Songs of Triumph & Despair

Exploring the states of dreaming, disappointment and suffering through how poets and composers have attempted to convey the twin extremes of emotion.

I. Flora

Butterworth – Loveliest of Trees (Shropshire Lad)
Handel – Presti Omai (Julius Caesar)
Handel – Ombra Mai Fu (Serse)
Chen – One Perfect Rose (Vicious Cycle)

Since the Greeks, poets and musicians have utilized plants as symbols and metaphors for emotional states. Cherry blossoms represent the prime of life for Butterworth, while Handel invokes palms for victory and seeks solace under a shady tree. Dorothy Parker’s verse creates a new twist on the rose/love equation.
II. City

Ian Gordon – Dream Keeper
Musto – Litany (Shadow of the Blues)
Somers – Five Songs for Dark Voice

The poetry of Langston Hughes sings of urban dreams and disappointments, represented here in settings by Ricky Ian Gordon and John Musto. Its Canadian counterpart is Harry Somers’ setting of Michael Fram’s poetry for Maureen Forrester.
III. Supplication

Herman – Time Heals Everything (Mack & Mabel)
Purcell – Music for a While (Oedipus)
Saint-Saens – Mon Coeur Souvre Ta Voix (Samson and Delilah)
Dvorak – Biblical Songs no. 4 (Biblical Songs)

Embedded in the sadness of a torch song is the sense of overcoming adversity. Herman’s classic tune is paired with Purcell’s lament to illuminate their similar aesthetic. This element of triumphant despair is also found in Delilah’s calculated seduction, as well as Dvorak’s setting of Psalm 23.
V. Despairing Triumph

Chen – Five Songs of Exile
Schubert – Erlkonig
Chen – My Life is very Monotonous (Fox and the Prince)

What unites the song cycle adapted from texts by Palestinian poets in exile, Schubert’s setting of Goethe, and excerpt from a mono-opera based on the prose of Antoine de Saint-Exupery; is the vacillation between poles of triumph and despair.

Stephen Chen, Mezzo
Karen Shumka, Piano

30 Sept 2004 | 12:30 PM
“New at New West” series @ Douglas College