, and a winner in the Munich International Voice Competition and the Liederkranz Foundation Competition. She serves on the voice faculties at the College of Staten Island, CUNY and Wagner College, and maintains private voice studios in Manhattan and Staten Island.

OLIVIER FLUCHAIRE performs on a rare Tomaso Carcassi violin dated 1751 throughout Europe, Asia, and the United States and is currently a doctoral candidate at the CUNY Graduate Center. He serves on the music faculties of the College of Staten Island and the Brooklyn/Queens Conservatory’s Professional Division.

JAMES HOPKINS is a violist, a tenor, and a Certified Fund Raising Executive. He received his Bachelor of Music degree in Viola Performance from the Eastman School of Music, where he studied viola with Francis Tursi and voice with Jon Maloy. He currently serves as Director of Development for The English-Speaking Union of the United States.

JIEUN CECILIA KIM was born in Seoul, Korea. She began piano study at age five, but, encouraged by her mother, switched to the cello at age nine. Cecilia Kim has recently moved to Staten Island, and performs regularly in the New York area.