And now for something completely different. Streaming live from Florence, Italy, on March 14, Puccini is the latest in a series of musical portraits by the pianist-playwright-actor Hershey Felder. Over two decades and counting, Felder has stepped out as Ludwig van Beethoven, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Claude Debussy, Sergey Rachmaninoff, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Leonard Bernstein, not to mention Sholem Aleichem (Before Fiddler). Many of his piano-accompanied impersonations have made their way to video in a style that evokes costume-heavy early seasons of “Masterpiece Theatre.”
Some well-placed critics have looked down their noses at these efforts. “Mr. Felder’s acting,” Jesse Green reported in a review of the Irving Berlin homage, “is broad as a silent-movie villain’s, except that he’s talking. And talking. Or, too often, singing.” Ouch!