Mercury Studios, the production company behind recent Abbey Road Studios doc “If These Walls Could Sing,” have unveiled their new feature, about composer Felix Mendelssohn’s genius sister Fanny.
Although Felix, who is best known for writing “The Wedding March,” is still world-renowned 175 years after his death, his sister Fanny was also a prolific musician, composing 450 works – including her own wedding music – before she died in her early 40s. “Fanny: The Other Mendelssohn” tells her story.
Sheila Hayman (“Mendelssohn, The Nazis and Me”) directs the doc, which also stars classical artist Isata Kanneh-Mason bringing Mendelssohn’s works to life. Filming has taken place in Berlin, New York, London, Oxford and Buckingham Palace, where Kanneh-Mason played Queen Victoria’s piano.
“Take a celebrated musical genius, some sibling rivalry, an unknown manuscript, a dash of sass and one sensational revelation and what have you got? ‘Fanny: The Other Mendelssohn,'” reads the logline.
Trapped by the social restrictions of the time as well as her brother’s disapproval, Fanny was prevented from publishing music under her own name until she finally defied expectations at the age of 40. Less than a year later, however, she was dead, followed shortly after by Felix. For over a century, it was presumed Fanny’s music had been written by her brother. Now “Fanny: The Other Mendelssohn” will prove definitively it was her own work, written at the tender age of 22.
As well as directing and producing the doc, Hayman is also Fanny’s three times great granddaughter. Mercury’s Alice Webb, Marc Robinson and Steve Condie exec produce alongside Annabel Hobley and Maureen Murray. The film is edited by Evie Franks.
“In telling the story of an enormously gifted woman whose talents were suppressed and marginalised by a male establishment, it seemed obvious that we should work, as far as we could, with female crew,” said Hayman. “This decision turned out to deliver some of the most joyous, productive and harmonious shoot days of my career. As we left Buckingham Palace, exactly on schedule and having accomplished everything we set out to do in the short time we had there, the PR woman said to me: ‘We’ve never had an all female crew here before. They’re very good, aren’t they?’ To which the only answer was, ‘But of course!’”
Alice Webb, CEO and co-president of Mercury Studios said: “Although Fanny Mendelssohn is a woman of the 19th century, her story is unbelievably modern and more relevant today than ever. Mercury is proud to shine a light on her, especially thorough the lens of Fanny’s great great great granddaughter, Sheila Hayman. And witnessing Isata Kanneh-Mason, one of today’s brightest new artists, interpret Fanny’s work for the screen is thrilling. I suspect ‘Fanny: The Other Mendelssohn’ will inspire whole new generations of music lovers.”
Pictured above, left to right: Isata Kanneh-Mason, Fanny Mendelssohn.